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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