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Distinguish between the three tenses and the various aspects of God’s salvation: Example 7

For clearness of thought and soundness of doctrine, it is most necessary to distinguish between the three tenses and the various aspects of God’s salvation. Familiar as we are with that word, it is used with unpardonable looseness (even by the majority of preachers), through failure to recognize that it is the most comprehensive term to be found in the Scriptures, and to take the trouble of ascertaining how it is used therein. Only too often a most inadequate concept is formed of the scope and contents of that word, and through ignoring the distinctions which the Holy Spirit has drawn nothing but a blurred and jumbled idea is obtained. How few, for example would be able to give a simple exposition of the following statements: “Who hath saved us” (2 Timothy 1:9, and cf. Titus 3:5); “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12); “Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed” (Romans 13:11, and cf. 1 Peter 1:5). Now these verses do not refer to three different salvations, but rather to three aspects of one salvation. The first as an accomplished fact—from the pleasure and penalty of sin. The second as a present process from the power and ragings of sin. The third as a future prospect—from the very presence of sin.

If the balance of truth is to be preserved and the evil practice of pitting one aspect against another, or of over-emphasizing one and ignoring another, is to be avoided, a careful study needs to be made of the different causes and means of salvation. There are no less than seven things which concur in this great work, for all of them are said, in one passage or another, to “save” us. Salvation is ascribed to the Father: “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling” (2 Timothy 1:9)—because of His electing love in Christ. To the Lord Jesus: “He shall save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21)—because of His merits and satisfaction. To the Holy Spirit: “He saved us, by the… renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5)—because of His almighty and efficacious operations. To the instrumentality of the Word: “The engrafted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21)—because it discovers to us our need and reveals the grace whereby we may be saved. To the labors of the Lord’s servants:

“in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” (1 Timothy 4:16)

—because of their fidelity to the Truth. To the conversion of the sinner, in which both repentance and faith are exercised by him: “save yourselves from this untoward generation” (Acts 2:40)—by the repentance spoken of in verse 38: “by grace are ye saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8). To the ordinances: “baptism doth also now save us” (1 Peter 3:21)—sealing the grace of God to a believing heart.

Now those seven concurring causes of salvation need to be considered in their order and kept in their proper places, otherwise incalculable harm will be done. For instance, if we elevate a subordinate cause above a primary one, then all sense of real proportion is lost. The love and wisdom of God are the root cause, the first mover of all else. Next are the merits and satisfaction of Christ, which are also the foundation of all else that follows. The effectual operations of the Holy Spirit produce in sinners those things which are necessary for their participation in the benefits purposed by the Father and purchased by Christ. The Word is the chief means employed by God in conviction and conversion. As the result of the Spirit’s operation and the application of the Word in power to our hearts, we are brought to repent and believe. In this, it is the Spirit’s usual custom to employ the minister of Christ as His subordinate agents. Baptism and the Lord’s supper are means whereby we express our repentance and faith, and have them confirmed to us. Nor must those concurring causes be confounded, so that we attribute to a later one what pertains to an earlier one. We must not ascribe to the ordinances that which belongs to the Word, nor to conversion what originates through the Spirit, nor give to Him the honor which is peculiar to Christ. Each is to be carefully distinguished, defined, and kept in its proper place.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

Distinguish between things that differ: Example 6

Another example where it is necessary to distinguish between things that differ is to observe carefully the various shades of – meaning given to the word hope. In some passages the reference is to the grace of hope, the faculty by which we expect some future good, as in “faith, hope, charity” (1 Corinthians 13:13), of which God is the Author—“the God of hope” (Romans 15:13). In some verses it is the ground of expectation, that on which it rests, as it is said of Abraham, “Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations,” which is explained in what follows:

“according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be” (Romans 4:18)

—his hope reposing upon the sure promise of God. In other places it is the object of hope that is in view, the things expected, or the One in whom our confidence is placed, as in “the hope which is laid up for you in heaven” (Colossians 1:5), “looking for that blessed hope” (Titus 2:13), “O Lord, the hope of Israel” (Jeremiah 17:13). Occasionally the term signifies the assurance which is produced, as in “my flesh also shall rest in hope” (Psalm 16:9) and “rejoice in hope…hope maketh not ashamed” (Romans 5:2, 5).

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

Distinguish between things that differ: Example 5

A careful examination of the different passages in which our Lord is referred to as coming reveals the fact that by no means all of them allude to His personal and public return, when He shall “appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (Hebrews 9:28). Thus, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” (John 14:18), which had reference, first, to His corporate coming unto His disciples after His resurrection and, second, to His coming spiritually at Pentecost, when He gave them another Comforter.

“If a man love Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him” (John 14:23)

—come in the powerful influences of Divine grace and consolation.

“And that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: and came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh” (Ephesians 2:16, 17),

which was accomplished mediately, in the ministry of His servants, for be who receives them receives Him (Matthew 10:40).

“Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and wil remove thy candlestick out of his place” (Revelation 2:5, 16)

—that is a judicial visitation. “He shall come unto us as the rain” (Hosea 6:3): every spiritual revival and bestowment of grace is a coming of the Lord unto the soul.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

Distinguish between things that differ: Example 4

IN view of certain passages in the Old Testament, not a few have been perplexed by that word, “No man hath seen God at any time” (John 1:18)—words once used as a stock argument by infidels to “prove that the Bible is full of contradictions.” Such verses call for the interpreter: to explain their sense, and thereby distinguish between things that differ. Some of those statements which speak of the Lord’s “appearing” to one and another of the ancient celebrities refer to His doing so as the Angel of the covenant; others were theophanic manifestations, wherein He assumed the human form (cf. Ezekiel 1:26; Daniel 3:25), presaging the Divine incarnation; others mean that He was seen by faith (Hebrews 11:26). When Isaiah declared,

“I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple” (6:1),

it signifies that he did so with the eyes of his understanding, in prophetic vision, and not with his bodily sight. God, essentially considered, is “invisible” (1 Timothy 1:17), for His essence or nature cannot be seen (1 Timothy 6:16), no, not by the holy angels nor by the glorified saints in heaven. When it is said we shall see “face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12), it imports “plainly and distinctly,” in contrast with “through a glass, darkly” (obscurely) in the former part of the verse; though the Lord Jesus actually will be seen face to face.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

Distinguish between things that differ: Example 3

In order to understand certain passages it is absolutely needful to recognize that there is a twofold “will” of God spoken of in the Scriptures, by which we do not mean His decretive will and His permissive will, for in the final analysis that is a distinction without a difference, for God never permits anything which is contrary to His eternal purpose. No, we refer to the very real distinction which there is between His secret and His revealed will, or, as we much prefer to express it, between His predestinating and His preceptive will. God’s secret will is His own counsels which He has divulged to no one. His revealed will is made known in His Word, and is the definer of our duty and the standard of our responsibility. The grand reason why I should follow a certain course or do a certain thing is because it is God’s will that I should do so—made known to me in the rule I am to walk by. But suppose I go contrary to His Word and disobey, have I not crossed His will? Assuredly. Then does that mean that I have thwarted His purpose? Certainly not, for that is always accomplished, notwithstanding the perversity of His creatures. God’s revealed will is never performed perfectly by any of us, but His secret or foreordinating will is never prevented by any (Psalm 135:6; Proverbs 21:30; Isaiah 46:10).

What has just been referred to above is admittedly a great deep, which no finite mind can fully fathom. Nevertheless, the distinction drawn must be made if we are not to be guilty of making the Scriptures contradict themselves. For example, such passages as the following evince the universality and invincibility of God’s will being accomplished.

“But He is in one mind, and who can turn Him? and what His soul desireth, even that He doeth” (Job 23:13).

“But our God is in the heavens. He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased” (Psalm 115:3).

“He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, “What doest Thou?” (Daniel 4:35).

“For who hath resisted His will?” (Romans 9:19). On the other hand, such passages as the following have reference to the revealed or preceptive will of God which may be withstood by the creature.

“And that servant, which knew his Lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to His will” (Luke 12:47).

“For this is the will of God, even your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3).

“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). God’s secret will is His eternal and unchanging purpose concerning all things which He has made, and is brought about by means and through agencies which He has appointed to that end, and which can no more be hindered by men or devils than they can prevent the sun from shining.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

Distinguish between things that differ: Example 2

In like manner we must distinguish sharply between two totally different kinds of fear: the one which is becoming, spiritual, and helpful; the other carnal, worthless, hurtful. Believers are bidden to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12), that is with a conscientious horror of displeasing the One who has been so gracious to them. Conversely, “perfect love casteth out fear” (John 4:18), namely that slavish dread which causes torment, those terrifying thoughts which make us look forward to the day of judgment with dismay. “God is greatly to be feared” (Psalm 89:7): that is, held in the highest esteem and reverence, the heart deeply impressed with His majesty, awed by His ineffable holiness. When we read of those who “feared the Lord, and served their own gods” (2 Kings 17:33), it means that out of a dread of His vengeance they went through the outward form of worshipping Him, but that the love of their wicked hearts was set upon their idols. Thus a filial fear inspires with a grateful desire to please and honor God, but a servile fear produces terror in the mind because of a guilty conscience, as was the case with Adam (Genesis 3:9, 10), and is so now with the demons (James 2:19). The one draws to God, the other drives from Him; the one genders to bondage and leads to despair; the other works humility and promotes the spirit of adoration.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

Distinguish between things that differ: Example 1

20. Distinguish between things that differ, for if we do not the Bible will at once appear to contradict itself, and our minds will be in a state of hopeless confusion. If we carelessly generalize and confound things apart, not only shall we form a vague conception of them, but in many instances a thoroughly erroneous one. Most necessary is it that the expositor attend diligently to this rule: only so will he be able to give the true explanation of many a verse. Not only is it important to discriminate between two diverse things, but often to draw distinctions between various aspects of the same subject. Take, first, the word “care.” In Luke 10:41, we find our Lord rebuking Martha because she was “careful and troubled about many things,” and His servant wrote, “I would have you without carefulness” (1 Corinthians 7:32); while in Philippians 4:6, Christians are exhorted to “be careful for nothing.” On the other hand, we are exhorted that there should be no division in the local church,

“but that the members should have the same care one for another” (1 Corinthians 12:25),

and the apostle commended penitent saints for the “carefulness” it wrought in them and expressed his own concern for their welfare by referring to “our care” for them (2 Corinthians 7:11, 12). Thus there is a “care” which is forbidden and a care that is required. The one is a godly and moderate solicitude, which moves to watchfulness and the taking of pains in the performing of duty; the other is a destructive and inordinate one that produces distraction and worry.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures