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How to tell when Biblical authors are drawing conclusions to their previous arguments

June 30, 2015 1 comment

Arthur PinkEvery verse beginning with the word “For” requires us to trace the connection: usually it has the force of “because,” supplying proof of a preceding statement. Likewise the expression “For this cause” and words like “wherefore and therefore” call for close attention, so that we may have before us the promise from which the conclusion is drawn. The widespread misunderstanding of 2 Corinthians 5:17, supplies an example of what happens when there is carelessness at this point. Nine times out of ten its opening “Therefore” is not quoted, and through failure to understand its meaning an entirely wrong sense is given to “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” That prefatory “therefore” indicates that this verse is not to he considered as a thing apart, complete in itself, but rather as closely connected with something foregoing. On turning back to the previous verse we find it too begins with the word “wherefore,” which at once shows that this passage is a didactic or doctrinal one, and neither a biographical one which delineates the experience of the soul nor a hortatory one calling unto the performance of some duty.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

Example 2 Of interpreting scripture in context

June 23, 2015 1 comment

Arthur PinkThe parable recorded in Luke 15:3-32, cannot possibly be interpreted aright if its context be ignored. What needless perplexity has been occasioned and diversity among the commentators concerning the identity of the ninety-nine sheep left in the wilderness (defined as “just persons who need no repentance”) and the “elder son” (who complained at the generous treatment accorded his brother), through failure to use the key we observe that this one parable (in three parts) was not spoken by Christ to the disciples, but addressed to His enemies. It was given in reply to the Pharisees and scribes who had murmured because our Lord received sinners and ate with them. His design was to expose the condition of their hearts, and to vindicate His own gracious actions. He did so by portraying the lost condition of His carping critics, and by making known the ground on which He received sinners into fellowship with Himself, and revealing the Divine operations which issue in that blessed result. Once those broad facts be apprehended, there is no difficulty in understanding the details of the parable.

Two distinct and sharply contrasted classes are set before us in Luke 15:1, 2: the despised publicans and sinners who, from a deep sense of need, were attracted to Christ; and the proud and self satisfied Pharisees and scribes. In each of the three parts of the parable the same two classes are in view, and in that order. First, the good Shepherd seeks and secures His lost sheep, for it is His work which is the basis of salvation; the ninety and nine, who in their own estimation needed no repentance, figured the selfrighteous Pharisee—-left in “the wilderness,” in contrast with the sheep brought “home.” In the second, the secret operations of the Spirit in the heart (under the figure of a woman inside the house) are described, and by means of the “light” the lost coin is recovered—-the other nine being left to themselves. In the third, the one sought out by the Shepherd, illumined by the Spirit, is seen with the Father; whereas the older son (who boasted “neither transgressed I at any time Thy commandment”) figures the Pharisee—a stranger to the feasting and rejoicing! Learn from this the importance of observing to whom a passage is addressed, the circumstances and occasion when uttered, the central design of the speaker or writer, before attempting to interpret its details.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

Example 1 Of interpreting scripture in context

Arthur PinkMuch help is obtained in ascertaining the precise significance of certain expressions by observing the circumstances and occasion of their utterance. Through failure to do so, many a sermonizer has failed to perceive the real force of those well-known words

“Open Thou my lips; and my mouth shall show forth Thy praise” (Psalm 51:15).

David’s mouth had been closed by sin and non-confession, and thereby the Spirit quenched! Now that he had put matters right with the Lord, he longed for Him to unstop his shame-covered lips. The spiritual significance of an event is often perceived by noting, its connection. A striking illustration of this is found in Matthew 8:23-26, which, be it borne in mind, has an application unto us. The key to it is found in the last clause of verse 23 and in reading verses 19-22. The order of thought there is very suggestive: the whole passage treats of “following” Christ, and verses 23- 26 supply a typical picture of the character of the disciple’s path through a stormy world: encountering trials, difficulties and dangers; and it often appears that the Lord is “asleep”—-unmindful of or indifferent to our peril! In reality it is a testing of faith, a showing us that He requires to be waited on, that He is our only recourse, sufficient for every storm!

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

When interpreting scripture pay close attention to context

Arthur Pink4. The need for paying close attention to the context is also a matter of first importance. Not only must each statement of Scripture be explained in full harmony with the general Analogy of Faith, but more specifically, in complete agreement with the plain sense and tenor of the passage of which it forms a part. That “plain sense” must be diligently searched for. Few things have contributed more to erroneous interpretations than the ignoring of this obvious principle. By divorcing a verse from its setting or singling out a single clause, one may “prove” not only absurdities but real falsities by the very words of Scripture. For instance, “hear the church” is not an exhortation bidding the laity submit their judgments unto clerics, but, as Matthew 18:17, shows, the local assembly must decide the issue when a trespassing brother refuses to be amenable to private counsel. As another has pointed out, “An ingenious and disingenuous mind can select certain detached verses of Scripture, and then combine them in the most arbitrary manner, so that while they indeed are all the very words of Scripture, yet at the same time, they express the thoughts of the compiler and not the Holy Spirit’s.”

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

No scripture is to be interpreted without regard to the relation in which it stands to other parts

PinkLet it, then, be settled in the mind of the expositor that no scripture is to be interpreted without regard to the relation in which it stands to other parts. Adherence to this fundamental rule will preserve from the wresting of many a verse. Thus, when we hear Christ saying, “My Father is greater than I” (John 14:28), attention to His previous declaration, “I and My Father are one” (John 10:31), will preclude any idea that He was, in His essential person, in any wise inferior; therefore the reference in John 14:28, must refer to His mediatorial office, wherein He was subservient to the Father’s will. “Must,” we say, for the Son is none other than “the mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6), “the true God” (1 John 5:20). Again, such words as “be baptized, and wash away thy sins” (Acts 22:16) must not be understood in a way that conflicts with “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7), but regarded as a symbolical “washing” only. “To reconcile all things unto Himself” (Colossians 1:20) cannot teach universalism, or every passage affirming the eternal punishment of the lost would he contradicted. 1 John 3:9, must be understood in a way consistent with 1 John 1:8.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

No doctrine is to be founded on a single passage

Arthur PinkNo verse is to be explained in a manner which conflicts with what is taught, plainly and uniformly, in the Scriptures as a whole, and which whole is set before us as the alone rule of our faith and obedience. This requires from the expositor not only a knowledge of the general sense of the Bible, but also that he takes the trouble to collect and compare all the passages which treat of or have a definite bearing upon the immediate point before him, so that he may obtain the full mind of the Spirit thereon. Having done that, any passage which is still obscure or doubtful to him must be interpreted by those which are clear. No doctrine is to be founded on a single passage, like the Mormons base on 1 Corinthians 15:29, their error of members of that cult being baptized for their ancestors; or as the papists appeal to James 5:14, 15, for their dogma of “extreme unction.” It is only in the mouths of two or three witnesses that any truth is established, as our Lord insisted in His ministry: John 5:31-39; 8:16-18. Care is to be taken that no important teaching is based alone on any type, figurative expression, or even parable; instead, they are to be used only in illustrating plain and literal passages.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

Those who covet originality, and have a penchant for bringing out something new or startling, without regard to the analogy of faith, are sure to err

Arthur PinkTo say that all our interpretations must conform strictly to the Analogy of Faith may sound very simple and obvious, yet it is surprising to find how many not only unskilled but experienced men depart therefrom. Of course, those who covet “originality,” and have a penchant for bringing out something new or startling (especially from obscure passages) without regard to this basic principle, are sure to err. But as J. Owen observed, “Whilst we sincerely attend unto this rule, we are in no danger of sinfully corrupting the Word of God, although we shall not arrive unto its proper meaning in every place.” For example, when we learn that “God is a spirit” (John 4:24), incorporeal and invisible, that prevents us from misunderstanding those passages where eyes and ears, hands and feet are ascribed to Him; and when we are informed that with Him there is “no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17), we know that when He is said to “repent” He speaks after the manner of men. Likewise, when Psalm 19:11, and other verses make promise of the saints being rewarded for their gracious tempers and good works, other passages show that such recompense is not because of merit, but is bestowed by Divine grace.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

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