Archive

Archive for the ‘Hermeneutics’ Category

Much Bible reading and Bible study of the last few years has been of no spiritual profit to those engaged in it

August 26, 2014 1 comment

Arthur PinkWe will repeat here what we wrote in Studies in the Scriptures twenty years ago. “There is grave reason to believe that much Bible reading and Bible study of the last few years has been of no spiritual profit to those engaged in it. Yea, we go farther: we greatly fear that in many instances it has proved a curse rather than a blessing. This is strong language, we are well aware, but no stronger than the case calls for. Divine gifts may be misused and Divine mercies abused. That this has been so in the present instance is evidenced by the fruits produced. Even the natural man can (and often does) take up the study of the Scriptures with the same enthusiasm and pleasure as he might one of the sciences. Where this is the case, his store of knowledge is increased, and so also is his pride. Like a chemist engaged in making interesting experiments, the intellectual searcher of the Word is quite elated when he makes some new discovery, yet the joy of the latter is no more spiritual than would be that of the former. So, too, just as the success of the chemist generally increases his sense of self-importance and causes him to look down upon those more ignorant than himself, such alas, has been the case with those who have investigated the subjects of Bible numerics, typology, prophecy….”

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

The Holy Spirit explains the meaning of certain words, yet they are unintelligible to the natural man

August 19, 2014 1 comment

Arthur PinkIN the previous chapter we sought to show the need for interpretation, that it devolves upon us to ascertain the import of what is meant by every sentence of Holy Writ. What God has said to us is of inestimable importance and value, yet what profit can we derive therefrom unless its significance is clear to us? The Holy Spirit has given us more than a hint of this by explaining the meaning of certain words. Thus, in the very first chapter of the New Testament it is said of Christ,

“they shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us” (Matthew 1:23).

And again,

“We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ”—margin “the Anointed” (John 1:43). Again,

“And they bring Him unto the place Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull” (Mark 15:22).

Yet again

“Melchisedec, king of Salem… first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace” (Hebrews 7:1, 2).

Those expressions make it clear that it is essential that we should understand the sense of each word used in the Scriptures. God’s Word is made up of words, yet they convey nothing to us while they remain unintelligible. Hence, to ascertain the precise import of what we read should be our first concern.

Before setting forth some of the rules to be observed and the principles to be employed in the interpretation of Scripture, we would point out various things which require to be found in the would he interpreter himself. Good tools are indeed indispensable for good workmanship, but the best of them are to little purpose in the hands of one who is unqualified to use them. Methods of Bible study are only of relative importance; but the spirit in which it is studied is all-important. It calls for no argument to prove that a spiritual book calls for a spiritually minded reader, for

“the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned”(1 Corinthians 2:14).

God’s Word is a revelation of things which affect our highest interests and everlasting welfare, and it demands both implicit and cordial acceptance. Something more than intellectual training is required: the heart must be right as well as the head. Only where there is honesty of soul and spirituality of heart will there be clearness of vision to perceive the Truth; only then will the mind be capable of discerning the full import of what is read, and understand not only the bare meaning of its words, but the sentiments they are designed to convey, and a suitable response be made by us.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

Interpretation is needed for the inserting of an explanatory word in some passages

August 12, 2014 1 comment

Arthur PinkThird, interpretation is needed for the inserting of an explanatory word in some passages. Thus in

“Thou art of purer eyes than to [approvingly] behold evil, and canst not [condoningly] look on iniquity” (Habakkuk 1:13).

Some such qualifying terms as these are required, otherwise we should make them contradict such a verse as

“The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3).

God never beholds evil with complacency, but He does to requite it. Once more.

“For who hath resisted His [secret or decretive] will?” (Romans 9:19);

“neither did according to His [revealed or preceptive] will” (Luke 12:47)

—unless those distinctions be made Scripture would contradict itself. Again, “Blessed are they that [evangelically, i.e., with genuine desire and effort] keep His testimonies” (Psalm 119:2)—for none do so according to the strict rigor of His Law.

For our concluding example of the need for interpretation let us take a very familiar and simple verse:

“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

Does that “say what it means”? Certainly, says the reader; and the writer heartily agrees. But are you sure that you understand the meaning of what it says? Has Christ undergone no change since the days of His flesh? Is He the same absolutely today as He was yesterday? Does He still experience bodily hunger, thirst, and weariness? Is He still in “the form of a servant,” in a state of humiliation, “the Man of sorrows”? Interpretation is here obviously needed, for there must be a sense in which He is still “the same.” He is unchanged in His essential Person, in the exercise of His mediatorial office, in His relation unto and attitude toward His Church—loving them with an everlasting love. But He has altered in His humanity, for that has been glorified; and in the position which He now occupies (Matthew 28:18; Acts 2:36). Thus the best known and most elementary verses call for careful examination and prayerful meditation in order to arrive at the meaning of their terms.

 

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

Interpretation is necessary in order that the proper meaning of a word be understood in each verse of scripture

August 5, 2014 1 comment

Arthur PinkSecond, interpretation is necessary to prevent our being misled by the mere sound of words. How many have formed wrong conceptions from the language used in different verses through their failure to understand its sense. To many it appears impious to place a different meaning upon a term than what appears to be its obvious signification; yet a sufficient warning against this should be found in the case of those who have so fanatically and stubbornly adhered to Christ’s words, “this [unleavened bread] is My body,” refusing to allow that it must mean “this represents My body” — as “the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are [i.e. symbolize] the seven churches” (Revelation 1:20). The error of Universalism, based upon indefinite terms being given an unlimited meaning, points further warning. Arminianism errs in the same direction.

“That He by the grace of God should taste death for every man” (Hebrews 2:9)

no more included Cain, Pharaoh and Judas than “every man” is to be understood absolutely in Luke 16:16; Romans 12:3; 1 Corinthians 4:5; and “all men” in 1 Timothy 2:4, 6, is no more to be taken as meaning all without exception than it is in Luke 3:15; John 3:26; Acts 22:15.

“Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations” (Genesis 6:9). Of Job, too, it is said that he was “perfect and upright” (1:1). How many have allowed themselves to be misled by the sound of those words. What false concepts have been formed of their import! Those who believe in what they term “the second blessing” or “entire sanctification” consider they confirm their contention that sinless perfection is attainable in this life. Yet such a mistake is quite inexcusable, for what is recorded very soon afterwards of those men shows plainly they were very far from being without moral defect: the one becoming intoxicated, the other cursing the day of his birth. The word “perfect” in those and similar passages signifies “honest, sincere,” being opposed to hypocrisy. “We speak wisdom among them that are perfect” (1 Corinthians 2:6). There, and in Philippians 3:15, the word signifies “mature”—compare “of full age” in Hebrews 5:14—as distinct from infantile.

“I will make drunk her princes, and her wise men.. and they shall sleep a perpetual sleep, and not wake, saith the King, whose name is the Lord of hosts” (Jeremiah 51:57).

Those words are cited by gross materialists, who believe in the annihilation of the souls of the wicked. They need not detain us long, for the language is plainly figurative. God was about to execute judgment upon the pride of Babylon, and as a historical fact that mighty city was captured while its king and his courtiers were in a drunken stupor, being slain therein, so that they awoke no more on earth. That “perpetual sleep” cannot be understood literally and absolutely is evident from other passages which expressly announce the resurrection of the wicked—Daniel 12:2; John 6:29.

“He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath He seen perverseness in Israel” (Numbers 23:21).

How often those words have been regarded absolutely, without any regard to their context. They were a part of Balaam’s explanation to Balak, why he could not curse Israel so that they should be exterminated by the Midianites. Such language did not mean that Israel was in a sinless state, but that up to that time they were free from any open rebellion against or apostasy from Jehovah. They had not been guilty of any heinous offense like idolatry. They had conducted themselves as to be unfit for cursing and cutting off. But later the Lord did see “perverseness” in Israel, and commissioned Babylon to execute His judgment upon them (Isaiah 10). It is unwarrantable to apply this relative statement to the Church absolutely, for God does “behold iniquity” in His children, as His chastening rod demonstrates; though He imputes it not unto penal condemnation.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

More examples of seeming contradictions

July 29, 2014 1 comment

PinkAgain, “The Lord is far from the wicked” (Proverbs 15:29), yet in Acts 17:27, we are told He is “not far from every one of us”—words which were addressed to a heathen audience! These two statements seem to contradict one another, yea, unless they be interpreted they do so. It has, then, to be ascertained in what sense God is “far from” and in what sense He is “not far from” the wicked—that is what is meant by “interpretation.” Distinction has to be drawn between God’s powerful or providential presence and His favorable presence. In His spiritual essence or omnipresence God is ever nigh unto all of His creatures (for He “fills heaven and earth”—Jeremiah 23:24) sustaining their beings, holding their souls in life (Psalm 64:9), bestowing upon them the mercies of His providence. But since the wicked are far from God in their affections (Psalm 73:27), saying in their hearts “Depart from us: for we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways” (Job 21:14), so His gracious presence is far from them: He does not manifest Himself to them, has no communion with them, hears not their prayers (“the proud He knoweth afar off”—Psalm 138:6), succors them not in the time of their need, and will yet bid them “depart from Me, ye cursed” (Matthew 25:41). Unto the righteous God is graciously near: Psalms 34:18; 145:18.

Once more. “If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true” (John 5:31)—

“though I bear record of Myself, yet My record is true” (John 8:14).

Another pair of opposites! Yet there is no conflict between them when rightly interpreted. In John 5:17-31, Christ was declaring His sevenfold equality with the Father: first in service, then in will. Verse 19 means He could originate nothing that was contrary to the Father, for they were of perfect accord (see 5:30). In like manner, He could not bear witness of Himself independently of the Father, for that would be an act of insubordination. Instead, His own witness was in perfect accord therewith: the Father Himself (v. 37), and the Scriptures (v. 39), bore testimony to His absolute deity. But in John 8:13, 14, Christ was making direct reply to the Pharisees, who said His witness was false. That He emphatically denied, and appealed again to the witness of the Father (v. 18). Yet again. “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30)—“My Father is greater than I” (John 14:28). In the former, Christ was speaking of Himself according to His essential being; in the latter, in reference to His mediatorial character or official position.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

There is a need for interpretation, in order to explain seeming contradictions

July 22, 2014 1 comment

Arthur PinkTurning from the general to the particular let us evince there is a real need for interpretation. First, in order to explain seeming contradictions. Thus,

“God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him… Take now thy son… and offer him there for a burnt offering” (Genesis 22:1, 2).

Now place by the side of that statement the testimony of James 1:13,

“Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man.”

Those verses appear to conflict openly with each other, yet the believer knows that such is not the case, though he may be at a loss to demonstrate that there is no inconsistency in them. It is therefore the meaning of those verses which has to be ascertained. Nor is that very difficult. Manifestly the word “tempt” is not used in the same sense in those sentences. The word “tempt” has both a primary and a secondary meaning. Primarily, it signifies to make trial of, to prove, to test. Secondarily, it signifies to allure, seduce, or solicit to evil. Without a shadow of doubt the term is used in Genesis 22:1, in its primary sense, for even though there had been no Divine intervention at the eleventh hour, Abraham had committed no sin in slaying Isaac, since God had bidden him do so.

By the Lord’s tempting Abraham on this occasion we are to understand not that He would entice unto evil as Satan does but rather that He made trial of the patriarch’s loyalty, affording him an opportunity to display his fear of Him, his faith in Him, his love to Him. When Satan tempts he places an allurement before us with the object of encompassing our downfall; but when God tempts or tests us, He has our welfare at heart. Every trial is thus a temptation, for it serves to make manifest the prevailing disposition of the heart—whether it be holy or unholy. Christ was “in all points tempted like as we are, sin (indwelling) excepted” (Hebrews 4:15). His temptation was real, yet there was no conflict within Him (as in us) between good and evil—His inherent holiness repelled Satan’s impious suggestions as water does fire. We are to “count it all joy when we fall into divers temptations” or “manifold trials,” since they are means of mortifying our lusts, tests of our obedience, opportunities to prove the sufficiency of God’s grace. Obviously we should not be called on to rejoice over inducements to sin!

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

Some believe that the only Interpreter they need is the Holy Spirit

July 15, 2014 1 comment

Arthur PinkOthers take the position that the only Interpreter they need, the only One adequate for the task, is the Holy Spirit. They quote:

“But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things… but the anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you” (1 John 2:20, 27).

To declare that I need none but the Holy Spirit to teach me may sound very honoring to Him, but is it true? Like all human assertions that one requires to be tested, for nothing must be taken for granted where spiritual things are concerned. We answer that it is not, otherwise Christ makes superfluous provision by giving

“pastors and teachers for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4:11, 12).

We must ever bear in mind that it is a very short step from trusting God to tempting Him, from faith to presumption (Matthew 4:6, 7). Neither should we forget what is God’s common and usual method in supplying the wants of His creatures—mediately and not immediately, by secondary causes and human agent. That pertains as much to the spiritual realm as to the natural. It has pleased God to furnish His people with gifted instructors, and instead of haughtily ignoring them we ought (while testing their teaching— Acts 17:11) to accept thankfully whatever help they can afford us.

Far be it from us to write anything which would discourage the young believer from recognizing and realizing his dependence upon God, and his need of constantly turning to Him for wisdom from above, particularly so when engaged in reading or meditating upon His Holy Word. Yet he must bear in mind that the Most High does not tie Himself to answer our prayers in any particular manner or way. In some instances He is pleased to illumine our understandings directly and immediately, but more often than not He does so through the instrumentality of others. Thereby He not only hides pride from us individually, but places honor on His own institution, for He has appointed and qualified men to “feed the flock” (1 Peter 5:2), “guides over us” whose faith we are bidden to follow (Hebrews 13:7). It is true that, on the one hand, God has so written His Word that the wayfaring man, though a fool, should not err therein (Isaiah 35:8); yet, on the other hand, there are “mysteries” and “deep things” (1 Corinthians 2:10); and while there is “milk” suited to babes there is also “strong meat,” which belongs only to those who are of full age (Hebrews 5:13, 14).

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 802 other followers