“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15)
Have you ever wondered why there are so many different views and opinions about what the Bible says will happen in the future, or any other doctrine for that matter? How one interprets the Bible will affect what is believed. Different interpretations will yield different beliefs.
The fundamental issue when coming to Scripture’s prophecies is how one interprets them. The various ways that the Bible is interpreted can be summarized under two categories:
- All the Bible must be consistently interpreted in a literal, normal way
- All the Bible cannot be consistently interpreted in a literal, normal way
From the following four points it will be shown that the only way all of Scripture should be interpreted is through a consistently literal or normal method of interpretation.
Communication Depends On Words Having One Meaning In A Given Context
In a single context the words can only have one meaning—they cannot have two or more meanings. If this were not the case, communication be impossible and would be nothing but gibberish and nonsense!
There is a world of difference between a word being able to be used a number of different ways and a word in a single context have multiple meanings. Take the follow sentence as an example:
After John passed third base, he slid safely into home.
You probably know that this sentence is in the context of a baseball game. Because of this, you would not understand “passed” in the sense of John dying, though “passed” can be used that way. You also would not understand “home” as referring to where John lived, though it can be used that way. You understood “passed” and “home” as having only one meaning because of their use in this context.
The languages the Bible was originally written in (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek) were human languages, having human grammar (what the words mean) and syntax (how the words function in a sentence). The authors were genuine, human authors, having individual personalities, cultures, and language backgrounds. If this were not the case, we as human beings would not be able to understand their figures of speech.
Because words only have one meaning in a given context, a passage in the Bible cannot have a “deeper” meaning or more than one meaning.
The Author Determines Meaning
When interpreting the Bible—regardless of whether it is poetry, history, epistle, gospel, or prophecy—the goal is to find out what the biblical author meant by a particular statement. A helpful, guiding principle is found in Fee & Stuart’s How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, p. 27—
“A text cannot mean what it never meant.”
This principle will help you understand what a biblical passage did mean and what it did not mean. When weighing someone’s interpretation of a biblical passage ask “Is this what the biblical author wanted to get across?”
If someone does not accept the literal or normal interpretation of a passage it is usually because he or she has an agenda that must be proven or upheld. Their beliefs do not come directly from Scripture and they make the Bible’s statements fit into their system.
The Unitary Authorship of Scripture
A third principle that must guide how all the Bible is to be consistently interpreted focuses on who wrote the Bible. Many people say that the Bible has a “dual authorship”—a human author and God. The problem here is that when you have two authors, you end up with two different messages! So instead of “dual authorship,” it is more biblically correct to think in terms of a united authorship.
How could Amos the sheepherder and God be unified in the production of a written message? The answer is the doctrine of inspiration. Consider these two important passages:
2 Tim 3:16 “All Scripture is inspired by God”
2 Pet 1:21 “no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God”
When the Holy Spirit moved Amos to write a message to Israel, God guided him to write exactly what God wanted him to write and protected him from making any errors. God guided Amos the sheepherder to write a message that used all of Amos’s personality and way of writing (grammar and syntax), yet protected Amos from making any errors. The result of this united authorship was a single message given to and understandable by human beings that is absolutely true because of God’s guidance and protection.
The result of inspiration is a single message: What God said, the human author said; what the human author wrote, God wrote. The only way we can know what God meant is through the human author’s words. Because of this, no one can say that Amos meant one thing, but God meant another. What the human author meant is what God meant.
The Meaning is Based in the Text
Where can we find what the biblical author meant? Only in the text. There is only one correct interpretation and meaning of a passage, and that is the one that the biblical author intended. How can we find out what the author meant? Through consistently interpreting Scripture with a grammatical-historical method of interpretation. What does that mean?
Grammatical: what the words mean and how they function
Historical: the setting of a biblical book (culture, geography, etc)
In order to find out what an author meant, you have study the meaning and use of words in a given text and understand the important historical and cultural factors of the time they were written in. If you cannot get a meaning from a text, it is because it is not there! The only way you will get a meaning foreign to a biblical text is by putting it in there.
If the Bible is not consistently interpreted in a literal, normal way, what will the result be? Interpreters will find more than one meaning or say that a passage can have “multiple fulfillments” or a “fuller sense.” This raises a problem: where do you stop? If a passage can have two legitimate meanings, why stop there? Why not 3? Or 7? Or 70? Another problem is the issue of controlling interpretation—if the text does not control interpretation, then what does? Your imagination?
All of Scripture must be consistently interpreted in a literal, normal manner using a grammatical-historical method. That is the only way to learn what the Bible says.
Pastor Greenfield brought this message Sunday evening, February 18, 20007.
In addition to Fee & Stuart’s book quoted above, material was also gleaned from Rolland McCune’s syllabus on Dispensationalism from Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, pp. 47-51.
Pastor Greenfield preached this message Sunday morning, February 18, 2007
The Bible has a lot to say about the end times, but it can be possible to wonder, “Well, that’s great, but what does that mean for us now?” Christians and churches should learn from Scripture what God wants and expects of them in these times, especially what he expects of the man who feeds, leads, and protects the flock—the pastor. God’s Word provides pastors with four important truths that give guidance on how they must minister in these last days.
A Pastor Will Answer For His Ministry, 4:1
Paul is addressing Timothy for the last time, and for that reason these words have special significance. Timothy receives a serious call by the words “I solemnly charge you.” What Paul tells Timothy isn’t merely a good idea or nice suggestion—this is a momentous, somber charge. Pastors today need to see the seriousness of their calling and reflect that in their fulfillment of it. This isn’t a matter of fun and games.
This serious call is made in the presence of a solemn court, made up of “God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead.” The preacher’s life is continually under the gaze of God and Christ—24 hours a day, seven days a week—not just for a few hours on Sundays and mid-week meetings. The day will come when pastors will stand before Jesus Christ and give an account for how they have fed, lead, and protected the flock entrusted to their charge.
Paul gives this serious call before a solemn court in light of Christ’s sure coming, “by His appearing and His kingdom.” Jesus is coming, and when he does, the truth Timothy must proclaim will be clearly seen and false teaching will be exposed for what it really is. Jesus will reign, and when he does, believers will faithfully serve him. These are definite, future realities that have significant, practical importance now! They demand that God’s work be done God’s way until Christ returns.
Since a pastor will answer to the Lord Jesus Christ, he had better do what is expected of him! What does Christ expect?
A Pastor Must Preach the Word, 4:2
Here Paul gives four essential aspects of the ministry Timothy and today’s pastor must fulfill in these last days. First, he must preach the Word. The activity is clear—preach, proclaim, herald. It is not the pastor’s place to harmonize God’s Word with culture or science, to philosophize, or debate. He must preach the Word—all of it, not just pick out some things and ignore others. This is what Jesus wants for his church, and this is what the church needs!
Second, today’s pastor in the last days must always preach the Word—“be ready in season and out of season.” His ministry of the Word is not to be conducted by taking polls to find out whether people are ready to hear the Word or what they want to hear. It doesn’t matter if the times are “good” or “bad”—God’s message must be proclaimed! The call is not to “impact the culture for Christ” or to “bring in the kingdom.” The call is to preach the Word.
Third, pastors must preach to save souls—“reprove, rebuke, exhort.” Earlier Paul told Timothy “pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you” (1 Tim 4:16). The salvation of people’s souls depends on the faithful ministry of the Word. To “reprove” is to point out sin. To “rebuke” is to tell people to stop sinning. To “exhort” is to urge people to live for the Lord. These essential activities of preaching are hard to do if the pastor only speaks in generalities or ‘positive’ themes. Preaching in the end times won’t seek to bring a stop to specific aspects of sinfulness but will focus on making the hearers feel good about themselves, to “live their best life now.” Such preaching will not save souls.
Fourth, pastors must preach with compassion and conviction—“with great patience and instruction.” When preaching the whole counsel of God, reproving, rebuking, and exhorting, pastors cannot lose their temper—they must reflect God’s attribute of patience and forbearance. The soil out of which true Christian living grows is doctrinal, theological, and biblical in content. Pastors are not told to merely encourage moral living; they must give the doctrinal foundation on which a truly Christian life can only be built.
A pastor has a solemn calling: always preach the whole counsel of God for the salvation of his hearers. While engaged in this ministry, he must remember Paul’s third truth to Timothy:
A Pastor Must Understand The Times, 4:3-4
There are three important facts the pastor needs to know. First, people will not want sound doctrine—“the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.” This world is not going to get better; evil is going to increase! The fact that people will not want true doctrine does not give the pastor the right to give them what they want or change the message so it is acceptable to them. Pastors must continue to preach the Word!
Second, the pastor needs to understand that people will only hear what they want—“wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires.” Note where the blame lays—the hearers! Aaron made a golden calf because the Israelites demanded it (Exod 32:1). More often than not, people measure and evaluate a pastor by their own sinful feelings and desires. It should not be surprising that churches are formed on the basis of hip-hop music, beer, improving self-image, and thinking positively about oneself. That’s what people want!
Third, the pastor must know that people will reject God’s truth for lies—“they will turn away their ears from the truth and turn aside to myths.” They will actively reject God’s truth because their sin is reproved and rebuked. Refusing to listen to God’s truth, they will then invent a substitute that matches and supports their lifestyle.
By understanding the character of the times—that these last days will grow more difficult and sinful—a pastor must see the great need there is for preaching the Word of God in its fullness. The greater the darkness grows, the greater need there is for light. Pastors must not give people what they want; they must give them what they need—God’s Word!
There is one last truth a pastor in the last days must take to heart:
A Pastor Must Finish His Course, 4:5
The pastor in the end times must keep his head—“be sober in all things.” He must not be influenced by things that will divert and distract him from his holy calling of preaching the word. The pastor must not give up—“endure hardship.” The more evil these days grow (cf. 3:13) the stronger the current pastors must swim against. Pastors must win the lost to Christ—“do the work of an evangelist.” Sinners are saved through believing in Jesus Christ. How will they believe if they have not heard of Christ? How will they hear without a preacher? Pastors must finish the course—“fulfill your ministry.” They cannot go about their work in an uncaring manner. Pastors must throw themselves completely and fully into every aspect of their calling.
The kind of pastor a church needs in these end times is one who:
- Recognizes the seriousness of his calling
- Faithfully proclaims all of God’s Word
- Does not bend to the times but faithfully ministers God’s Word in it
- Devotes his life to doing God’s work God’s way
This message was given by Pastor Greenfield Sunday morning, July 23, 2006.
Christians in the city of Colossae were wrongly being taught that they needed to keep a detailed code of rules in order to be right with God (read Colossians 2:8-23). The New Testament does not teach this though. Does this mean that believers have no authority over their lives? If you are a Christian, are you free to live however you want?
While the NT does not give a detailed code of rules necessary for being right with God, you are not free to live according to your own opinions, feelings, wishes, or desires (read Colossians 3:1-4). As a Christian Christ lives in you, and you must therefore live for Christ. In Colossians 3:17 the Lord tells us through the apostle Paul that every believer must live a Christ-honoring life. What’s involved in living a Christ-honoring life?
Living a Christ-Honoring Life Involves Everything You Say and Do
Language is a gift of God, one of the greatest evidences of being made in His image. It involves the ability to think about a subject, assert something about that subject, and then express that thought intelligibly and understandably to others.
I can say “Boy, that was smart” either as a complement or as an insult. The words are the same, but the meaning and intention are entirely different. God tells us that your communication must be honorable to Christ, whether done through talking, writing, or sign language!
Your actions are the result of considering what you would like to see happen. You can do a lot of things with a rubber-band—hold things together, play with it when bored, straighten teeth, put hair in a pony tail, or shoot it at someone! 🙂
When God tells us how we should live, the scope of His meaning involves every aspect of your life.
Living a Christ-Honoring Life is Consistent with Who Christ is
Every aspect of your communication and actions must be done “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Name signifies everything that a person is known for and by. Jesus is the Savior of sinners and He is also Lord. For the Lord to save a sinner from sin, the sinner must repent of his sin and trust Jesus Christ alone as His Savior and Lord (read Romans 10:9-10). Jesus as Savior and Lord cannot be separated.
The Lord Jesus must be the one who controls every aspect of your life. Everything you communicate and accomplish must be done in a manner that reflects Christ’s character. In a word, your entire life must be a Christian life. Everything you communicate and do must scream out “I’m under the Lordship of Christ!!!”
Living a Christ-Honoring Life Gives God the Glory for Everything
The only Person through whom the one true God can legitimately be thanked is the Lord Jesus Christ. Everything you say and do must reflect and express your genuine, total, and complete gratitude through the only Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to the one true and living God for saving your sinful soul.
Colossians 3:17 summarizes the result of Paul’s previous words (Colossians 3:10-16). The new life you have in Christ is seen in every aspect (3:10). The new “clothes” you “wear” are clearly evident (3:12). Longsuffering and love are visibly displayed (3:13-14). Christ’s peace and Word control your entire life (3:15-16).
What do your communication and actions say about who you’re living for? How are you living?
Before our time of prayer on Wednesday evenings, we have been going through various New Testament passages that deal with every Christian’s ministry to the Lord and His people. Here is a summary of what we’ve learned:
God’s Plan And Expectation For All Christians
When God saves a sinner He adopts him into His family. This adoption gives the believer all the rights and privileges that come with being a member of God’s family. There are also responsibilities involved with being in God’s family! God saves and sanctifies Christians to zealously do good works by ministering to God’s people (Eph 2:10; 4:12; Titus 2:11-14).
Why We Minister For God
Why does God want every believer to minister to other believers? The primary reason is that God is glorified when every believer is ministering (1 Pet 4:11). Second, God’s intention for each local church involves every believer ministering to one another so the body is strengthened and unified (1 Cor 12:15-26; Eph 4:12-16; Heb 3:13; 1 Pet 4:10). Third, God wants every believer ministering as this helps them be faithful to the Lord and bear fruit for Him (Titus 3:14; Heb 6:11-12).
How We Are Prepared And Equipped To Minister?
Effective ministry that glorifies God, strengthens and unifies the local assembly, and helps believers’ own spiritual walk doesn’t just happen automatically. Each believer can minister to the body through a special gift or ability the Spirit gives at salvation (Rom 12:6; 1 Cor 12:7). As believers learn from and follow their pastors and teachers, they are equipped to minister effectively (Eph 4:12; Heb 13:7). Christians must let God’s Word control their lives in order to live a Christ-honoring life (Col 1:9-10) that is characterized by holiness (2 Tim 2:20-22).
How We Are To Minister
Believers must minister the way God wants them to minister to other members of His family. The only effective ministry is an obedient ministry. Believers’ obedient ministry to one another involves self-sacrifice (Phil 2:1-8; 1 John 3:16), conscious effort and faithful attention (Titus 3:8, 14), encouraging and building each other up (1 Thess 5:11), and prodding one another to love and service (Heb 10:24). Such ministry occurs through regularly assembling together (Heb 10:25) and tireless service (2 Thess 3:13; Gal 6:9-10).
Who Are You?
Have you ever wondered why you’re alive, who God is, and what He expects of you?
Everything that exists in this universe was created by God Himself, not as the result of evolution. The Bible says that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).
This means that even you were brought into existence by an eternal and perfect God. God made you so that every part of your life would be lived for Him, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
The God who gave you life is the standard by which you are measured. He is holy, which means He is pure and without sin. He is also righteous—everything He does is right and good. He expects you, His creation, to also be holy and righteous in every part of your life.
What Are You Like?
Unfortunately, everyone has missed the mark God set for us, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Because we are all sinners we all deserve to die. Death is the judgment of sin, and death is separation.
Spiritual death is the separation that exists right now between you and God. Because of this, you will experience physical death, separation from this world. Eternal death is a never-ending punishment, an eternal separation from God in a terrible place called hell, “the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).
Sin creates a permanent stain you cannot remove; it enslaves you to do what it wants; it requires a payment that will take you an eternity in hell to pay; and it has reversed the relationship God made you to enjoy, causing you to now be God’s enemy.
What can you do to escape these consequences of your sin? There is absolutely nothing you can do to save yourself from sin’s awful consequences: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Living a good life, being baptized, or going to church cannot repair this broken relationship and save you from sin.
How Can You Be Saved From Sin?
The only person who can save you is God, the one who created you and must also judge you for your sin. He loved you so much that He became a man—Jesus Christ.
He lived a perfect life on this earth, and died for you to pay the price for your sin. He died on the cross, was buried, and rose from the dead three days later. “For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
The only way you can be saved from sin’s consequences and have a new relationship with God is to turn away from your sin and trust Jesus Christ alone to save you.
Turning away from sin requires a total change of mind and heart about your sinful ways. You must want nothing to do with sin because you recognize what it really is: rebellion against God.
To trust in Jesus Christ alone to save you involves understanding Who Christ is and what He has done for you. You must believe that you can do absolutely nothing to save yourself; that only Jesus can restore you to fellowship with God and rescue you from eternal death. It means that you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior—“if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
Will you turn from your sin and trust Christ alone? “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).
If you have trusted Christ to save you, or if you have any questions, contact Orwell Bible Church for further help and guidance.