A Matter of Interpretation

“Who really knows what the Bible means? Everybody has his own interpretation of it.” If this is true, then why don’t we see this as a big problem in the New Testament?

The first Christians had no trouble understanding baptism. They knew they were baptized to be saved. When Peter said to repent and be baptized to be forgiven of sins (Acts 2:38), the Jews didn’t argue, “That’s not how we’ve heard it. We believe we are baptized to show we’ve already been saved.” We read of no such misinterpretation because the people just accepted the Word for what it said.

The early churches had no problem understanding their duty to assemble for worship on the first day of the week. This “assembly” was a given for James’ readers. He didn’t have to prove it was necessary or explain what it was (James 2:2). When the writer said not to forsake this assembly like some  (Heb. 10:25), his readers knew what he meant. Paul wrote about the Corinthians “coming together” (I Cor. 5:4; 11:17-34; 14:23-26), but they didn’t ask, “What kind of gathering is he talking about?” They knew what their duty was.

Members of the church in the first century had no difficulty understanding the observance of the Lord’s Supper. They knew which foods were to be used. They realized how and when and why it was given even though they sometimes abused it through their selfish pride (I Cor. 11:17-34). When Paul wrote Ephesians, Colossians, and other epistles he made no mention of the Lord’s Supper. Why? They understood it. How was that possible if the Bible is so open to various interpretations that they couldn’t know what it meant?

Someone may say, “Yes, but those Christians did misinterpret the word of God sometimes. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth and they misapplied what he said according to I Corinthians 5:9-11.” That is true, but Paul cleared up their misunderstanding in those verses and the church at Corinth got the message and did what Paul told them to do (I Cor. 5:10-11; II Cor. 2:1-10). Those people were human just like us. They didn’t always understand perfectly what they read the first time, but with patience and effort they did.

When Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus, he said, “When ye read, ye may understand” (Eph. 3:3-4). How could the Christians there have understood this letter if it could have been interpreted in different ways and no one could be sure what it taught? Notice also that Paul said they could understand the words he wrote by reading them. They didn’t have to get a priest, a bishop, or a pope to tell them what it said. They could read it for themselves and know what it meant.

Jesus said, “And ye shall know the truth.” (John 8:32). His promise is true for us today. We should be humble as we read the Bible, but we should not let people confuse us.

Kerry

The first Christians had no trouble understanding baptism. They knew they were baptized to be saved. When Peter said to repent and be baptized to be forgiven of sins (Acts 2:38), the Jews didn’t argue, “That’s not how we’ve heard it. We believe we are baptized to show we’ve already been saved.” We read of no such misinterpretation because the people just accepted the Word for what it said.

The early churches had no problem understanding their duty to assemble for worship on the first day of the week. This “assembly” was a given for James’ readers. He didn’t have to prove it was necessary or explain what it was (James 2:2). When the writer said not to forsake this assembly like some  (Heb. 10:25), his readers knew what he meant. Paul wrote about the Corinthians “coming together” (I Cor. 5:4; 11:17-34; 14:23-26), but they didn’t ask, “What kind of gathering is he talking about?” They knew what their duty was.

Members of the church in the first century had no difficulty understanding the observance of the Lord’s Supper. They knew which foods were to be used. They realized how and when and why it was given even though they sometimes abused it through their selfish pride (I Cor. 11:17-34). When Paul wrote Ephesians, Colossians, and other epistles he made no mention of the Lord’s Supper. Why? They understood it. How was that possible if the Bible is so open to various interpretations that they couldn’t know what it meant?

Someone may say, “Yes, but those Christians did misinterpret the word of God sometimes. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth and they misapplied what he said according to I Corinthians 5:9-11.” That is true, but Paul cleared up their misunderstanding in those verses and the church at Corinth got the message and did what Paul told them to do (I Cor. 5:10-11; II Cor. 2:1-10). Those people were human just like us. They didn’t always understand perfectly what they read the first time, but with patience and effort they did.

When Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus, he said, “When ye read, ye may understand” (Eph. 3:3-4). How could the Christians there have understood this letter if it could have been interpreted in different ways and no one could be sure what it taught? Notice also that Paul said they could understand the words he wrote by reading them. They didn’t have to get a priest, a bishop, or a pope to tell them what it said. They could read it for themselves and know what it meant.

Jesus said, “And ye shall know the truth.” (John 8:32). His promise is true for us today. We should be humble as we read the Bible, but we should not let people confuse us.

Kerry Duke

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