An Essay on Hermeneutics
“For the minds of those who do not believe have been blinded by the god of this world, that the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, might not reach them.” (2Corinthians 4:4)
Because God has chosen to reveal His grace to us through the inspired words of Holy Writ, Satan is continually working to blind men to the truth, harden their hearts to God’s promise of forgiveness in Christ, and keep them from believing what the Bible plainly says. To this end, three great delusions are evident.
The first great delusion, is the egotistic dream of man’s own righteousness. This is the delusion that leads men to excuse, rationalize, and justify their sin. Throughout history, it has blinded billions of people to the truth of their sin, and their need for God’s grace. Moreover, this delusion has taken two forms.
Its first form can
be seen in the
stiff-necked unrepentance of
Its second form can be seen in the works-righteousness predominant in all of the non-Christian religions. Those under this delusion trust in their own efforts to make themselves righteous instead of trusting in Christ. And, if they do admit that they have sinned, they deceive themselves into thinking that either the works they do, or the things they suffer, will atone for those sins.
The second great delusion is the self-deception of those who use God’s grace as an excuse to sin, and those who deny the good news of God’s grace, hiding it from the lost, because they assume that it will be used as an excuse to sin.
The Bible makes it clear that Christ has freed us from the law so that we can be righteous. And, all who come to Christ knowing that there is nothing good in them, and that their own righteousness is as filthy rags in the sight of God, rejoice in the good news of God’s grace. That grace makes it possible for them to be godly parents, faithful spouses, honest employees, and law-abiding citizens without being condemned for their faults and shortcomings.
However, those who hear the gospel with an unrepentant heart — either feeling no sorrow or condemnation for their sins, or feeling that they are fairly righteous with few sins — are blind to what is being said. And, because they are blind to the truth, they assume that freedom from the law is freedom to sin. Because of that delusion, they either use the gospel as an excuse to sin, or deny that we are free from the law (Romans 7:4, 1John 2:4).
The third great delusion is the blindness that causes the imaginations of men to run wild when they read the words of Scripture, reading unscriptural ideas into the text and dreaming up all sort of silly interpretations, while being totally blind to what the words actually say. Those who are under this delusion do not think of the Bible as a clear book, but as a book full of mysterious statements that need to be explained. As a result, instead of teaching people what the Bible actually says, they are eager to teach them all of the ideas, explanations, and interpretations that they have either learned from others, or come up with on their own. Moreover, this delusion gets such a deep hold on man’s sinful mind, that I have explained to people why they need to be teaching what the Bible actually says, not man-made explanations, only to have them agree; while remaining totally oblivious to the fact that they are teaching man-made explanations.
Therefore, let me make it perfectly clear! If the Bible says, “In six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day,” then, that is exactly what God wants us to believe and teach (Exodus 20:11). Those who try to get around that statement, by claiming that the “days” were really long periods, are like children playing a game of pretend (Luke 7:32). The Bible defines the word “day” (in Exodus 20:11) by telling us that each of those days had an evening and a morning, and only twenty-four hour days have an evening and a morning.
God wants us to teach what He said, not what we think (2Peter ). He wants us to teach His Word, not our word (2Corinthians ). The reason so many people want to teach man-made explanations as the Word of God, is because it is a way of trying to make themselves into God (Isaiah 14:12-14). Deep down, they are motivated by the satanic desire to replace God’s authority with their authority. And, they do that by having others accept their opinions as the Word of God. For that reason, passing off man-made explanations as the Word of God is a form of idolatry — specifically, self-deification — irregardless of weather those explanations are called reason, tradition, or new revelation.
Those under this delusion need to wake up to the fact that, Christ condemned man-made explanations or interpretations of Scripture as the traditions of men. And, He warned His disciples that such explanations make the Word of God “of none-effect” (Matthew 15:6 and , Mark ).
One of the examples He cited had to do with the law that condemned children who cursed their parents. The purpose of that law was to convict the guilty of sin, and lead them to repent and seek God’s mercy (Romans -20). Therefore, this law was given to save souls! However, instead of teaching people what the Bible said, the Pharisees undermined that law, making it of none-effect, by telling the people that, “If a man will say to his father or mother, It is a gift, by which you might profit by me; he shall be free” (Matthew 15:5). The law given in Exodus 21:17 is the Word of God, and the claim “If a man will say… it is a gift etc.” is the word of man.
There are many today who would agree that the Pharisees were wrong, yet are blind to the fact that they do the same thing. For example: The Bible plainly tells us that Christ will raise up believers on the last day, and that both the saved and lost will be judged on that day (John , John 12:48, Revelation 20:11-15). Moreover, God’s Word tells us this in order to convict us of sin, so that we will look to Christ for mercy instead of trusting in our own works. However, there are those who make what the Bible says about the final judgement of none-effect, by claiming that believers will not be present at the final judgement. The thing I want you to notice is that the claim they are making is not in the Bible! It is a man-made myth! Someone invented it, and others spread it by word of mouth as a tradition. Furthermore, it is a ridiculous claim, because the Bible plainly tells us that both the saved and the lost will stand together before the judgement seat of Christ (Matthew 25:31-46, Revelation -15). The reason that believers will not be condemned when they are judged, is because no sin is imputed to them (Romans 4:8 and 8:1). And, that is what God wants us to teach, not some myth that contradicts what the Bible plainly says.
Another example is the claim that Christ was not actually the physical descendant of Abraham, David, and Mary but instead brought His physical body with Him from heaven. Here again, that claim is nothing more than a man-made myth. The Bible says nothing of the sort! On the contrary, the Bible plainly tells us that Christ was the “seed” of Eve, Abraham, David, and Mary (Genesis , Romans 1:3, Galatians , Luke ). Yet, if you point out what the Bible says to these people, they will rebel against God by trying to convince you that the Bible does not really mean what it says. The important thing for you to realize is that this is not a matter of opinion. It is a fact that the Bible says that Christ was the “seed” of Eve, Abraham, David, and Mary. And, it is a fact that the Bible does not say that He brought His body with Him from heaven. They simply refuse to face the facts. Furthermore, you need to realize that those who contradict the Bible do so because they have a spirit of error (1John 4:6, Isaiah ).
A third example can be seen in the way those who advocate women preachers deal with the passages that exclude women from congregational leadership. Although the Bible plainly says, “I do not allow a woman to teach, or to have authority over a man, but to remain silent,” those who are not willing to accept what God says, make up explanations as to why 1Timothy 2:12 does not need to be followed. However, here again they are replacing God’s Word with man’s word, and making the Word of God of none-effect.
The Holy Spirit will never lead someone to go contrary to what His Word plainly says. That fact alone, tells me that those who advocate women preachers are being led by a spirit of error, not by the Holy Spirit (1John 4:6, Isaiah ).
You should not be surprised to discover that the cults fabricate doctrines out of their own man-made explanations of difficult passages, and then explain away any statements of Scripture that contradict their ideas. That is way we would expect false prophets to “interpret” Scripture. However, when muddle-headed Christians do the same thing, they need to be ashamed of themselves.
The truth that God wants us to teach is the truth that is plainly stated in His Word, “line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little” (Isaiah 28:10, 2Corinthians ). Furthermore, if a passage needs to be explained, the Bible itself will explain it. We do not need to make up explanations in a vain attempt to supplement what God has said! If God wanted our explanations He would have put them in the Bible to begin with.
For example: When an unbeliever reads the words, “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures,” he may wonder what on earth they mean (1Corinthians 15:3). However, when the Holy Ghost opens someone’s eyes to see what those words mean, He does not give them an explanation. On the contrary, He simply leads them to believe what the words plainly say. It is faith, not an explanation, that makes one person rejoice in the words “Christ died for our sins,” while another thinks that they do not make any sense. Furthermore, once a person has come to faith in Christ, he will find that Scripture will interpret itself. And, Scripture interprets the words, “Christ died for our sins,” by telling us that, “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin,” and “we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (1John 1:7, Ephesians 1:7).
The point I am trying to make is that the Doctrine God wants us to teach is the Doctrine clearly and explicitly stated in the text of Scripture, not man-made explanations of the text. As Dr. Francis Pieper put it, “We human beings in our perverse desire to reach false heights, like blind idiots, take no notice of the divine simplicity of the words of Christ. The first and foremost duty of the exegete consists in holding the flighty spirit of man to the simple word of Scripture and, where he has departed from it, to lead him back to the simple word of Scripture. [Christian Dogmatics”, Vol. 1, page 360]