Tag Archives: truth

Make Sure of Sound Doctrine

I read once that the creator of the classic Peanuts cartoons, Charles Shultz, once painted a little picture of Lucy and Linus in their home looking out a window at a thunderstorm.  Lucy is worried that all this rain would flood the whole world.  Linus responded by referring to Genesis 9:13-14 and God’s promise to Noah that he would never again send a flood that would cover the whole earth, putting the rainbow in the sky as a promise that this would be true.  Lucy sighed and said, “You’ve taken a great load off my mind.”  Linus replied, “Sound theology has a way of doing that.”

He’s right.  Sound theology, or doctrine, gives us steady assurance of continuity in a world filled with change.  It helps us to make sure of what we are to believe and how we are to behave.  Along that line, we need to make sure of these things:

First, we mustn’t mistake man-made traditions for the true doctrine of God (Matt. 15:9).  If the doctrine we are teaching is not the doctrine taught in the Bible then it is man-made.  We must make sure we understand a distinction here.  Simply because we are able to fashion a doctrine from a compilation of Bible verses doesn’t make it Bible doctrine.  The intended biblical patterns of the New Testament are for the church to follow for all time.  The invented patterns of many Christians today are nothing more than Scripture taken out of context and forced into supporting some pet belief.

Secondly, we mustn’t mistake “smooth talk and flattery” for the true doctrine of God (Rom. 16:17-18).  Sadly, many people can be persuaded of just about anything depending on the communication skills of the communicator.  We need to be a discerning people who “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

Thirdly, we must understand that sound doctrine is not just about baptism, communion, how Revelation is interpreted, etc.  It is also about how we live our lives.  Paul told Timothy that the law is good if one uses it lawfully and then lists behavioral sins such as profanity, fornication, and lying to be “contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Tim. 1:8-10).  In all we do we should be “showing all good faith, so that in everything (we) may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (Tit. 2:10).

Only when God’s people are consistently fed a steady diet of sound doctrine can they grow into mature Christian men and women (1 Tim. 4:6-7; Tit. 1:9).  That they hear it is no guarantee that they will grow (James 1:22-25), but not hearing it is a guarantee that they won’t.  Like Linus said, sound doctrine has a way of making you feel a whole lot better.  It gives us an objective standard by which to measure ourselves and a promise of steadiness in a world filled with change.

Accurate Hermeneutics: Interpreting The Bible Correctly (Part 2)

(This is the second part of a series of articles on how to interpret the Bible correctly.  Part 1 can be found here.)  

Do we accurately handle God’s Word? (2 Tim. 2:15)

I was asked recently about how to correctly interpret the Bible.  This is a legitimate question which has repercussions on one’s salvation, when one thinks about it.  If one does not correctly interpret God’s Word, then one will end up disobeying God on a host of different matters.  Disobeying the laws of God is the biblical definition of sin (1 John 3:4), and the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23), specifically the spiritual, eternal death of hell (Rev. 21:8).  Our Lord does not want any of us to experience that (2 Pet. 3:9), which is why Christians are commanded to accurately handle God’s Word (2 Tim. 2:15), a command which implies by its very existence that it is possible that one could inaccurately handle God’s Word.  Thus, correct interpretation of the Bible is a necessity.

One way to inaccurately handle the word of truth – having a post-modernistic, relative view of truth rather than recognizing that truth is absolute – was discussed in the previous article.  Yet, even if one recognizes that truth is absolute and looks at the Bible with that mindset, it is still possible to misinterpret Scripture.  For example, one could look at parts of the Bible to be absolutely true while failing to realize that the entirety of Scripture is truth (Ps. 119:160).  This fallacy of thought has led sincere people to dismiss some parts of the Bible as myth and other parts of the Bible as not applicable to us today.  However, the Bible says that every word of God is “tested” (Prov. 30:5).  This means not only that every word in Scripture has proven to be true (John 17:17), but that every word also has a reason to be in Scripture…namely, to provide us with the way to eternal life and godliness and the means to be involved in every work that God deems to be good (2 Pet. 1:3; 2 Tim. 3:16-17).

Therefore, one is well on their way to correctly interpreting the Bible when they recognize that first that every word from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22 is factually, doctrinally, and historically true, and also that every word from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22 is there to help them in some way grow closer to God and eternal life.  Thus, they will accept the biblical account of creation and the biblical record of miracles of God performed by men to be historical fact.  They will accept the commands and principles of God found in Scripture to be applicable to them and to all men of all cultures and times.  If they conclude that there is a law or principle found in Scripture that does not apply to them personally, it will be only because God’s Word specifically said so (cf. Heb. 8:7-13; 1 Cor. 11:13-16).  If they believe that a certain part of Scripture is figurative rather than literal in its language, it will be solely due to evidence found in Scripture rather than their own musings and theories (cf. Rev. 1:1‘s “signified”).  Finally, if they read that a certain verse commands them to do a certain thing in order to be saved while other verses command additional things in order to be saved, they will accept the fact that they need to obey all of those passages rather than just one or a few of them (Ps. 119:160; cf. John 3:16; Mark 16:16; 2 Cor. 7:9-10; Rom. 10:9-10; 1 Pet. 3:21).

Lord willing, future articles will give specific examples to illustrate how the hermeneutical principles expounded in today’s post are true.  I encourage you to tune in, and in the meantime leave civil comments and questions.  These will help frame the illustrations I plan on giving to show what is needed for correct biblical interpretation.  Thank you for reading, and I hope to hear from you!

Accurate Hermeneutics: Interpreting The Bible Correctly (Part 1)

Is it possible to correctly interpret God’s Word?

I received an excellent question in the comments for last week’s article, Can We Understand the Bible Alike?  The commenter asked, “What is your solution to properly interpreting the Bible? Do you take a literal interpretation, or a more intricate one, etc.?”  This is a very important inquiry, because how one interprets the Bible – more specifically, whether one does so correctly – determines whether one is going to actually obey the commands and principles laid out in the Bible.  That, in turn, has a direct bearing on whether one will be saved (Matt. 7:21-23; Heb. 5:9).  Therefore, if God permits me I would like to take the next few posts on my blog to show both from scripture and from logic how to correctly interpret the Bible.

To begin with, it must be asked whether it is actually possible to correctly interpret the Bible.  After all, some believe that truth is relative rather than absolute.  This notion is easily proven to be very much mistaken when one thinks about it with an open and honest mind (cf. Luke 8:15).  To the person who confidently asserts, “There is no absolute truth,” responding with the simple inquiry, “Are you absolutely sure about that?” shows the inconsistency and error of such a proposition.  Nevertheless, many still believe this foolish notion.  A popular rock band from my youth wrote a song which opined, “This is not a black and white world/To be alive, I say that the colors must swirl/And I believe that maybe today/We will all get to appreciate/The beauty of gray.”  This post-modernistic idea – the beauty of gray, there are no black and whites, there is no absolute truth – is very popular in our society, and for good reason.  After all, if there is no such thing as absolute truth then there is no such thing as an absolute standard of what is right and what is wrong.  (If not, why not?)  Therefore, who are you to tell me that I am wrong for doing whatever it is I want to do?

“I set your house on fire, but that’s okay…because I think it is.”

Hypothetically, I could commit adultery with your spouse, murder your child, steal your money, and burn down your house, and you probably would have a problem with that.  Fine, that’s YOUR definition of truth.  MY definition of truth is that it’s okay for me to do those things.  Since truth is relative, that means we’re both right.  And since I am right, I will continue to commit adultery with your spouse, murder your children, steal your money, and harm your property…and who are you to tell me I’m wrong to do so?  Such a mindset is not only ludicrous on its face but also extremely dangerous, because following this line of thought to its logical end would result in chaos (cf. Judg. 21:25).

Additionally, having this post-modernistic mindset would make it impossible for one to correctly interpret the Bible, because to a post-modernistic mind every word in the Bible would be subjective, open to multiple interpretations of which all would be valid.  For example, you believe that John 3:16 teaches that God gave his Son because he loved the world?  Fine, that’s YOUR interpretation.  MY interpretation of John 3:16 is that God gave his Son because he did NOT love the world.  Since truth is relative, we’re both right and who are you to tell me that I’m wrong?  Again, a simple reading of the passage under consideration shows very clearly…to the person who already knows about and accepts the existence of absolute truth…that the above, post-modernistic way of thinking is absurd on its face.  The passage very clearly states, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…”  Believe that statement to be absolutely true, and you will clearly see the error of anyone who would interpret it in any other way.

Therefore, the existence of the post-modernistic mindset does not mean that it is impossible for anyone to correctly interpret the Bible.  On the contrary, those who recognize the existence of absolute truth in this world will find it easier to correctly interpret God’s Word, because God’s Word IS truth (John 17:17).  When one who already knows and accepts the fact that absolute truth exists and then comes to know and accept the fact that God’s Word is truth, then one has achieved the first step towards correctly interpreting the Bible.

(Check back tomorrow, Lord willing, for Part 2 of this article.)