Bible

What Should I Do When Someone Disagrees With My Interpretation of Scripture?

This is an inevitable reality, unless you never talk about Scripture. Two people can be looking at the same text and interpret it different ways, just like two people can witness a crime and claim to have seen it happen in differing ways.

When disagreement happens, keep in mind that your conflict is in the text.

Our goal is not to attack someone personally or bring someone else down for their differing interpretation. Someone’s interpretation is wrong and someone’s interpretation is right, and we are seeking to see God’s lack of confusion on what He wrote.

Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Corrupting talk can be any talk that tears down a person’s character or hinders their growth. Our difficulty is not a personal one, but a textual one. So, guard your heart against taking a personal offense.

With that in mind, let me give you some more help on this critical question of disagreeing with others. Godly men disagree all the time, and Romans 14 is a “go-to” passage for help on the subject.

First, be welcoming to those who disagree with you – “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables” (Romans 14:1-2). In other words, don’t shun the person who says, “But I think it means this.” Disagreement doesn’t have to lead to disunity, but it might if you don’t welcome the conversation.

Second, don’t despise the person with a different view – “Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment (or literally “despise”) on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand” (Romans 14:3-4). To do anything else is to push your superiority over others and that is self-centered.

Third, be convinced of your view – “One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” (Rom 14:5). Your conscience should lead you, but keep in mind your conscience may be the uninformed one. And if your consciences don’t agree, you can help each other by informing the conscience with the Word.

Fourth, keep in mind you are not the final Judge of one’s interpretation – “Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.’ So, then each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Rom 14:10-12). If we considered the point more often, we would be far less argumentative and more willing to simply listen and allow God to sort through our hearts.

Fifth, the most important outcome is not to be right but to build up your brother – “So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble” (Rom 14:16-21). Whether you agree or not, make it your aim to be helped by their (understanding their view better and strengthening your own) and vice versa.

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Sola Scriptura: By Scripture Alone

Sola Scriptura means Scripture is the only necessary and sufficient source for all belief and practice. It is THE final authority for the church, but NOT THE ONLY authority. What makes Scripture unique from all other authorities is that it is the ONLY INFALLIBLE authority. The Bible has the final say on everything the Bible has to say anything about.

The Westminster Confession of Faith of 1646 gives this description of Sola Scriptura – “The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.”

One text that illustrates Sola Scriptura is II Timothy 3:16-17. Timothy was taught the Bible as a child, because his family knew the Scriptures would make him wise (vs. 15). The reason? Because “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (vs. 16-17).

Complete” doesn’t mean “perfect”; it means “capable of doing anything God asks you to do.” That is why the phrase “equipped for every good work” follows the word “complete.” Scripture is enough for glorifying, obeying and honoring God.

How else do we know that Sola Scriptura is clearly taught in the Scriptures? Because of the qualities that the Bible possesses. Let me give you 6 qualities of the Bible.

First, the Bible is inerrant. It contains no contradictions or errors of any kind in the original manuscripts. We can say the Bible is inerrant, because it is from God, who doesn’t lie (Numbers 23:19). He is a God of truth (Isaiah 65:16) who does not deceive. And what He says – the Scripture – is also inerrant.

Second, the Bible is clear. It was delivered and recorded in plain, understandable language. When God wants to say something, He is very good at saying it. He knows how to communicate. One of the best texts that demonstrates the clarity of God’s Word is the commandment to parents to teach their children the law of God (Deuteronomy 6:6-9). If the Bible can be taught to a simple-minded child, doesn’t it have to be clear?

Third, the Bible is sufficient. When we say “sufficient”, we mean “enough.” We mean anything you truly need can be supplied by the truths in God’s Word. When Jesus is tempted in the wilderness by Satan, He reminds Satan that we don’t live on bread but by everything that comes from the mouth of God (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4). The Bible transcends time in what it supplies for us; everything written in the Bible is meant for our current instruction and encouragement (Romans 15:4).

Fourth, the Bible is inspired. Inspiration means “God-breathed out the Scripture” (II Timothy 3:16). It doesn’t mean God used the best thoughts of man and compiled His Word. It doesn’t mean God left impressions on authors and they wrote His Word. It means that what we have in the Bible is God’s actual words. We say the Bible has a quality of verbal, plenary inspiration. That is God spoke words (verbal) that were absolute (plenary).

Fifth, the Bible in authoritative. The Bible doesn’t need another authority to validate its claims. It is THE authority on what matters. Why else did the Bereans measure everything they heard against what the Bible taught (Acts 17:11-12)? Scripture is authoritative because it comes from the Ultimate authority – God Himself.

Sixth, the Bible is eternal. Since the Bible is authoritative, sufficient, clear, inerrant, and inspired it must be eternal. “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isaiah 40:8).

God’s Word is our authority; it is our voice; it is our accountability; it is our sword; it is our life. When we read it, meditate upon it, memorize it, or sing it, we are engaged in worshipping the One who revealed it.

 

David Wells, On Scripture as Truth

Image result for david wells courage to be protestant“Scripture is not only a measure, not only a standard, but it is also truth. What this means is that with respect to God, it is the sum and substance of what we know of him, his character, his will, and his redemptive acts. What he has given us to know of Himself is what we are able to receive with the confidence that we know exactly who he is. With respect to the church, Scripture is God’s all-sufficient, complete, and unchangeable guide and gift for the life of his people in this world. Jude speaks of ‘the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). There is a finality, a completeness, to what has been delivered, and Scripture is our only account of that teaching. It is a teaching that is not modified in every succeeding generation, otherwise it could not have been given ‘once for all.’” (David Wells, The Courage to Be Protestant)

5 Ways to Read the Bible

Read the Bible daily.

Of course, I don’t want to shortchange you; if you want to read more, than read more. The psalmist rose early in the morning (Psalm 119:147) and stayed up through the night with God (Psalm 119:148). He did it even 7x a day (Psalm 119:164).

Discipline yourself to have a regular time in the Word of God – morning, afternoon or evening. Reading the Bible daily is like eating a meal. You can skip it every now and then, but eventually you will die from starvation if you don’t eat.

Find a time and stick to it.

Read the Bible systematically and comprehensively.

Don’t be a random reader. Don’t be one of those people who just flips open his pages and reads what he sees or reads topically. If you do that with your life, you will take more and more things out of their context.

If you read what you want and not from Genesis to Revelation, book by book, there are commands in the Bible you are going to disobey because you never know they were even there. And ignorance is not bliss when you must stand before God and give account for those portions you neglected.

All Scripture is inspired by Him and so we need to know it all comprehensively.

Read the Bible devotionally.

Reading the Bible is not meant to be an academic exercise. It is worship. It is an act by which he express our love for the Bible and for God. We study the Bible to know God, hear from God, and be changed by God. Steve Lawson has written in his commentary on Psalm 119,

In every generation, those who have most treasured God’s word have been those most mightily used by God. Having a passionate devotion to his Word and being a powerful force for God are inseparably bound together. The former feeds the latter. One is the root, the other the fruit. Loving God’s Word is the cause; being used by the Lord is the effect. The fact is, no one can love God without loving the Word.”

Read the Bible prayerfully.

This is not a difficult concept; it just means that when you read the Bible, you also pray. John Piper has come up with an acronym to use when reading the Bible prayerfully that you might find helpful. He uses the letters “I.O.U.S.”

  • I – Incline. To hear Him rightly in His Word, you have to be desirous – “Incline my heart to Your testimonies, and not to covetousness” (Psalm 119:36).
  • O – Open. To hear Him rightly in His Word, you have to ask for God’s assistance to understand the amazing things you read – “Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law” (Psalm 119:18).
  • U – Unite. To hear Him rightly in His Word, you have to have a unified, single focus on His Word – “Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name” (Psalm 86:11).
  • S – Satisfy. To hear Him rightly in His word, you have to be ready to produce more fruit – “Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days!” (Psalm 90:14).

Read the Bible reverently.

The Bible is a Holy revelation of God’s will and to read it is to take your sandals off each time because you are on holy ground.Love it, treasure it, learn it, memorize it, meditate on it, believe it, practice it. How you treat the Bible is how you treat God. John Wesley get the last word:

“O give me that book! At any price give me the book of God! I have it: here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be a man of one book.”

A Famine in the Land

Amos, who was a shepherd, fig tree caretake,r and breeder of cows, was called by God to take his agricultural and farming abilities to God’s people and shepherd them towards repentance. God gave Amos a message to deliver that summarizes greatly the state of the land at that time –

’Behold, the days are coming,’ says the Lord God, ‘That I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but shall not find it” (Amos 8:11-12).

Friends, the conditions described in those two verses are very indicative of the 2017 world we live in and unfortunately too many churches fall under this characterization as well.

The doctrine of Sola Scriptura – “Scripture alone” – is a Latin phrase people know and ascribe to, but are far from practicing. Our society is an “I did it my way” place where our rules too often trump God’s. Our society may often consider the Bible’s good morals but then opt out of following them when it is not convenient.

Sola Sciptura was one of the distinctions that separated Protestants from the Roman Catholics during the Reformation and it should be a phrase that separates us still today. It is not Scripture + tradition or Scripture + church teaching or Scripture + experience or Scripture + church councils or church fathers.

It is Scripture + nothing = everything.

John MacArthur has written,

“No man, no church, no religious authority has any warrant from God to augment the inspired Word of Scripture with additional traditions, or to alter the plain sense of it by subjecting it to the rigors of a ‘traditional’ meaning not found in the Word itself. To do so is clearly to invalidate the Word of God – and we know what our Lord thinks of that.” (Sola Scriptura, pg. 182)

What does Jesus think of that?

For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book” (Rev 22:18-19).

The greatest evil in the world is to sit in judgment upon what God has said.

Synonyms for God’s Word in Psalm 119

Psalm 119 is the longest of the 150 psalms in the Psalter, with 176 verses, which make it equal in length to Ruth or James or Philippians. Psalm 119 is the feast of all feasts in the Psalter as it unpacks every nuance imaginable about the nature of the Word of God.

There are a number of synonyms for God’s Word in this chapter. In fact, only 6 verses in the psalm do not have a word for the “Bible” (vs. 84, 90-91, 121-122, 149); that is a mere 3% of the psalm! 97% of the verses in this psalm are about the Word of God in our lives.

The synonyms lists are as follows:

  • Ways” – This is the Hebrew word dabar and can be found in 32 verses: vs. 3, 5, 9, 15-17, 25-26, 28, 30, 33, 37, 42-43, 49, 57, 59, 65, 74, 81, 89, 101, 105, 107, 114, 130, 132, 139, 147, 160-161, 169. It is the most general of the 8 titles and refers simply to anything that comes from God’s mouth. Anything that comes from His holy, perfect mouth is His “way” for mankind.
  • Testimonies” – This is the Hebrew word edot and can be found in 23 verses: vs. 2, 14, 22, 24, 31, 36, 46, 59, 79, 88, 95, 99, 111, 119, 125, 129, 138, 144, 146, 152, 157, 167-168. It is a word often used synonymously with the 10 Commandments. It is a word meaning “to bear witness. For example, Israel was told to place the Law next to the Ark so it would be a witness against them (Deuteronomy 31:26). His testimony is equal to His will for each individual of all mankind.
  • Statutes” – This is the Hebrew word huqqim and can be found in 22 verses: vs. 5, 8, 12, 16, 23, 26, 33, 48, 54, 64, 68, 71, 80, 83, 112, 117-118, 124, 135, 145, 155, 171. It’s base meaning is “to inscribe, to cut.” It seems to speak of the permanence of Scripture as it is engraved on our hearts (Isaiah 30:8). His statute is something that He permanently holds all of mankind to.
  • Word” – This is the Hebrew word imrah and can be found in 43 verses: vs. 9, 11, 16-17, 25, 28, 38, 41-43, 49-50, 57-58, 65, 67, 74, 76, 81-82, 89, 101, 103, 105, 107, 114, 116, 123, 130, 133, 139-140, 147-148, 154, 158, 160-162, 169-170, 172. It’s root word means “to promise.” It really refers to anything that God vows to do, how He judges, how He rewards, etc. for mankind.
  • Rules” – This is the Hebrew word mishpatim and can be found in 24 verses: vs. 7, 13, 20, 29-30, 39, 43, 52, 62, 75, 84, 91, 102, 106, 108, 120-121, 132, 137, 149, 156, 160, 164, 175. It means “what the Divine Judge has ruled to be right” or “ordinances” It refers to any divine legal issues. It looks at the judicial side of God’s Word; it sees truth as something that is legally binding upon mankind.
  • Commandments” – This is the Hebrew word mitsvot and can be found in 24 verses: vs. 6, 10, 19, 21, 32, 35, 47-48, 60, 66, 73, 86, 96, 98, 115, 127, 131, 143, 151, 158, 166, 172-173, 176. Its root refers to teaching. The title means “what God has taught us to observe.” A commandment refers to truth as something taught to mankind.
  • Precepts” – This is the Hebrew word piqqudim and can be found in 21 verses: vs. 4, 15, 27, 40, 45, 56, 63, 69, 78, 87, 93-94, 100, 104, 110, 128, 134, 141, 159, 168, 173. It means “what God has appointed to be done, like a covenant.” It is synonymous with covenants. A precept is that aspect of truth that refers to anything God has covenanted with mankind over.
  • Law” – This is the Hebrew word torah and can be found in 25 verses: vs. 1, 18, 29, 34, 44, 51, 53, 55, 61, 70, 72, 77, 85, 92, 97, 109, 113, 126, 136, 142, 150, 153, 163, 165, 174. This is the most common title for God’s Word in the O.T. It’s root meaning is “instruction.” It refers to the totality of everything God teaches mankind.

Psalm 119 is an exhaustive look at the Word of God and an exposition of what all these titles refer to and mean. And in the coming weeks, on this blog, we will highlight sections of this Word-based psalm.