A STUDY BY
GARY RAY BRANSCOME
cry of the prophet, “To the Law and to the testimony, If they speak not
according to this Word it is because there is no light in them,” tells
us that the Bible is the standard by which all teaching is to be judged
(Isaiah 8:20). In other words, because the Bible is the Word of God, it
possesses divine authority, and a refusal to submit to it is a refusal
to submit to God (Psalm 107:11).
Furthermore, the responsibility of judging what is taught, determining what is in accord with the Word of God, and eliminating error rests on us. God expects us to judge what we teach, as well as what others teach, and we will have to account to Him. No one is free to palm off his own opinions as the Word of God. On the contrary, those who read their own ideas into the text, and then teach those ideas as God’s Word, have allied themselves with Satan and are in rebellion against God. [Psalm 107:11, 1Samuel 12:14 and 15:23, 2Timothy 3:16, 2Corinthians 10:5, 2Timothy 2:15, Romans 12:6, 2Peter 1:20, Acts 17:11]
The fact that God expects us to use the Bible as a standard by which to judge what is taught, tells us that we can be certain of what it says. However, you will never know that certainty, if you are not able to distinguish between what the words actually say and the ideas that pop into your mind as you read them. Therefore, in studying Scripture, it is important to focus on the plain grammatical meaning of the words. Everything that God wants you to learn from His Word is so clearly stated that no one can dispute the fact that it is in the Bible (2Corinthians 1:13 and 3:12). Don’t misunderstand me! I am not saying that everyone will accept those truths, I am just saying that they will not be able to deny that they are in the Bible. For example: Even though some people deny that God created all things in six days, they cannot deny that the Bible says, “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day” (Exodus 20:11). Likewise, they cannot deny that the Bible uses the words “evening” and “morning” in reference to each one of those days (Genesis 1:5-31). Those indisputable truths are the things that God wants us to learn from His Word, and your knowledge of the Bible will not become exact until you learn them, and eliminate any interpretations or ideas that are not in accord with them (Isaiah 8:20, 2Peter 1:19).
However, because God saves people through His Word, as you study the Bible Satan will be doing all that he can to divert your attention away from what the words actually say (Romans 10:17). He confuses some people with endless speculation and debate over what the words mean (2Timothy 2:14). He leads others to read their own ideas into the text (2Peter 1:20). Some are blinded by self-righteousness, and because of that blindness interpret the Bible to excuse their own sins (Luke 18:11, Mark 7:13). Others are so infatuated with their own “cleverness,” that they actually believe that they have found some truth that no one else has ever found (Jeremiah 17:9, 2Peter 1:20). Still others are carried away by a false humility, and in the name of humility accept whatever their teachers say even when it contradicts the Word of God (Acts 17:11, 1Peter 5:8, Psalm 107:11).
To avoid those traps, allow the Bible to interpret its statements instead of trying to come up with your own interpretation. For example: The Bible interprets the words, “Thou shalt not kill” by prescribing capital punishment (Genesis 9:6), allowing us to eat animals (Acts 10:14), and advising us to be armed (Luke 22:36, Exodus 20:13). In other words, anyone who interprets the words “Thou shalt not kill” to contradict those facts, is not speaking according to God’s Word (Isaiah 8:20). [Exodus 20:13, Genesis 9:6, Leviticus 20:13, Exodus 21:12, Luke 22:36, Exodus 21:28, Acts 10:14, Luke 24:42-43.]
When it comes to interpreting God’s Word, we are not free to simply let our imagination run wild. Just as you would not like it if someone was twisting your statements and putting false meanings on them, God is not going to be pleased if we twist His statements. In fact, honesty and common decency demand that we refrain from reading more into the words of Scripture than what they actually say (2Corinthians 1:13). Furthermore, if our interpretation of one passage contradicts another passage, we are only in submission to God’s authority if we reject that interpretation. Those who would rather explain away what the Bible says than give up their own ideas are rebelling against God (Psalm 107:11, 1Samuel 15:23). [Proverbs 10:8, Proverbs 12:15, Isaiah 8:20, 2Peter 1:20, 2Corinthians 10:5, Proverbs 8:13, Psalm 119:104, 1Corinthians 11:31, “Let God be true, but every man a liar.” Romans 3:4]
Many will agree with what I say as long as I do not find fault with any of their private interpretations. However, true discipleship requires us to reject anything that contradicts what the Bible says, no matter how strongly we believe it. For example: Some people interpret the words “neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:28) in a way that contradicts the words “these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away” (Luke 8:13). Then, instead of rejecting their interpretation because it contradicts Luke 8:13, they explain away the words of Luke 8:13. In this case, part of the problem lies in the fact that the two passages seem contradictory. However, we have to accept everything that the Bible says, and the contradiction disappears once we understand that Luke 8:13 is law, while John 10:28 is gospel. The law [Luke 8:13] makes us aware of our need for God’s sustaining grace, while the gospel [John 10:28] assures those who trust in Christ that God will keep them by His grace.
Those who are blinded by sin see little wrong with interpreting one passage of Scripture to contradict another. However, Satan always uses the smallest departure from God’s Word as a springboard to even greater error. In the example given above, those who interpret John 10:28 to contradict Luke 8:13 have led many to believe that once they pray the “sinners prayer” they can harden their hearts, live a life of unrepentance, and still inherit eternal life. Nevertheless, because that doctrine encourages unrepentance while giving the unrepentant a false assurance of salvation, it is a false gospel, and those who teach it are false prophets (1Corinthians 6:9, Galatians 1:6-9).
Many who talk loud and long about obedience, seem blind to the fact that contradicting God’s Word is disobedience. If they really were as serious about doing God’s will as they want you to believe, they would be their own worst critics, for they would be in earnest to find and eliminate their own errors (Proverbs 1:5, 9:8 and 14:16, 1Corinthians 11:31). As long as they wait for others to point those errors out, they will never be convinced.
Once we have learned those truths that are indisputably taught in God’s Word, we have a responsibility to police our own thoughts, and eliminate any interpretations or ideas that contradict God’s Word (2Corinthians 10:5). Therefore:
Since the Bible says, “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment,” we reject the idea that men live and die many times [reincarnation] (Hebrews 9:27, Romans 3:4). [Note: Because the concept of “reincarnation” is rooted in works righteousness, it is a false gospel.]
Because the Bible says, “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death,” we reject the idea that God accepts unrepentant homosexuals (Leviticus 20:13). [Note: Since faith in Christ consists of looking to Him for forgiveness, as long as homosexuals deny that their lifestyle is sinful, it is impossible for them to have faith in Christ.]
Since the Bible says of Christ, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved,” we reject the idea that infants can get to heaven without faith in Christ (Acts 4:17). [Note: If infants were not sinners, they would never die (Romans 6:23).]
Because the Bible says, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord,” we reject those who claim that man does not have a soul that can depart from the body (2Corinthians 5:6-8). [See also, Luke 23:43 and 16:19-31, Luke 24:39.]
Since God gave us the Bible to be a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path, any confusion over what it says does not come from God, but from the deceitfulness of the human heart. Furthermore, because the Bible was written to testify of Christ, every idea that is not in accord with what it says is a hindrance to the salvation of souls. Therefore, for the sake of the lost, take what I have said seriously, and work to bring your thinking and doctrine into accord with the Word of God. [John 5:39 and 20:31, 1 John 5:13, 2 Corinthians 4:3 and 10:5, Psalm 119:105]