Complete Interpretation: Submission Necessary; A Portion of a Lecture by Me at ABC

Even if all biblical interpreters conscientiously used a consistent hermeneutical system, there would still be a variety of opinions because of the differences among the interpreters' abilities and backgrounds. Such differences are inevitable and must be accepted, but four characteristics are required of a student of the Bible who would 'accurately divide the word of truth. The interpreter must be (1) regenerated by the Holy Spirit, (2) Obedient to the Scriptures, (3)guided by the Holy Spirit, and (4)diligent in study.

The lack of any one of these characteristics is detrimental to faithful Bible interpretation. Now lets take time to look at how each one of these affects the work of the interpreter.

SUBMISSION TO THE HOLY SPIRIT

Having spoken of the unbeliever's natural limitations in understanding the Bible, Paul then notes some limitations that may apply to the believer as well. These limitations affect a believer who resist the work of the Spirit in his or her life or who acts in a carnal (natural) person. In other words, the more light the believer receives, the more he or she is able to understand. Rejecting light, on the other hand, leaves this individual almost as blind to the Scriptures as the unbeliever.

Follow through the passage below as Paul progresses from describing the unbeliever who cannot receive God's Word (I Corinthians 2:14) to describing certain members of the Corinthian church who had limited their spiritual understanding by carnal living.

  • Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly--mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? (I Corinthians 3:1-3)

In this passage we see first that Paul is speaking to Christians, for he addresses them as brothers. But they are immature 'babes in Christ who act like mere men rather that spiritual men. Their sins are jealousy, quarreling, and political maneuvering.

Paul is saying that because of these sins many Corinthian believers are still feeding on milk instead of solid food they should be eating. Sadly, even after having experienced the gospel, they are still limited in what they can understand. This is not because of their lack of knowledge or facts, but because they are acting like natural (carnal) individuals, not as mature believers.

The essence of their problem was failure to obey God's biblical standard. When believers do not allow the Bible to change their lives, their heards gradually lose sensitivity to receiving God's Word. The problem is one of rebellion against God's will, not intellectual ability.

Now let us compare the I Corinthians 3 passage to a parallel text in Hebrews 5:11-14. Again the writer tries to instruct rebellious believers, but he must be content with giving them milk rather than solid food.

  • We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time ye ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by consistent use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

Do not miss the obvious truth taught in this passage. Those who were slow to learn had not trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Conversely, those who were exercised in obedience were ready for solid food.

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