THE SPIRIT OF
WISDOM AND REVELATION
Gary Ray Branscome
In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul made special mention of the fact that he was asking God to grant the believers there the "spirit of wisdom and revelation" (Ephesians 1:17 and 3:15-17). Moreover, his comments on that topic make it clear that he was speaking of a special gift of the Spirit, the purpose of which was to open their understanding Ė so that they might have a more certain and exacting knowledge of what the Bible says Ė while strengthening their faith that they might know the love of Christ, know the riches that are ours in Him, and be filled with all the fullness of God. [Ephesians 1:13-20 and 3:10-19, John 14:26, 1 John 5:13, Colossians 1:9-11.]
Furthermore, the context of Paulís statements reveal that he was not talking about the initial measure of the Holy Spirit that we receive when we come to faith in Christ (Galatians 3:2, Ephesians 1:13). In fact, he was addressing people who had already come to faith. People who, through faith, had already been "made nigh by the blood of Christ" and a "habitation of God through the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:12, 13, 22).
Although the Bible does not give us an in depth explanation of all that this gift involves, when I received it some things were quite different from what I expected. For example, I expected the Holy Spirit to make me emotional. Instead He led me, through His Word, to see the importance of self control and discipline (1 Corinthians 14:32). At the same time He enabled me to detach my thinking from my emotions and look at things more objectively. I had also expected the Holy Spirit to give me information not found in the Bible, which would supplement and explain the Bible. Instead He led me, through His Word, to see the danger of looking outside of Scripture for revelation (Mark 7:7, Colossians 2:8, 2 Peter 1:20, 1 Timothy 6:20, John 8:31). He then taught me to focus my mind on what the Bible explicitly says, follow the train of thought contained in the words, and allow other passages of Scripture to cast light on the one I was reading. [1 Corinthians 2:13, Isaiah 8:20, 2 Corinthians 10:5, Isaiah 28:9-11.]
THE RICHES OF GLORY
While a great deal of joy and excitement accompanied this manifestation of the Holy Spirit, the excitement I experienced was not the carnal excitement of the whoop and holler crowd, but a deep spiritual excitement that made me look forward to being in church and eager to study Godís Word. Furthermore, much of the joy I experienced stemmed from an increased understanding of Christís sacrifice, and a deeper appreciation of all He has done for us.
As I read the Bible, its words seemed to come to life. Old Testament passages that testified of Christ, and passages that I had previously read without fully comprehending, seemed to jump out at me, the significance of what they said being immediately clear. However, during all of this, the Holy Spirit only taught me through the Bible, giving me instruction line upon line, line upon line, here a little bit of information, there a little bit of information, just as His Word says (Isaiah 28:9-11).
To some, what I have just described might sound like a "salvation experience". However, I had already had a "salvation experience." Furthermore, the illumination I received conveyed more than just an understanding of salvation. For example: Before I received this gift, those who claimed that all of their opinions were based on reason intimidated me. But, the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to see that, because of the limitations of our finite mind, all reasoning must ultimately rest on either assumption or revelation. Therefore, those who reject the facts revealed in Scripture reason from assumptions, many of which are faulty, while being blind to their own spiritual ignorance. [Luke 1:51, Romans 1:22, 2 Corinthians 4:4, Luke 10:21.]
The Holy Spirit also enabled me to see how false prophets twist and distort the Bible by first reading their own assumptions into the text, and then reasoning from those assumptions. At the same time, He opened my eyes to recognize the fact that we have been created with the ability to evaluate evidence, and need to use that ability to distinguish between what the Bible actually says, and interpretations of what it says. Because the actual statements of Scripture are the Word of God, they are the doctrine God wants taught. Interpretations that come from outside of Godís Word, are nothing more than the words of men, and if they contradict the Word of God they are of the devil (Mark 7:7-13). For that reason, we must first learn the doctrine explicitly stated in Scripture and then judge all opinion and tradition in the light of that doctrine, rejecting anything contrary to the Word of God. [Isaiah 8:20 and 28:9-11, Galatians 6:4, Romans 12:6, Romans 3:4, 2 Corinthians 10:5.]
At this point let me make it perfectly clear that no one who is led by the Spirit of God will deny a clear teaching of Godís Word simply because it is not explicitly stated in propositional form. For example: The Bible nowhere explicitly says, "The Holy Ghost is God." However, the Bible not only explicitly refers to the Holy Ghost as the "Spirit of God", but also explicitly tells us that those who "lie to the Holy Ghost" are lying "unto God" (Acts 5:3-4), that our bodies, being the "temple of the Holy Ghost," are the "temple of God" (1 Corinthians 3:16 and 6:19), that writings inspired "by the Holy Ghost" are inspired "of God" (2 Peter 1:21, 2 Timothy 3:16), and that words spoken against the Holy Ghost are "blasphemy" (Matthew 12:31). Therefore, the explicit statements of Scripture clearly reveal that the Holy Ghost is God, even if they do not use that exact wording (Ephesians 4:30).
Our reason for learning the doctrine that is explicitly stated in the words of Scripture is not to reject doctrines that are less explicitly stated, but to have a standard for evaluating and judging all other opinions (Isaiah 8:20). We interpret each statement of Scripture in the light of what the Bible says elsewhere, we interpret the unclear passages in the light of the clear, and we bring our thinking into accord with what the Bible clearly says (2 Corinthians 10:5, Romans 12:6).
ABIDING IN THE WORD OF GOD
As the Holy Spirit opened my understanding of His Word, He brought to my attention certain passages of Scripture that tell us how Scripture should be interpreted. At the same time, He opened my understanding to see that the words of Scripture need to be taken at face value. There are no hidden meanings! On the contrary, the Bible itself tells us that the message God has for us is nothing other that "what you read," and that He has used "Great plainness of speech" (2 Corinthians 1:13 and 3:12). In fact, it is only because the Bible is clear, that it can be "a lamp unto" our feet and "a light unto" our path (Psalm 119:105). Therefore, if its words seem dark to you, you need to realize that the reason is not because the meaning is hidden, but because our minds have been darkened by sin (Jeremiah 17:9). For example: The words of Isaiah fifty-three seemed dark and mysterious to the Ethiopian eunuch, not because they were dark, but because he was in the dark as to whom it was speaking of (Acts 8:30-35). [John 5:39 and 20:31, Galatians 6:4, 2 Corinthians 4:1-3]
When Christ said, "If ye continue in My Word, then are ye My disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free," He was telling us that to truly be His disciples we must continue in His Word (John 8:31-32). And we only continue in that Word when we do not go outside of it for doctrine. Therefore, the rule of interpretation given in that passage is that our doctrine must come from Scripture alone. We are not to add to what is written, by reading unscriptural ideas into the text, by making up explanations, or by jumping to conclusions. Likewise, we are not to take from what is written by explaining away passages that do not fit with our own ideas. Moreover, John 8:32 gives us Christís own promise that if we continue in His Word, we will know the truth and through the truth be set free from the bondage of sin. [2 Peter 1:20, Revelation 22:18-19, Proverbs 30:6, Isaiah 28:9-10]
As I read the words, "We speak, not in the words which manís wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Ghost teaches; comparing spiritual things with spiritual," the Holy Spirit caused me to realize that He had been teaching me by comparing one line of Scripture to another line of scripture (1 Corinthians 2:13, and Isaiah 28:9-11). Moreover, as I have pointed out before, in doing this the Holy Spirit never led me away from the written Word of God by supplementing that Word with extra-scriptural information. Instead He explained each passage by causing me to remember other passages (John 14:26). For example: As I compared John 8:31 with Proverbs 30:6, "Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar," He opened my eyes to see that those who add to the Word of God are going outside of it rather than continuing in it. Then, as I compared John 8:31 with 2 Peter 1:20, He opened my eyes to see that any interpretation that departs from the Word of God (by adding to or negating what it says), is a "private interpretation."
That approach to Bible interpretation is not hard to understand. As we compare Ephesians 2:8 with Titus 3:5, we find that one passage tells us that we are saved "by grace" while the other tells us that we are saved "by mercy." Therefore, it should be obvious that saving grace consists of Godís mercy. Likewise, while Romans 3:28 tells us that we are "justified by faith," Romans 4:5 defines faith by telling us that faith is believing "on Him who justifies the ungodly." Following that procedure, we then simply gather the information together line upon line, here a little and there a little, allowing what is said in one place to clarify what is said in another place (Isaiah 28:9-11, 1 Corinthians 2:13).
Through the words of Isaiah 8:20, "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them", the Holy Spirit led me to see that any interpretation that contradicts an explicit statement of Scripture, is wrong (2 Corinthians 10:5). Of course, it is not always easy for us to admit that we are wrong. Because of sin, our natural inclination is to explain away what the Bible says, rather than change our own opinion (Romans 8:7, Jeremiah 17:9). However, if we want the truth, we must reject any opinion that contradicts the Word of God (John 8:31-32, Romans 3:4). And, if we find some passages hard to understand, they need to be interpreted to teach the same doctrine that is set forth in passages that are so clear they need no interpretation.
There were times when an elaborate private interpretation popped into my own mind with such clarity and force that my flesh wanted to believe that it was a divine revelation. However, in each case I came to reject that interpretation because it contradicted the Word of God. Furthermore, as I look back I can now see that those doctrines were of the devil. Therefore, when I encounter churches where those private interpretations are being taught, I know that someone has failed the test, thus giving Satan a victory (Jeremiah 14:14 and 23:16).
Through the words of Isaiah 28:9-11, the Holy Spirit tells us that the doctrine He teaches will be clearly stated in Scripture, "line upon line, line upon line; here a little and there a little." The fact that the word "must" appears in that passage, makes it clear that He does not reveal doctrine in any other way. Therefore, anyone who claims to have received a private revelation or explanation that is not found in Scripture is either deluded or dishonest. [2 Peter 1:20, 1 John 4:1, Galatians 6:3, Proverbs 25:14, Jeremiah 23:14-16.]
SPEAKING ACCORDING TO GODíS WORD
Once we learn the doctrinal truths that are explicitly stated in the Bible, they become the standard by which all else is judged (Isaiah 8:20, Romans 12:6). We are to interpret any unclear passages in the light of that doctrine, and if two explicit statements of Scripture seem to contradict, we are to accept both of them. However, instead of making up explanations in order to harmonize them, just be honest enough to admit that you do not understand, pray for wisdom, and leave it in the Lordís hands. When you do, it will just be a matter of time until the imagined contradiction resolves itself. Furthermore, whenever a passage is interpreted to contradict what the Bible explicitly says, that interpretation must be rejected as false. Never make the mistake of trying to explain away what the Bible says, because the words of Scripture do not agree with your own ideas. When manís word contradicts Godís Word, manís word must go, for all teaching is to be in accord with the Word of God! [Isaiah 8:20]
Finally, because the Bible was written to testify of Christ, everything that the Bible says must be interpreted in the light of what it clearly and explicitly says about Jesus Christ and salvation by grace through faith in His finished work of atonement. [John 5:39 and 20:31, 1 John 5:13, Ephesians 2:8, Isaiah 8:20.]
"For I receive not in Scripture the private interpretation of any manís brain, without open testimony of any Scripture agreeing thereto." (William Tyndale, from the foreword to his 1534 edition of the New Testament.)
THE FAITH ONCE DELIVERED TO THE SAINTS
The rules that I have just outlined are the same rules that were followed in formulating both the doctrine of the Trinity and the evangelical doctrines of salvation by grace through faith. For example: We do not believe that there is one God in three persons because someone came up with that interpretation, but because the Bible explicitly tells us that there is only one God (Deuteronomy 6:4) while at the same time explicitly telling us that the Father is God (1 Peter 1:2), the Son is God (John 20:28), and the Holy Ghost is God (Acts 5:3-4). Likewise, we do not believe that Jesus is both true God and true man because someone came up with that interpretation, but because the Bible explicitly tells us that Jesus is God (Titus 1:3 and 2:13) while at the same time explicitly telling us that He is man (1 Timothy 2:5). Finally, we do not believe that salvation is by grace through faith because someone came up with that explanation, but because the Bible explicitly says that we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). In each case we simply accept what the Bible says, line upon line, line upon line, here a little and there a little (Isaiah 28:9-11).
It is vital to the work of the gospel, that we make a clear distinction between what the Bible explicitly says (which is the Word of God) and what it might be interpreted to say (which is the word of man). Moreover, accurately conveying the Word of God to others is more important than words that cannot be understood, and far more important than empty headed babbling that is not a language at all (1 Corinthians 14:1- 20).
In our present world, those churches that place the greatest emphasis on the Holy Ghost show by the inept way they interpret Scripture that they are not being guided by the Holy Ghost, and have never received the spirit of wisdom and revelation. In fact, their willingness to explain away Bible passages that do not fit with their ideas (such as those that speak about women not teaching in the church, or Christ raising up believers "at the last day") makes it clear that they have a spirit of error (1 John 4:6). They do not even seem to realize that more souls will be saved by accepting what the Bible says, than by rejecting it. [See John 6:39-54, John 11:24, John 5:28-29, 1 Timothy 2:11-14, 1 Corinthians 11:10 and 14:34-37.]
In closing I want to urge you to seek the spirit of Wisdom and Revelation. Once you have received that illumination and apply the rules of interpretation that I have just outlined, you will understand Scripture with and exactness and clarity that you never before thought possible.