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Pointers along the way #591

Private interpretation
- Jacob Ninan

From the time Adam and Eve chose to have their own knowledge base of good and evil apart from God (Ge.2:17), we have the danger of leaning on our own understanding instead of God (Pr.3:5,6). This tendency does not stop even after we are born again, or filled with the Holy Spirit, because it depends on our free will. None of us can claim that we lean on God every moment, because if that were so, we would not make any mistake at all. But the fact is, we all make mistakes, as the apostle James was honest enough to admit (Jas.3:2). Our safety is to humbly recognise the possibility that some of our ideas may be wrong, and become willing to learn, receive correction and change.

The Bible was written when God inspired human authors to write down His truths (2Pe.1:21), and to interpret it we need to let the Holy Spirit bring out the truths from the written word to our hearts and minds (v.20). This process of bringing out the truths from the written word is referred to as biblical exegesis. God's word is not open to private interpretation. Some Bible study groups discuss the meanings of different passages by asking different members what each one thinks about them. It is all right to discuss different opinions as long as we recognise that there is finally only one possible meaning and that is the one which the Spirit inspired the authors to write down.

Many wrong teachings develop when people have bright ideas in their mind which they believe are from God and they find verses to place these ideas into. This wrong process of reading ideas into verses is called eisegesis. Unfortunately, this is very common. This is one of those things we have to check when we are listening to modern day preachers or reading their writings. We tend to assume that what they say must be true because they are quoting Bible verses to make their points. What we need to do is to see if they are quoting accurately, according to the context of the verse, the chapter, the book and the whole Bible. If Jesus had not done it, He would have been fooled when the devil quoted from the Scriptures (Mt.4:6).

Every believer has the right to know God and to hear personally from Him as he reads His words (He.8:11). But we must also recognise that not everyone is qualified to teach God's word because He calls only a comparatively smaller number of people to do so (Ep.4:11,12). When those who are anointed to do this ministry fail to be careful or others attempt it, false teachings flourish. Those who don't have the gift of teaching must submit to those who have it (Ep.5:21), if such teachers have been tested and found to be true and reliable (cf.1Ti.3:10), while checking with the scriptures to the extent they can do it personally (Ac.17:11).

In these days there is a great increase in all kinds of false teachings coming out. One way of safety to read more of the writings of men of old who have a demonstrated record of godliness and understanding (Je.6:16).


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