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Words are used in a literal sense when given their plain and natural meaning; figuratively, when a term is diverted to an object to which it does not naturally or normally belong

Arthur PinkWords are used in a literal sense when given their plain and natural meaning; figuratively, when a term is diverted to an object to which it does not naturally or normally belong. Thus “hard” is the quality of a stone, but when predicated of the heart it is employed figuratively. A figure of speech consists in the fact of a word or words being used out of their ordinary sense and manner, for the sake of emphasis, by attracting our attention to what is said. Not that a different meaning is given to the word, but a new application of it is made. The meaning of the word is always the same when rightly used, and thus figures carry their own light and explain themselves. In the great majority of instances there is no difficulty in distinguishing between the literal and the non-literal. Here too there is a close resemblance between the Word of God and His works in creation. For the most part objects in the natural world are plain and simple, easily distinguished; yet some are obscure and mysterious. There are certain “laws” perceptible which regulate the actions of nature; nevertheless, there are notable exceptions to most of them. Thus we may be sure that God has not employed language which could only confuse and confound the unlearned, yet the meaning of many things in His Word can be ascertained only by hard labor.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

There is a Divinely designed analogy between the natural and the spiritual worlds

Arthur PinkOthers before us have pointed out that there is a Divinely designed analogy between the natural and the spiritual worlds. God so framed the visible realms as to shadow forth the invisible, the temporal to symbolize the eternal. Hence the similitudes so often employed by Christ, drawn by Him from the natural kingdom, were not arbitrary illustrations, but pre-ordained figures of the supernatural. There is a most intimate connection between the spheres of creation and of grace, so that we are taught thereby to look from one to the other.

“By means of His inimitable parables, Christ showed that when nature was consulted aright it spoke one language with the Spirit of God; and that the more thoroughly it understood, the more complete and varied will be found the harmony which subsists between the principles of its constitution and those of His spiritual kingdom” (P. Fairbairn).

Who can fail to perceive both the aptness and the sublimity of the parallel between that allusion from the natural realm and its antitypical realization:

“Until the day break, and the shadows flee away” (Song of Solomon 2:17), where the reference is to both the first (John 8:56) and second appearing of God’s Son in the flesh (Philippians 1:6, 10)?

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

Let the translator of scripture duly lay to heart the warnings supplied by the experience of the apostles

Arthur PinkNow if great care needs to be taken by the translator in distinguishing between things that differ, equally so of the expositor. Let him duly lay to heart the warnings supplied by the experience of the apostles. How often they failed to grasp the meaning of their Master’s language! ‘When He declared,

“Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth,” they said unto Him, “Declare unto us this parable,” and He answered, “Are ye also yet without understanding?” (Matthew 15:11, 15, 16).

When He bade them “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” they reasoned among themselves and concluded that it was because they had taken no bread (Matthew 16:6, 7). When He told them that He had meat to eat that they knew not of, they imagined that someone had ministered to His bodily needs during their absence (John 4:32, 33). When He said, “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth,” they supposed (as any of us would have done!) that He referred to natural sleep. How often is it recorded that they “understood not” the words of Christ (Mark 9:32; Luke 18:34; John 8:27; 12:16). They quite missed His meaning when He asked, “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?” (John 21:22, 23).

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

Keen discrimination, both spiritual and mental, is required for distinguishing between the literal and the non-literal in Scripture

October 4, 2016 2 comments

Arthur PinkKeen discrimination, both spiritual and mental, is required for distinguishing between the literal and the non-literal in Scripture. That applies in the first place to the translator, as a few simple illustrations will show. He has to determine in each occurrence of the word kelayoth whether to render it literally “kidneys” or figuratively “reins”: our Authorized Version gives the former eighteen times, and the later thirteen. In such passages as Psalms 16:7; 26:2; 73:21, “reins” has reference to the inner man, particularly the mind and conscience: as the kidneys are for eliminating the impurities of the blood, so the mind and conscience are to deliver us from evil. The Hebrew word ruach literally means wind, and is so rendered ninety times in the Authorized Version; yet it is also used emblematically of the spirit, often of the Holy Spirit, and is so over 200 times. Much spiritual wisdom and discernment is required by the translator to discriminate. Lachash is rendered “earrings” in Isaiah 3:20, but “prayer” in Isaiah 26:16! The Greek word presbuteros literally means an aged person, and is so rendered in Acts 2:17, and Philemon 9, but in most cases it refers to “elders” or church officers.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

Many injunctions in Scripture are expressed in an absolute form, yet are to be understood relatively, example 2

September 20, 2016 Leave a comment

Arthur PinkWe are not to conclude from the terms of Luke 14:12, 13, that it is wrong for us to invite our friends and relatives to partake of our hospitality, though a comparative is there again expressed in positive language; but rather must we see to it that the poor and needy are not neglected or slighted by us.

“For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).

How often have those words been misunderstood, yea, wrested; for it is a serious mistake to conclude from them either that there was no “grace” under the Mosaic economy or that there is no “law” under the Christian. The fact is that the contrast is not between the messages of Moses and Christ, but the characteristics of their ministries. “Ye see Me no more” (John 16:10), said Christ to His apostles. Yet they did! What then did He mean? That they should not see Him again in a state of humiliation, in the form of a Servant, in the likeness of sin’s flesh—compare “like unto the Son of man” (Revelation 1:13) because then in His glorified state. Acts 1:3, definitely informs us that Christ was seen of the apostles for forty days after His resurrection, and, of course, He is now seen by them in heaven. When the apostle declared,

“I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2),

he did not mean that that was his sole theme, but rather that such was his dominant and prominent subject. When we are exhorted “be careful for nothing” (Philippians 4:6), we certainly are not to understand that care to please God is excluded, or that we are not to have deep concern for our sins.

The above examples (many others could be added) show that constant care is needed to distinguish between positive and comparative statements, and between words with an absolute force and those with merely a relative one.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

Many injunctions in Scripture are expressed in an absolute form, yet are to be understood relatively, example 3

September 13, 2016 Leave a comment

Arthur PinkWords that are used to express perpetuity are not to be stretched any farther than the known duration of the things spoken of. As when the Jews were commanded to keep certain institutions throughout their generations to be ordinances for ever (Exodus 12:24; Numbers 15:15), it was not signified they were to do so throughout eternity, but only during the Mosaic economy. Likewise the everlasting mountains and perpetual hills of Habakkuk 3:6, spoke only of comparative permanency and stability, for the earth is yet to be destroyed.

“But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth” (Matthew 6:3).

Neither is this to be taken absolutely, otherwise any act of beneficence which came under the cognizance of our fellows would be prohibited, and that would be contrary to the Analogy of Faith. The primitive Christians did not always conceal their donations, as Acts 11:29, 30, demonstrates. Secrecy itself may become a cloak of avarice, and under the pretense of hiding good works we may hoard up money to spend upon ourselves. There are times when a person of prominence may rightly excite his backward brethren by his own spirit of liberality. This Divine precept was designed to restrain the corrupt ambition of our hearts after the praise of men. Christ meant that we are to perform deeds of charity as unobtrusively as possible, making it our chief concern to have the approbation of God rather than the applause of our fellows. When a good work has been done, we should dismiss it from our minds, and instead of congratulating ourselves upon it, press on to other duties which are yet before us.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

Many injunctions in Scripture are expressed in an absolute form, yet are to be understood relatively

Arthur PinkPositive statements with a comparative force. Many injunctions in Scripture are expressed in an absolute form, yet are to be understood relatively. This is evident from those examples which are there and thus explained.

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth” (Matthew 6:19)

is expounded in the next verse:

“But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” “Labor not for the meat which perisheth” (John 6:27)

is not an absolute prohibition, as the “but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life” shows. Likewise,

“Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Philippians 2:4):

we must love our neighbors as ourselves. “So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth” is to be taken relatively, for God frequently employs both the one and the other as instruments to do those very things: “but God that giveth the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:7) shows where the emphasis is to be placed, and the One to whom the glory is to be ascribed.

“Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible… a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price” (1 Peter 3:3, 4).

There are, however, numerous examples that are not immediately explained for us, but which the Analogy of Faith makes clear.

“And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the Lord And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty; but by My name Jehovah was I not known to them” (Exodus 6:2, 3).

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

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

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