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A praying heart is required in order to interpret scripture

October 7, 2014 3 comments

Arthur PinkFourth, a praying heart. Since the Bible is different from all other books, it makes demands upon its readers which none other does. What one man has written, another man can master; but only the Inspirer of the Word is competent to interpret it unto us. It is at this very point that so many fail. They approach the Bible as they would any other book, relying on a closeness of attention and diligence of perusal to understand its contents. We must first get down on our knees and cry unto God for light:

“Incline my heart unto Thy testimonies… give me understanding, that I may learn Thy commandments… order my steps in Thy word” (Psalm 119:36, 73, 133).

No real progress can be made in our apprehension of the Truth until we realize our deep and constant need of a Divinely anointed eye.

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all liberally” (James 1:5).

It is because they make use of that promise that many a Christian ploughman and simple housewife is taught of the Spirit, while prayerless scholars know not the secret of the Lord. Not only do we need to pray “that which I see not, teach Thou me,” but request God to write His Word on our hearts.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

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The most essential qualification for understanding scripture is a mind illumined by the Spirit

September 16, 2014 1 comment

Arthur PinkHere, then, is the first and most essential qualification for understanding and interpreting the Scriptures, namely a mind illumined by the Holy Spirit. The need for this is fundamental and universal. Of the Jews we are told,

“But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart” (2 Corinthians 3:15).

Though the Old Testament be deeply venerated and diligently studied by the “orthodox” section, yet is its spiritual purport unperceived by them. Such also is the case with the Gentiles. There is a veil of ill will over the heart of fallen man for “the carnal mind is enmity against God” (Romans 8:7). There is a veil of ignorance over the mind. As a child may spell out the letters and learn to pronounce words the sense of which he apprehends not, so we may ascertain the literal or grammatical meaning of this Word and yet have no spiritual knowledge of it, and thus belong to that generation of whom it is said

“hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive” (Matthew 13:14).

There is a veil of prejudice over the affections.

“Our hearts are overcast with strong affections of the world, and so cannot clearly judge practical truth” (Manton).

That which conflicts with natural interests and calls for the denying of self is unwelcome. There is a veil of pride which effectually prevents us seeing ourselves in the mirror of the Word.

Now that veil is not completely removed from the heart at regeneration, hence our vision is yet very imperfect and our capacity to take in the Truth unto spiritual profit very inconsiderable. In his first epistle to the Corinthian church the apostle said,

“If any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know” (8:2).

It is a great mercy when the Christian is made to realize that fact. So long as he remains in this evil world and the corrupt principle of the flesh continues in him, the believer needs to be led and taught by the Spirit. This is very evident from the case of David, for while he declared, “I have more understanding than all my teachers,” yet we find him praying to God,

“Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law…. Teach me, O Lord, the way of Thy statutes…. Give me understanding” (Psalm 119:18, 33, 34).

Observe that the Psalmist did not complain at the obscurity of God’s Law, but realized the fault was in himself. Nor did he make request for new revelations (by dreams or visions), but instead a clearer sight of what was already revealed. Those who are the best and longest taught are always readiest to sit at the feet of Christ and learn of Him (Luke 10:39).

It is to be duly noted that the verb in Psalm 119:18, literally signifies “uncover, unveil mine eyes,” which confirms our opening sentence in the last paragraph. God’s Word is a spiritual light objectively, but to discern it aright there needs to be sight or light subjectively, for it is only by and in His light that “we see light” (Psalm 36:9). The Bible is here termed “God’s Law” because it is clothed with Divine authority, uttering the mandates of His will. It contains not so much good advice, which we are free to accept at our pleasure, but imperious edicts which we reject at our peril. In that Word are “wondrous things” which by the use of mere reason we cannot attain unto. They are the riches of Divine wisdom, which are far above the compass of man’s intellect. Those “wondrous things” the believer longs to behold or clearly discern, yet is he quite unable to do so without Divine assistance. Therefore, he prays that God will so unveil his eyes that he may behold them to good purpose, or apprehend them unto faith and obedience— i.e., understand them practically and experientially in the way of duty.

“Behold, God exalteth [elevates the soul above the merely natural] by His power: who teacheth like Him?” (Job 36:22). None; when He instructs, He does so effectually.

“I am the Lord thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go” (Isaiah 48:17):

that is what His “teaching” consists of—a producing of pious conduct. It is not merely an addition being made to our mental store, but a bestirring of the soul to holy activity. The light which He imparts warms the heart, fires the affections. So far from puffing up its recipient, as natural knowledge does, it humbles. It reveals to us our ignorance and stupidity, shows us our sinfulness and worthlessness, and makes the believer little in his own eyes. The Spirits’ teaching also gives us clearly to see the utter vanity of the things highly esteemed by the unregenerate, showing us the transitoriness and comparative worthlessness of earthly honors, riches and fame, causing us to hold all temporal things with a light hand. The knowledge which God imparts is a transforming one, making us to lay aside hindering weights, to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world. Beholding the glory of the Lord we are

“changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

The very character of Divine teaching demonstrates how urgent is our need of the same. It consists very largely in overcoming our native antipathy for and hostility to Divine things. By nature we have a love of sin and hatred of holiness (John 3:19), and that must be effectually subdued by the power of the Spirit ere we desire the pure milk of the Word—observe what has to be laid aside before we can receive with meekness the ingrafted Word (James 1:21; 1 Peter 2:1); though it be our duty, only He can enable us to perform it. By nature we are proud and independent, self-sufficient and confident in our own powers. That evil spirit clings to the Christian to the end of his pilgrimage, and only the Spirit of God can work in him that humility and meekness which are requisite if he is to take the place of a little child before the Word. The love of honor and praise among men is another corrupt affection of our souls, an insuperable obstacle to the admission of the Truth (John 5:44; 12:43), which has to be purged out of us. The fierce and persistent opposition made by Satan to prevent our apprehension of the Word (Matthew 13:19; 2 Corinthians 4:4) is far too powerful for us to resist in our own strength; none but the Lord can deliver us from his evil suggestions and expose his lying sophistries.

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

Romanists claim that the Bible should not be in the hands of the common people

Arthur PinkThe principal passage appealed to by Romanists in an attempt to bolster up their pernicious contention that the Bible is a dangerous book—because of its alleged obscurity—to place in the hands of the common people is 2 Peter 3:15, 16. Therein the Holy Spirit has told us that the apostle Paul, according to the wisdom given him, spoke in his epistles of “some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, to their own destruction.” But as Calvin long ago pointed out, “We are not forbidden to read Paul’s epistles because they contain some things difficult to be understood, but that, on the contrary, they are commended to us, providing we have a calm and teachable mind.” It is also to be noted that this verse says “some things” and not “many,” and that they are “hard” and not “incapable of being understood”! Moreover, the obscurity is not in them, but in the depravity of our nature which resists the holy requirements of God, and the pride of our hearts which disdains seeking enlightenment from Him. The “unlearned” here refers not to illiteracy, but to being untaught of God; and the “unstable” are those with no settled convictions, who, like weathervanes, turn according to whatever wind of doctrine blows upon them.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

The Spirit bears witness to what has been written

March 19, 2014 1 comment

calvin.jpg_7MA21605611-0015Second Objection from the words of Paul as to the letter and spirit. The Answer, with an explanation of Paul’s meaning. How the Spirit and the written Word are indissolubly connected.

3. Their cavil about our cleaving to the dead letter carries with it the punishment which they deserve for despising Scripture. It is clear that Paul is there arguing against false apostles, (2 Corinthians 3:6,) who, by recommending the law without Christ, deprived the people of the benefit of the New Covenant, by which the Lord engages that he will write his law on the hearts of believers, and engrave it on their inward parts. The letter therefore is dead, and the law of the Lord kills its readers when it is dissevered from the grace of Christ, and only sounds in the ear without touching the heart. But if it is effectually impressed on the heart by the Spirit; if it exhibits Christ, it is the word of life converting the soul, and making wise the simple. Nay, in the very same passage, the apostle calls his own preaching the ministration of the Spirit, (2 Corinthians 3:8,) intimating that the Holy Spirit so cleaves to his own truth, as he has expressed it in Scripture, that he then only exerts and puts forth his strength when the word is received with due honor and respect.

There is nothing repugnant here to what was lately said, (chap. 7) that we have no great certainty of the word itself, until it be confirmed by the testimony of the Spirit. For the Lord has so knit together the certainty of his word and his Spirit, that our minds are duly imbued with reverence for the word when the Spirit shining upon it enables us there to behold the face of God; and, on the other hand, we embrace the Spirit with no danger of delusion when we recognize him in his image, that is, in his word. Thus, indeed, it is. God did not produce his word before men for the sake of sudden display, intending to abolish it the moment the Spirit should arrive; but he employed the same Spirit, by whose agency he had administered the word, to complete his work by the efficacious confirmation of the word. In this way Christ explained to the two disciples, (Luke 24:27,) not that they were to reject the Scriptures and trust to their own wisdom, but that they were to understand the Scriptures. In like manner, when Paul says to the Thessalonians, “Quench not the Spirit,” he does not carry them aloft to empty speculation apart from the word; he immediately adds, “Despise not prophesying,” (1 Thessalonians 5:19, 20.) By this, doubtless, he intimates that the light of the Spirit is quenched the moment prophesying fall into contempt. How is this answered by those swelling enthusiasts, in whose idea the only true illumination consists, in carelessly laying aside, and bidding adieu to the Word of God, while, with no less confidence than folly, they fasten upon any dreaming notion which may have casually sprung up in their minds? Surely a very different sobriety becomes the children of God. As they feel that without the Spirit of God they are utterly devoid of the light of truth, so they are not ignorant that the word is the instrument by which the illumination of the Spirit is dispensed. They know of no other Spirit than the one who dwelt and spake in the apostles — the Spirit by whose oracles they are daily invited to the hearing of the word.

John Calvin-Institutes of the Christian Religion-Book I-Chapter 9-Henry Beveridge Translation

Scripture is the School of the Holy Spirit

September 7, 2011 Leave a comment

For Scripture is the school of the Holy Spirit, in which, as nothing is omitted that is both necessary and useful to know, so nothing is taught but what is expedient to know. Therefore we must guard against depriving believers of anything disclosed about predestination in Scripture, lest we seem either wickedly to defraud them of the blessing of their God or to accuse and scoff at the Holy Spirit for having published what it is in any way profitable to suppress.

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion III.21.3

 

Concerning Being Filled with the Spirit

O Holy Spirit, descend plentifully into my heart. Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling and scatter there Thy cheerful beams.

Saint Augustine (354-430)