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Example 2 Of how the scope or design of the passage matters in interpretation

July 28, 2015 1 comment

Arthur PinkAnother passage where inattention to its scope has resulted in false doctrine being drawn from it is 1 Corinthians 3:11-15. Appeal is frequently made to it in support of the dangerous delusion that there is a class of real Christians who have forfeited all “reward” for the future, having no good works to their credit; yet will enter heaven. Such a concept is grossly insulting to the Holy Spirit, for it implies that He performs a miracle of grace in the soul, indwells that person, yet that he brings forth no spiritual fruit. Such a grotesque idea is utterly contrary to the Analogy of Faith, for Ephesians 2:10, tells us that those whom God saves by grace through faith are “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” Those who walk not in good works are unsaved, for “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20). Scripture declares, “Verily there is a reward for the righteous” (Psalm 58:11), that “every [regenerated] man shall have praise of God” (1 Corinthians 4:5), which certainly could not be the case if some of them are but cumberers of the ground.

Not only is this erroneous interpretation highly dishonoring to God and at direct variance with the plain teaching of other scriptures, but it is refuted by the context. In order to understand 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, verses 1- 10—-must be heeded—so as to determine the subject which the apostle is treating. At the beginning of chapter 3 Paul returns to the charge he had made against the Corinthians in 1:11, where he reproved them for pitting one servant of God against another, with the resultant divisions—-the principal occasion of his writing to them. In 3:3, he points out that such conduct evinced their carnality. He reminds them that both himself and Apollos were “but ministers” (v. 5). He had merely planted and Apollos watered—-it was God who gave the increase. Since neither of them was “any thing” unless God deigned to bless his labors (v. 7), what madness it was to make an idol of a mere instrument! Thus it is clear, beyond any doubt, that the opening verses of 1 Corinthians 3 treat of the official ministry of God’s servants. It is plainer still in the Greek, for the word “man” occurs nowhere in the passage, “every man” being literally “every one,” i.e., of the particular class referred to.

The same subject is continued in verse 8, though there be diversity in the work of God’s servants (one evangelistic, another indoctrinating), yet their commission is from the same Master and their mutual aim the good of souls; therefore it is sinful folly to array one against or exalt him above another. Though Christ has distributed different gifts to His servants and allotted them a variety of ministry, “each shall receive his own reward.” The building itself is God’s, ministers being the workmen (v. 9). In verse 10 Paul refers to the ministerial “foundation” he had laid (see Ephesians 2:20), and what follows concerns the materials used by builders who came after him. If those materials (their preaching) honored Christ and edified saints, they would endure and be rewarded. But if instead the preacher used for his themes the increase in crime, the menace of the bomb, the latest doings of the Jews, etc., such worthless rubbish would be burned up in the Day to come and be unrewarded. Thus it is the materials used by preachers in their public ministrations, and not the walk of private Christians, which is here in view.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

Example 1 how the scope or design of the passage matters in interpretation

Arthur PinkSometimes the key to a passage is to be discovered by observing in which part of a book it occurs. A pertinent example of this is found in Romans 2:6-10, which has been grievously wrested by not a few. The grand theme of that epistle is “the righteousness of God”—-stated in 1:16, 17. Its first division runs from 1:18, to 3:21, wherein the universal need for God’s righteousness is demonstrated. Its second runs from 3:21, to 5:1, in which the manifestation of God’s righteousness is set forth. Its third, the imputation of God’s righteousness: 5:1, to 8:39. In 1:18-32, the apostle establishes the guilt of the Gentile world, and in chapter 2 that of the Jew. In its first sixteen verses he states the principles which will operate at the Great Assize, and in verses 17-24 makes direct application of them to the favored nation. Those principles are as follows:

(1) God’s judgment will proceed on the ground that man stands selfcondemned (v. 1);
(2) it will be according to the real state of the case (v. 2);
(3) mercy abused increases guilt (vv. 3-5);
(4) deeds, not external relations or lip profession, will decide the issue (vv. 6-10);
(5) God will be impartial, showing no favoritism (v. 11);
(6) full account will be taken of the various degrees of light enjoyed by different men (vv. 11-15);
(7) the judgment will be executed by Jesus Christ (v. 16).

From that brief analysis (which exhibits the scope of the passage) it is quite evident that the apostle was not making known the way of salvation when he declared, “Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life” (vv. 6, 7). So far from affirming that fallen men could secure everlasting felicity by their own well-doing or obedience to God, his design was the very opposite. His purpose was to show what the holy Law of God required, and that that requirement would be insisted upon in the Day of Judgment. Since his depraved nature makes it impossible for any man, Jew or Gentile, to render perfect and continual obedience to the Divine Law, then the utter hopelessness of his case is made apparent, and his dire need to look outside himself unto the righteousness of God in Christ is plainly evinced.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

We are to interpret according to the scope and design of the passage

Arthur Pink5. Equally necessary is it for the interpreter to determine the scope of each passage, i.e., its coherence with what precedes and follows. Sometimes this can best be done by duly noting the particular book in which it is found. Notably is this the case with some in Hebrews. How many a Christian, who has had a bad fall or been stayed in a course of backsliding, has, after his repentance, needlessly tortured himself by such verses as 6:4-6; 10:26- 31! We say needlessly, for those verses were addressed to a very different class, one whose case was quite otherwise. Those Hebrews occupied a unique position. Reared under Judaism, they had espoused the Gospel; but later were distressed and shaken because of the non-realization of the carnal hopes they entertained of the Messiah, and the sore persecution they were then suffering, and were sorely tempted to abandon their Christian profession and return to Judaism. In the passages mentioned above they were plainly warned that such a course would be fatal, Thus to apply those passages to backslidden Christians is entirely unwarrantable, making a use of them which is quite foreign to their scope and design.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

The meaning of “any man” in 2 Corinthians 5:17

Arthur PinkIt should be carefully noted that the “any man” of 2 Corinthians 5:17, shows it is not describing some exceptional attainment of a favored few, nor depicting mature Christians only, but rather is postulating something which is common to all the regenerate. As a matter of fact, the verse is not treating of Christian experience at all, but of the new relationship into which regeneration brings us. It would take us too far afield now to supply detailed answers to the questions: On what particular subject was the apostle writing? What required him to take it up? What was his special design on this occasion? Suffice it to say, he was refuting his Judaizing traducers and cutting the ground from under their feet. In verses 14-16, he insists that union with Christ results in judicial death to natural relations, wherein all fleshly distinctions of Jew and Gentile cease; yea, brings us on to new or resurrection ground, producing a new standing before God. As members of a new creation, we are under an entirely new covenant, and for us the limitations and restrictions of the old covenant are “passed away.” It is the principal design of the epistle to the Hebrews to make this fact fully manifest.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

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

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