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‘Hermeneutics’ Category

  1. How the Inspiration of Scripture Happened

    August 18, 2014 by Jeff Wright

    Historic Christianity has affirmed that Scripture is a perfect revelation of God, lacking nothing, internally consistent, and accurate on all matters it addresses 1 (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  Christianity has also affirmed that Scripture came from God through real human beings, subject to the same flaws common to all humanity save Christ.  How, then, in light of the involvement of imperfect humans can we believe in a perfect communication of message?

    On the methods by which God revealed Himself perfectly in Scripture through flawed human beings without using them as dictation robots Walter Kaiser says:

    As B.B. Warfield pointed out long ago, the pure light of God’s revelation will not be distorted by coming through such admittedly human channels, just as God’s pure sunlight is not bent and distorted by its being filtered through a stained glass window, for the originator of the sunlight is also the architect who designed the stained-glass windows.

    The preparation that went into the lives, experiences, vocabularies, and outlook of the writers of Scripture was enormously significant.  Thus, by the time they came to write Scripture, so authentic were the expressions that they used that any of us who might have known them prior to their writing of the text of Scripture would have instantaneously recognized that that is precisely how each writer spoke.  The idioms, vocabularies, styles, and the like were uniquely their own, yet the product was precisely what God wanted as He stayed with each writer in such a way that there was a living assimilation of the truth (1 Cor. 2:13) – not a mechanical dictation of the words, such as whispering in the writer’s ear or an involuntary movement of their hands as they automatically wrote.

    Article 1 of The Baptist Faith and Message (2000), titled On Scripture says it this way:

    The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.

    Exodus 24:4Deuteronomy 4:1-217:19Joshua 8:34Psalms 19:7-10119:11,89,105,140Isaiah 34:1640:8Jeremiah 15:1636:1-32Matthew 5:17-1822:29Luke 21:3324:44-46John 5:39;16:13-1517:17Acts 2:16ff.; 17:11Romans 15:416:25-262 Timothy 3:15-17Hebrews 1:1-24:121 Peter 1:252 Peter 1:19-21.

    Notes:

    1. This isn’t to say that Scripture is without apparent errors or contradictions.  However, these are the fault of flawed human readers, not the Bible, and largely resolvable through correct interpretation.

  2. Evaluating a Sermon

    February 26, 2014 by Jeff Wright

    One of the things I want to remain committed to throughout my life is becoming a better preacher.  Furthermore, my church has been blessed with a number of young men whom God has called into vocational ministry.

    Toward the twin aims of helping those at my church growing in their skills as preachers and my own improvement I created a sermon evaluation form.  I’m posting it here for the use of others with a similar desire.

    I hope it’s profitable for you.  One request: if you use it would you please let me know by leaving a brief comment?  I would be interested to know how (if?) it is being used outside of our church.

    Midway Baptist Church: Sermon Evaluation Form (Right-Click and select “Save link as…” to download PDF)


  3. Elevation Church: Where Does Unity Come From?

    February 19, 2014 by Jeff Wright

    Can someone at Elevation Church in Matthews, NC please explain this?  Surely there is some element not present in the page itself that will explain how this isn’t a whole bag of steaming craziness?

    UnityAtElevation

    I ask that because what actually is present on the page (absent some helpful explanatory word from Elevation) is poor proof-texting and cult-like indoctrination.

    1. Proof-Texting: Elevation’s artist did get a correct quoting of the NIV’s translation of Romans 13:1.  However, ripped from it’s Biblical context, combined with the image on the sheet, and the wording about Pastor’s Steven’s vision unifying the church makes that wonderful text justification for not just any craziness Steven Furtick chooses to spew (did I just become a hater?) but any dangerous abuser who lays claim to the title “authority.”

    2. Cult-Like Indoctrination: Just so we’re clear: the unity of the church is never in the “vision” of the pastor; it is the unity of faith spoken of in Ephesians 4:10-16, namely unity built on the teaching of and commitment to the Word of God.

    Any substitute unity built on the vision of a man is temporary at best, often discretionary, and extremely dangerous at best.

    Here’s hoping Elevation clarifies soon.

    HT: Kent Schaaf via Terry Gant.

    *Update 4* The nuttiness keeps on rolling in.  Check out this other graphic from Elevation Church (Source).  Note especially numbers 1 (really, this is number 1 for them; the more I read it the crazier it looks), 3, 7, and 16.  And why does it take until 24 to mention the gospel?  For real – Elevation Church is looking like 1 short step away from a cult.

    a
    *Update 3* Looks like Elevation Church has realized what a thoroughly bad idea this was. Kudos to them.


     
    *Update 2*: Chris Rosebrough of Pirate Christian Radio has spoken with Elevation Church and confirmed this is legit.
     

     

    You can see the rest of the artwork from the coloring book here:


    *Update 1* Usually I think Matthew Paul Turner should be avoided but we agree on this point.  You can see his post (which preceded mine) for more details on this lunacy.

    Since we’re on the subject of Elevation Church at this moment you need to look at even worse lunacy leaking out of their church on how Elevation manipulate people into being “spontaneously” baptized.


  4. Asking the Right Questions

    November 15, 2013 by Jeff Wright

    This is from the introduction to my sermon on 1 Timothy 1:8-11.  I hope it encourages you in your study of the Word.

    - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - -

    How many of you have heard that the Bible is a book of answers?

    That’s a pretty common idea among Christians, right?

    Did you realize that the Bible is also a book of questions?

    What I mean is that the Bible is a book of answers… for the right questions.

    The Bible assumes that its readers will be asking certain questions.  We take it that these questions which the Bible assumes are the questions that we should be asking – even if we aren’t.

    Let me explain:

    1. There are some questions the Bible indicates aren’t legitimate.

    For example “Is there a God?”

    -       The Bible clearly assumes there is a God – it opens with “In the beginning, God…

    -       Romans 1:18-21 tells us that all men know there is a God.

    -       Therefore we conclude that the Bible says we shouldn’t be asking “Is there a God” but rather something akin to “What is God like?”

    2. There are some questions that the Bible indicates aren’t asked properly.

    For example: “Should I marry my girlfriend.”

    -       On the one hand, the Bible doesn’t say “Thou shalt marry thy girlfriend!”  On the other, it does have much to say about marriage.

    -       Therefore we conclude that the information desired isn’t a problem, rather the way the question is shaped presents the problem.

    -       The question that the Bible answers in this regard is “What kind of person should I marry?”  You are then free to evaluate your current relationship in light of those standards and make the decision.

    3. There are some questions the Bible says we should be asking (even if we aren’t).

    -       Scripture says of itself that it is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness… (2 Timothy 3:16).

    -       Thus we conclude that what Scripture reveals is actually what we need; as a result we say that the questions it answers are the ones we should be asking.

    Our text today is an example of this last kind of question – the questions that we should be asking.  It likely that very few of us came into the sanctuary today with a burning desire to know the answer to the question our text today assumes.

    That is alright.  Part of growing in grace, in being sanctified, in maturing as a believer is learning to ask the right questions.  It is a discipline to be cultivated and today we will strive toward that end.


  5. Modern Myths and Endless Genealogies

    November 11, 2013 by Jeff Wright

    Here’s an excerpt from my sermon Sunday on 1 Timothy 1:3-7.  There really is no new error under the sun.

    - – - – -

    i. Speculation – the term means that which is proposed or believed without good evidence.

    As best we can reconstruct, these false teachers were taking passages of Scripture and inventing a “deeper” meaning than the plain meaning of the text.

    This is closely related to the allegorical interpretation of Scripture, a method of “interpreting” the Bible that actually despises the text of Scripture.

    Example of allegorical interpretation: Origen on the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

    “The man who was going down is Adam. Jerusalem is paradise, and Jericho is the world. The robbers are hostile powers. The priest is the Law, the Levite is the prophets, and the Samaritan is Christ. The wounds are disobedience, the beast is the Lord’s body, the pandochium (that is, the stable inn), which accepts all who wish to enter, is the Church. And further, the two denarii mean the Father and the Son. The manager of the stable is the head of the Church…”[1]

    What would this look like?  An internet Bible teacher named Chuck Missler[2] gives us a pretty good contemporary example.

    Hebrew

    English

    Adam Man
    Seth Appointed
    Enosh Mortal
    Kenan Sorrow
    Mahalalel The Blessed God
    Jared Shall come down
    Enoch Teaching
    Methuselah His death shall bring
    Lamech The despairing
    Noah Rest, or comfort

    The assumption in this “method” is that the message of Scripture can’t be accessed by a simple reading; God has hidden it “deeper” in the text that only the truly spiritually wise can understand.  In this sense, allegorical interpretation is very Gnostic (“secret knowledge”).

    This is fatally dangerous.  Our great need is to hear from God.  God has graciously revealed Himself in Scripture in such a way that all men should be able to access (example: NT in koine Greek).

    No, not all of Scripture is as clear to our understanding as other parts.  However, the great truths of Scripture are crystal clear: God our creator is glorifying Himself by redeeming sinners though His Son Jesus.

    What this allegorical interpretation does, what makes it so dangerous, is it takes the plain meaning of Scripture, replaces it with some man’s imagination, and discourages people from cherishing what is actually in the text.

    Think this is just an early church problem?  Think again.  Have you heard of the book The Harbinger?  From it’s publication in January of 2012 through October 2013 the book sold more than 1 Million Copies.  It has been on the New York Times Bestseller list for 86 (!) weeks.  Right now Amazon has it as the 2nd most popular book in the category of Christian Theology.

    It is built on the novel interpretation of Isaiah 9:10 which the author, working allegorically, finds to be addressing modern-day American and predicting events like 9-11.

    Have I mentioned lately that the Christian bookstore is a dangerous place?  It will ruin your ability to read the Bible profitably.

    So the next time you hear a teacher described as “known for opening up the deep mysteries of scripture…” you walk the other way from his titles.


    [1] http://www.studymode.com/essays/Saint-Augustine-On-The-Parables-291021.html

    [2] http://www.khouse.org/articles/2000/284/#notes


  6. Filled with the Spirit: Reading Acts in Light of Luke

    December 29, 2011 by Jeff Wright

    The good doctor Luke’s writing is absolutely saturated by the miraculous work of God through the Spirit in the Son of God.  This Trinitarian view of history should shape our own view of history.

    However, Luke’s writings have been blamed for much of the confusion we see in our day regarding the role of the Spirit in God’s activity among His people.  Paying close attention to Luke should help us dispel much of the fog around what has been called the Charismatic Gifting of the Spirit.

    One example of this is the phrase filled with the Spirit.  When you hear that you might think of Acts 2:4 – “…they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”   I don’t have to tell you that this text has been used to justify the idea that the sign of the filling by the Spirit is speaking in tongues.

    One of the most significant problems with that position is that it fails to keep in mind that Acts was written under the assumption that its readers would have read Luke first.  Luke introduces the concept of being filled with the Spirit long before we get to the 2nd chapter of Acts.  Luke actually brings the phrase to his reader in the first two chapters of his gospel (1:41-42 and 67-79).  For Luke the activity of the Spirit begins with the proclamation of God’s Word in what we would call preaching.

    That being filled with the Spirit results in proclaiming the Word of God in a way understandable to one’s hearers (as is obviously the case with Elizabeth and Zechariah) controls the way we read the Acts text, particularly when Acts 2:4 is read in the context of 5-13.

    This reading of Acts in light of Luke also controls the way we read Acts 10:45-46 and 19:6.


  7. Living by the Book: Lesson 18

    July 4, 2008 by Jeff Wright

    Living by the Book
    Lesson 18

    Things That Are Alike and Unlike

    Things That Are Like

    I. Similes
    Simile – a word picture that draws a comparison between two things.

    “The two most common words to look for are as and like.” – Howard Hendricks, Living by the Book

    Examples:

    Psalm 42:1 – “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for Thee, O God.”

    1 Peter 2:2 – “As newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.

    Isaiah 44:6-7 – “This is what the Lord says – Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God. Who then is like me?

    II. Metaphors

    Metaphor – comparison is made without using as or like.

    Example:

    John 15:1 – “I am the vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.

    “Get in the habit of looking for [comparisons like these]. You’ll find them especially in the wisdom literature, particularly in the psalms.”

    Things That Are Unlike

    I. Use of but
    “The word but is a clue that a change of direction is coming.”

    Examples:

    1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and Ephesians 2:1-7

    “But is one of the most important words you’ll ever come across in your study of Scripture. Whenever you see it, always stop and ask, what is the contrast being made?”

    II. Metaphors
    Metaphors can be used to show how two things are unlike just as well as they can be used to show what they are like.

    Example:

    The Parable of the Unrighteous Judge in Luke 18.

    “Jesus is setting up an effective contrast. He is saying, in effect, ‘If a corrupt and indifferent human judge finally gives in to the persistent pleas of a widow, how much more will the heavenly Father respond to the petitions of His children?”

    III. Irony

    John’s Gospel makes frequent use of irony.

    Examples:

    John 4:12 – (The Samaritan woman addressing Christ) “Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?”

    John 8:40 – “…now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this.

    John 9:40-41 – “Then some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said to Him, ‘Are we blind also?’ Jesus said to them ‘If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.

    “Things that are alike and unlike make use of the strong human tendency to compare and contrast. As you study the Scriptures, listen to that voice inside your head saying, ‘Hey, this is like that passage I looked at yesterday,’ or, ‘This section is different from anything else in this book.’ Those are clear signals that the author is using things alike and unlike to communicate his message.”

    Note: Lesson 19 was read entirely from the book so I won’t be posting any notes for it.


  8. Living By The Book: Lesson 17

    June 25, 2008 by Jeff Wright

    Living by the Book
    Lesson 17

    Things That Are Related

    “…things that have some connection, some interaction with each other.” – Howard Hendricks, Living by the Book

    I. Movement from the general to the specific
    “This is the relationship between the whole and its parts, between a category and its individual members, between the big picture and the details.”

    Example: Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

    That’s the broad statement. The rest of Genesis 1 and 2 fills in the details.

    II. Questions and Answers
    “The question is one of the most powerful tools of communication.”

    Example: Romans 6:1, 15 and Job 38

    “Questions and answers demand your attention. They are important keys to help you unlock a text.”

    III. Cause and Effect

    Example: Acts 8:1. Persecution breaks out against the church in Jerusalem. The church scatters. Verse 4 says, “Those who had been scattered went about preaching the Word.”

    Persecution: Case, Effect: Preaching of the Word abroad.


  9. Living By The Book: Lesson 16

    June 25, 2008 by Jeff Wright

    Living by the Book
    Lesson 16

    Six Clues to watch for in Scripture

    1. Things that are emphasized.
    2. Things that are repeated.
    3. Things that are related.
    4. Things that are alike.
    5. Thinks that are unlike.
    6. Things that are true to life.

    Last week we looked at things that are emphasized by (a) amount of space devoted to them, (b) stated explicitly, (c) given strategic order, and (d) moving from lesser to greater and vice versa.

    This week we’re looking for things that are repeated.

    “There’s probably no tool of teaching more powerful than repetition.” – Howard Hendricks, Living by the Book

    Example from the writings of John:
    “Have you ever noticed how often Jesus repeats things to His disciples? The gospels record at least nine times that He said ‘He that ha[s] ears to hear, let him hear.’ And when John was recording the Revelation, what do you suppose the Lord told him to write to the seven churches? That’s right: ‘He that ha[s] ears to hear, let him hear.’”

    Ways Scripture Emphasizes Material through Repetition

    I. Terms, Phrases, and Clauses
    “Scripture constantly repeats terms, phrases, and clauses to emphasize their importance.”

    Read Psalm 136. What is the writer trying to emphasize in this passage?

    You can see this in Hebrews 11 as well. The phrase “by faith…” appears no less than eighteen times.

    II. Characters

    “Barnabas is a good example [from the book of Acts]. We really don’t know too much about the man. His given name was Joseph, but the apostles called him Barnabas, meaning Son of Encouragement (Acts 4:36). And that’s really the most important thing about him: he was an encourager. Whenever somebody in the early church needed a hand, they would pop Barnabas to help him out: Saul (Acts 9:27); the believing Gentiles at Antioch (Acts 11:22); and John Mark (Acts 15:36-39). Luke brings Barnabas into the story at strategic points as a model of spiritual mentoring.”

    III. Incidents and circumstances
    “Sometimes a writer makes his point by repeating a particular incident or set of circumstances.”

    Example: Judges. The writer begins each section of the book (and each introduction of another Judge) with the phrase “Then the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.”

    Basically, Judges can be seen as a repeating cycle. The people rebel in sin, God appoints a spiritual leader who leads a civil and spiritual renewal – if not revival – then passes from the scene, after which the people rebel in sin again.

    IV. Patterns

    Examples: Parallels between the life of Joseph and the life of Christ or the juxtaposition between Saul’s rebellious conduct and David’s obedient life in 1 and 2 Samuel.

    V. New Testament and Old Testament passages
    “A final and obvious case of repetition is the citation of Old Testament scripture by the New.”

    Two examples:
    1. Matthew 12:39-41. Who, reading Jonah before they knew anything about the New Testament, would connect his strange voyage to the Messiah? And yet the connection makes both texts all the more rich.
    2. Read Psalms 110:1 then read Matthew 22:44. Would you have made that connection? Again, the connection makes both texts more understandable and rich.


  10. Living By The Book: Lesson 15

    June 22, 2008 by Jeff Wright

    Living by the Book
    Lesson 15

    Six Clues to watch for in Scripture

    1. Things that are emphasized.
    2. Things that are repeated.
    3. Things that are related.
    4. Things that are alike.
    5. Thinks that are unlike.
    6. Things that are true to life.

    Things That Are Emphasized

    Ways the Bible emphasizes material:

    1. Amount of Space
    “A book can emphasize something by devoting a large portion of space to it.”

    Example:
    “We can see that in Genesis. It has fifty chapters. The first eleven cover the creation, the Fall, the Flood, the tower of Bable, and other details. All those major events are compressed into just eleven chapters. By contrast, the writer devotes chapters 12-50 to the lives of four individuals: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.” – Howard Hendricks, Living by the Book

    2. Stated Purpose
    “Another way the biblical writers may emphasize their points is by telling us straight out what they are up to.

    Example:
    “[In Proverbs] Solomon launches that fascinating collection of wisdom sayings by telling the reader why he ought to read the book.”

    Read Proverbs 1:2-6
    What reasons does Solomon give as motivation toward reading Proverbs?

    (a) To know wisdom and instruction
    (b) To discern the sayings of understanding
    (c) To receive instruction in wise behavior
    (d) Righteousness, justice, and equity
    (e) To give prudence to the naïve
    (f) To the youth knowledge and discretion
    (g) A wise man will hear and increase in learning.

    3. Order
    “A third way to emphasize something is to give it a strategic placement in the material.”

    Example:
    “…in Genesis 2, God places Adam and Eve in the garden ‘to cultivate it and keep it,’ the text says (2:15). Then in chapter 3 the couple sin, and God drives them out of the Garden and curses the earth (3:17-24). That order becomes important when we talk about work, because some people believe that work is a part of the curse. But the order of events in Genesis disallows that interpretation.”

    4. Movement from the lesser to the greater, and vice versa
    “These are special cases of what we’ve just looked at in terms of order.”

    Example:
    “In the life of David, 2 Samuel 11-12 records what are probably the most crucial events of David’s life – the murder of Uriah and his sin with Bathsheba. These chapters form a sort of pivot to the book. Everything before leads up to them, everything after goes down after them.