When I enrolled in Bible College in 1980 several things were a shock to my 18-year-old system. The first was when I found out that the pile of books I purchased from the school bookstore were only for the first year and not for the entirety of my stay at the school. Another shock was finding out that I would have to cut my shoulder length hair. The other shock came when I came to grips with the massive amount of time I would be spending studying the Bible. Scanning the list of courses I came to a class that had me scratching my head. Hermeneutics? Herman who? Who is this Herman guy? I had no idea. So I looked it up in the school catalog: Hermeneutics is the science of biblical interpretation. Wow, I thought, this is pretty important. During the month of March I am going to introduce you, my CBC family, to hermeneutics (principles of biblical interpretation). This is VITAL because we want to be those who accurately handle the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).
The following are what I consider to be the primary principles for interpreting the bible when we read it. To help you remember the principles, they are in the form of an acronym L-I-G-H-T-S.
L – This is to remind us of the literal principle of biblical interpretation. Simply stated, we interpret the bible just as we interpret other forms of communication – in its most obvious and literal sense. The writers of scripture, under the inspiration of the Spirit, used literal statements to communicate ideas. For instance, when Paul stated about Jesus Christ in Colossians 1:16 that “By Him all things were created, both in heavens and on earth,” he meant just that. Most of the time the biblical author used literal language to communicate ideas.
That being said, this does not deny that scripture employs figures of speech. When Jesus said in John 10:7 that He is “the door” he was not saying that He has hinges and a knob. He was saying that He is the way to salvation. Different literary types and forms of speech need to be interpreted with care. But by and large the scripture is intended to be interpreted literally.
I – The I stands for the illumination of the Spirit. First Corinthians 2:12 states that “Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things that are freely given to us by God” (NET Bible). Because the author of scripture – The Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:19-21) – dwells within every true believer (1 Corinthians 3:16), he or she is in a position to receive illumination (Check out 1 Corinthians 2:9-11). That is great news. This does not negate our responsibility to be diligent students of the scripture, in reality it heightens it. Now we recognize that the Spirit within us opens our eyes to the truths of God’s word and it is through the spirit that the Word can penetrate the heart. In his commentary on 1 Corinthians, John Calvin beautifully and succinctly explains this truth:
Having shut up all mankind in blindness, and having taken away from the human intellect the power of attaining to a knowledge of God by its own resources, he now shows in what way believers are exempted from this blindness,—by the Lord’s honouring them with a special illumination of the Spirit. Hence the greater the bluntness of the human intellect for understanding the mysteries of God, and the greater the uncertainty under which it labours, so much the surer is our faith, which rests for its support on the revelation of God’s Spirit. In this, too, we recognize the unbounded goodness of God, who makes our defect contribute to our advantage.
We will pick up where we left off next Friday.
See You Sunday,