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There are many expressions used in the Scriptures indefinitely rather than specifically, and which are not to be understood without qualification

Arthur PinkThere are many expressions used in the Scriptures indefinitely rather than specifically, and which are not to be understood without qualification. Some of them are more or less apparent, others can only be discovered by a comparison and study of other passages treating of the same subject. Thus, “the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it” (Acts 28:28, and cf. 11:18) did not signify that every one of them would do so. Similarly,

“The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together” (Isaiah 40:5)

and “I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh” (Acts 2:17) were simply announcements that the grace of God was to overflow the narrow bounds of Israel after the flesh. So too “the world” has a variety of meanings and is very rarely synonymous with all mankind. In such passages as John 7:4, and 12:19, only a very small part of its inhabitants were included. In Luke 2:1, the profane world is in view; in John 15:18, 19, the professing world, for it was the religious sections of Israel which hated Christ. In John 14:17, and 17:9, it is the non-elect who are referred to—compare “the world of the ungodly” (2 Peter 2:5), whereas in John 1:29, and 6:33, it is the world of God’s elect, who are all actually saved by Christ.

Another word which is used in the Bible with considerable latitude is “all,” and very rarely is it found without limitation.

“All things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive” (Matthew 21:22)

obviously means whatsoever we ask that is according to God’s will (1 John 5:14). When the apostles said to Christ, “All seek for Thee” (Mark 1:37), that “all did marvel” at His miracles (Mark 5:20), and that “all the people came unto Him” in the temple (John 8:2), those expressions were far from signifying the sum total of the inhabitants of Palestine. When Luke tells his readers that he “had perfect understanding of all things from the very first” (1:3), and when we are informed that Christ foretold all things (Mark 13:23) unto His apostles, such language is not to be taken absolutely. In like manner such statements as “all glorified God for that which was done” (Acts 4:21), “this is the man, that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law” (Acts 21:28), “thou shalt be His witness unto all men” (Acts 22:15), are to be regarded relatively. Consequently, in the light of those examples, when he deals with “He died for all” (2 Corinthians 5:15) and “gave Himself a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:6), the expositor must ascertain from other Scriptures (such as Isaiah 53:8; Matthew 1:21; Ephesians 5:25) whether they mean all mankind or all who believe.

The same is true of the expression “every man” (see for instance, Mark 8:25; Luke 16:16; Romans 12:3; and compare 2 Thessalonians 3:2; 1 Corinthians 4:5). So too the words “all things.” Neither “all things are clean unto you” (Luke 11:41) nor “all things are lawful unto me” (1 Corinthians 6:12) can be taken at face value, or many Scriptures would be contradicted. “I am made all things to all men” (1 Corinthians 9:22), must be explained by what immediately precedes. The “all things” of Romans 8:28, has reference to “the sufferings of this present time,” and the “all things” of 8:32, means the “all things that pertain unto life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). The “times of restitution of all things” (Acts 3:21) is at once modified by the words immediately following: “which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began,” and most certainly none of them predicted the restoration of the Devil, and his angels to their pristine glory. “To reconcile all things unto Himself” (Colossians 1:20) must not be understood to teach undiluted Universalism, or every passage affirming the eternal damnation of the Christless would be contradicted.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

Another pertinent example on interpreting general statements

Arthur PinkAnother pertinent example is found in our Lord’s “Swear not at all” (Matthew 5:34). In the section of the sermon on the mount in which those words occur, Christ was freeing the Divine commandments from the errors of the rabbis and Pharisees, enforcing their strictness and spirituality. In the instance now before us, the Jewish doctors had restricted the Mosaic statutes upon oaths to the simple prohibition against perjury, encouraging the habit of swearing by the creature and the taking of oaths lightly in ordinary conversation. In verses 34-37 our Lord inveighed against those corrupt traditions and practices. That He never intended His “swear not at all” to be taken absolutely is clear from His bidding men to swear by no creature, and from His reprehending all oaths in ordinary conversation. The general analogy of Scripture reveals the need for oaths on certain occasions. Abraham swore to Abimelech (Genesis 21:23, 24) and required his servant to take an oath (Genesis 24:8, 9); Jacob (Genesis 31:53) and Joseph (Genesis 47:31) each took one. Paul repeatedly confirmed his teaching by solemnly calling God for a witness (Romans 9:1; 2 Corinthians 1:23, etc.). Hebrews 6:16, indicates that oaths are both permissible and requisite.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

General statements must be qualified if to interpret them in an unlimited sense clashes with other verses

Arthur PinkGeneral statements must be qualified if to interpret them in an unlimited sense clashes with other verses. A case in point is our Lord’s prohibition, “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matthew 7:1), for if that injunction be taken without any restriction it would flatly contradict His precept, “judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24); yet how often is this precept hurled at the heads of those performing a Christian duty. The capacity to weigh or judge, to form an estimate and opinion, is one of the most valuable of our faculties, and the right use of it one of our most important tasks. It is very necessary that we have our senses “exercised to discern [Greek “thoroughly judge”] both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14) if we are not to be deceived by appearances and taken in by every oily mouthed impostor we encounter. Unless we form a judgment of what is true and false, how can we embrace the one and avoid the other? We are bidden to “beware of false prophets,” but how can we do so unless we judge or carefully measure every preacher by the Word of God? We are prohibited from having fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but that requires us to determine which are such. Christ was not here forbidding all judging of others, but was reprehending an officious or magisterial, a presumptuous, hypocritical, rash or hasty, unwarrantable, unfair, and unmerciful judgment. Much grace and wisdom is required by us to heed rightly this word of our Master’s.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

General statements are frequently to be limited, both in themselves and their application

Arthur PinkThe limitation of general statements. General statements are frequently to be limited, both in themselves and their application. Many examples of this principle occur in the book of Proverbs, and obviously so, for a proverb or maxim is a broad principle expressed in a brief form, a moral truth set forth in condensed and universal language. Thus, “He that is surety for a stranger shall smart for it; and he that hateth suretiship is sure” (11:15) enunciates the general rule, yet there are exceptions thereto.

“Children’s children are the crown of old men; and the glory of children are their fathers” (17:6), though that is far from being the case in every instance.

“Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favor of the Lord” (18:22), as many a man the writer included—has discovered; yet the experience of not a few has been quite to the contrary.

“Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it from him” (22:15), yet God reserves to Himself the sovereign right to make that good to whom He pleases—where He blesses not this means, the child is hardened in his perversity.

“Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings” (22:29),

though sometimes the most industrious meet with little material success.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

Several warnings which need to be heeded when interpreting words and phrases

Arthur PinkBefore stating several more rules which should direct the expositor, particularly those which relate more directly to the interpretation of words and phrases, let us mention several warnings which need to be heeded.

First, do not assume at the outset that all is plain and intelligible to you, for often the words of Scripture are used in a different and higher sense than they are in common speech. Thus it is not sufficient to be acquainted with their dictionary meaning: rather do we have to ascertain how they are used by the Holy Spirit. For example, “hope” signifies very much more in the Word of God than it does on the lips of men.

Second, do not jump to the conclusion that you have arrived at the meaning of a term because its force is quite obvious in one or two passages, for you are not in a position to frame a definition until you have weighed every occurrence of it. That demands much toil and patience, yet such are necessary if we are to be preserved from erroneous ideas.

Third, do not conclude that any term employed by the Spirit has one uniform signification, for that is far from being the case. The force of these cautions will be made the more apparent in the paragraphs that follow.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

Every word in scripture has been selected by Divine wisdom and positioned with unerring precision

Arthur PinkGod’s Word then is made up of words, and each one in it is selected by Divine wisdom and positioned with unerring precision. It therefore behooves us to spare no pains in seeking to ascertain the exact meaning of each of its terms and most diligently to scrutinize the exact order in which they are placed, for the right understanding of a passage turns first upon our obtaining a correct understanding of its language. That should be so obvious as to require no argument, yet it is surprising how often that elementary principle is ignored and contravened.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

The Lord Jesus repeatedly laid stress on the fact that Holy Writ is of Divine origin and verbally inspired

Arthur PinkThe Lord Jesus repeatedly laid stress on this aspect of the Truth. When making known to His disciples the fundamental requirements of their receiving answers to prayer, He said,

“If ye abide in Me [maintain a spirit of constant dependence upon and remain in communion with Him], and My words abide in you [forming your thoughts and regulating your desires], ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (John 15:7)

—for in such cases they would request only that which would be for God’s glory and their own real good. Again, He declared,

“the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63).

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

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