Volume. XXXI, No. 33
Sunday, 12 February 2017


From the Pastors Heart: Study the Bible (Part 2)


Last week, we considered the main reason why we must study the Bible.  The Bible is the Word of the living God and He has revealed Himself in it.  The saving faith comes by hearing, and this hearing is of the Word of God.  Faith is not a subjective experience of positive thinking but based on the objective truth, which is the inspired Word of God, which suffices the reason why we must study the Bible.  Now, I assume that we agree that it is important for the believers to study the Bible.  Now, the next lesson we must consider is “how to study the Bible.” 

God speaks to us in the Bible written in human languages.  The reason is obvious, it is for our understanding.  Hence, we should know the meaning of “language,” in order to know how to study the Bible.  According to Noah Webster’s 1828 English Dictionary, a language is “[an] expression of ideas by words or significant articulate sounds, for the communication of thoughts.”  “Human speech; language consists in the oral utterance of sounds, which usage has made the representatives of ideas. When two or more persons customarily annex the same sounds to the same ideas, the expression of these sounds by one person communicates his ideas to another. This is the primary sense of language the use of which is to communicate the thoughts of one person to another through the organs of hearing.  Articulate sounds are represented by letters, marks or characters which form words.”  “Words duly arranged in sentences, written, printed or engraved, and exhibited to the eye.” 

From these definitions of language, we must know that it is to express ideas and thoughts.  It must be expressive and intelligible.  There are two outstanding elements in language:

(1) it employs sentences.  It implies that it is important for us to know the words employed in the given sentence and grammatical relations between the words, in order that we may make any sense out of it;
(2) it requires understanding.  In other words, it has to be intelligible.  If we do not understand the language, we become ignorant, and it becomes intelligible.

We now come to the Bible.  God gave this holy book written with human languages, so that we could understand what He wants us to believe and know about.  Therefore, we must understand what the Bible speaks to us.  In order for us to do so, we must exercise certain processes to know and to determine what it says, what it means and implies, and what we ought to read, hear and do.  These processes are called Biblical Hermeneutics (the science of interpretation).  I hope that no one will misunderstand me as if I am proposing a false idea that human intelligence determines the meaning of the Bible and that God does not play any role in our understanding of the Bible.  The Bible is God’s inspired Word.  Such spiritual truths cannot but be understood by the spiritual who are regenerated by the Spirit of God and aided to understand the Bible by the Spirit of God.  At the same time, God exhorts us to read, study, and meditate upon His inspired Word.  He sends us His ministers to teach us and puts desires into our hearts to study and meditate upon His Word.  Interpretation is a natural part of any communication.  We do it all the time, and it is an indispensable part of communication. 

Amongst many ways to interpret the Bible, I’d like to bring out two most discussed ways to interpret the Bible. 

(1) Some people argue that we must focus on the intention and purpose of the authors of the Scriptures.  They say that only this way we can find an objective and understandable message, and that it leads us to objective truth. 

(2) Others argue that we must focus on the readers’ responses.  According to this view, the author’s intent is really not relevant to us today.  They question whether we are able to know the author’s intent for sure.  Even if we know it, it does not matter.  Therefore, what is important is what the readers find from the Bible as they read.  Thus, what the readers see as true must be true.  There is no absolute truth, and truth could be different from person to person subjectively.  In this case, the final authority lies with the readers not the Word. 

Between these two views, what Hope Church and I hold unto is that what God says is far greater and more important than what I feel and think.  We do not determine what truth is.  Rather, whatever the Bible speaks is true to us.  Man may say lots of things about the Bible, but we take a view that what the Bible says matters, not what man says.  Our hermeneutics stands on this conviction.  Therefore, no one is allowed in our midst to hide his or her unbelief with a pretext of his interpretations. 

In order to understand the Bible and to interpret it correctly, we must have certain basic principles to govern our Biblical Interpretation.  The following simple advice from Dr. Barrett is worthwhile for us to remember. 

The first principle is to, begin every session of Bible study with prayer.  “As the Psalmist prayed for God to open his eyes to behold the wondrous things of the law, so must we pray (Psalm 119:18).  We must pray that the Holy Spirit will teach us truth. The Lord Jesus promised His disciples that the Spirit of truth would guide them into all truth (John 16:13).  Not only do the specific implications of that promise relate to the inspiration of the New Testament, but it also has great significance for every believer who seeks to hear God in the inspired Word. 

In I Corinthians 2 the apostle Paul refers to the great truths of the gospel as those things God has revealed to us by His Spirit (2:10). He then says concerning these truths that they are what the Holy Spirit teaches by “comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (2:13).  This could be rendered literally ‘expounding spiritual [truths] to spiritual [men].’  This statement highlights two essential points. 

Firstly it is the ministry of the Holy Spirit to illumine and instruct believers in the things of God.  The Holy Spirit is the ultimate and consummate teacher of every believer.
Second, we must have regenerated hearts before we can understand anything God says. ‘The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth [discerns] all things’ (I Corinthians 2:14, 15a).

Understanding God’s Word depends in great measure on knowing Him.  It is the Spirit of God that regenerates sinners, turning them into spiritual men and thereby introducing them to the knowledge of God; it is the Spirit of God that leads saints into a more intimate knowledge of God through the Word” (Kindle reading loc. 227).

The second principle is to spend time in the Bible.  “This may be a strange point to make in setting up the proper procedures for Bible study, but far too frequently Christians tend to substitute reading about the Bible for reading the Bible.  While there is nothing wrong with reading commentaries or devotional books, there is simply no substitute for reading the Bible itself.  Much of what the majority of Christians know about Scripture, about God, and about Christ is hearsay.  The Bible seems strange to many simply because they are strangers to it” (Kindle reading loc. 242). 

I find some interesting thoughts from this explanation.  I have seen many zealous and passionate people who are deeply interested in theologies.  As a result, they have followed all kinds of authors and their writings and have formed their theological convictions.  Sadly, biblically they are confused, and theologically they become followers of men.  They love to debate over theologies, but they cannot hide their biblical ignorance.  They are dangerous to the health of Christian churches, because they are able to divide the churches by making their own disciples.  Their Christian character does not grow.  They think they stand on theologies.  Read the Bible!  

Lovingly,
Your Pastor

More Lively Hope

 

Announcements


*Kitchen Roster - Helpers this week: Bros William Song & Phil Surman; Sis Seong Yeng Chu.  Helpers next week: Sisters Ashley Chia, Amy Ma & Bernadette Ng. 
*Those who have ordered new hymnals for personal use, please see & pay Sis Sarah Carpenter at bookstore.
*Volunteers needed for Easter Family Bible Camp Committee. Please see Dn Colin Gan for further details.
*Adult Sunday School will resume next Sunday.
*Flower roster needs a few more volunteers. Please see Sis Peng Ha Yeo if interested.
*Anyone interested in participating in the combined special item for the Anniversary Thanksgiving & Dedication Service (singing & playing instruments), please see Sisters Marion Chan, Sally Teng or Purdee Yeo. Children and Adults are welcome to join.
*New Basic Bible Knowledge classes will start soon for those interested in Baptism, Re-Affirmation of faith or Transfer of membership, please see Elder Michael D Lee.


Praise and Thanksgiving

Journey mercies: Pastor Okman & Sis Myung Ki (S’pore); Dn Wai Kin Wong; & others arriving safely at their destinations.
Visitors & new worshippers.
God’s daily mercy, guidance & blessings.
Church activities in past week.


Prayer Items

Health & God’s healing - Pastor Ki; Dr Gary Cohen (USA), Dr SH Tow (S’pore); Rev George van Buuren; Rev Edward & Sis Lehia Paauwe; Rev Patrick Tan (S’pore); Grandpa Ki (S’pore); & others in affliction.
iSketch & Tell Ministry: Pr Hai Seng Lim’s ministry in Melbourne.
Cambodia Missions: Pastor Okman & Sis Myung Ki (Life University, Sihanoukville).
New Life BPC (London) - Dr Carl Martin; God’s guidance & encouragement for Task Force & congregation.
Encouragement & God’s guidance to Pastor David Weng & Providence BPC.
God’s guidance for our theological students - Dn Sung Hyun Ma & Bro Kevin Low.
Youth & Assistant Pastor for Hope B-P Church.
Journey mercies: Pastor Okman & Sis Myung Ki (Cambodia); & others who are travelling.
Final weeks of pregnancy: Sis Tabitha Tan.
Those working away: Bro Houston & Sis Jen Xin Li (Riverland); Bro Raymond Ang (Pinnaroo).
Interpreters of sermon into Mandarin.
God’s wisdom & guidance for the Building Committee in making decisions for the use of new premises.
God’s help with preparation for 31st Anniversary & Dedication Service.
God’s guidance for Covenant, Ebenezer, Hope & Providence BPCs to form an Australian B-P Presbytery.

 

 

© Hope Bible-Presbyterian Church
PO Box 398, Fullarton, Adelaide, South Australia 5063