Biblical Interpretation: What’s Going On? – Part 2

Speaker: Scott Jarrett | Oct 10, 2021


The goal of all biblical interpretation is to discover the timeless, moral principle being established (“What’s the point?”) (1Co 9:7-11). To do that, however, requires we (first) determine the context (“What’s going on?”). The following represents what must be among our most basic considerations:

  1. Who was the original audience? (it’s not you or me)
  2. What was the culture or their cultural biases? (e.g. their view of children [as cheap labor and security] or women working outside of the home [not acceptable])
  3. How is the word/phrase being used (or what is it associated w/) in the book? (“works of the law” [a reference to the OT clean laws versus earning our way to heaven])
  4. How is this action or idea used elsewhere that might give additional insight into its meaning? (e.g. belief [baptism] and love [loyalty])

4.3. Wisdom in contrast to trusting one’s own mind (Pro 28:26) = According to Pro 2:1-7, “wisdom” is the product of two things (or God gives it to the person who): 1) patiently and consistently seeking to understand God’s laws/ways (i.e. the principles established by what is communicated in God’s Word versus simply knowing what is communicated, 2) is upright (i.e. actively submitting and changing according to God’s ways/laws). This means that the person who “trusts in his own mind” is not just a person who is confident in what he knows or his ability to think –but who is confident in such things yet not patiently seeking to understand God’s laws/way and submit (or change) in accordance with them.

4.4. Holiness (or set apart to God) (Heb 12:14) = When considered through the rest of Scripture, what becomes clear is that this term (or command) has more to do with what we tolerate than what we preach (e.g. 2Co 6:17-7:1). Both are important (but again), holiness is a term communicating – or concentrated on the former, what we tolerate.  And since this is (according to the writer of Hebrews) a crucial component to salvation (or seeing the Lord), this must also be what defines our lives (or the church we attend). So many people miss this when assessing the legitimacy of a particular church. They assess them only by what they preach when they should also (and more importantly) be assessing them by what they tolerate. This was Jesus’ concern in regard to the churches found in Revelation. Who makes the list as acceptable to Christ drastically changes (or is reduced) based not so much on what they preach, but what/who they tolerate (e.g. Rev 2:18-20).  Applying this new insight in regard to holiness to the churches of today, “How many are tolerating sexual sin among their members – i.e. not disciplining such individuals for their actions? How many who claim to be biblical churches are actually NOT (or in deep trouble of having their lampstand removed) because of such toleration?”

  1. Am I dealing with an ancient idiom?

Idiom = An expression common and known to a particular culture at a particular time whose meaning cannot often be deduced literally or logically (“it’s raining cats and dogs” = it raining really hard!). The people in biblical times had idiomatic ways of speaking about things (as part of their culture) just as we do (in our culture) today

(Examples from Scripture)

5.1. A less obvious example: the communication of “hate” = This term doesn’t always refer to abhorring, despising or desiring that person be dead (Gen 27:41 or 37:4-8). It can also be used idiomatically to refer to loving someone less (Gen 29:30-34 w/Luk 14:26 or Rom 9:13 w/v12).

5.2. The more obvious examples: 1) “beginning of his strength” (Deu 21:17) = firstborn child, 2) “one who urinates against a wall” (1Sa 25:22) = A male, 3) “gird up the loins” (2Ki 4:29; 1Pe 1:13) = prepare for action; 4) “stiffens his neck” or “stiff-necked (Pro 29:1; Exo 32:9 w/Act 7:51) = stubborn/unteachable/resistive to change or instruction/unrepentant (the same is being communicated when someone is depicted as having a “hard forehead – e.g. Eze 3:7), 5) your eye is good/evil (Mat 6:22-23) = you are generous/stingy.

  1. Have I practiced attention to the details?

(For example)

6.1. (1Ti 6:10) 1) Lack of attention to the details yields this interpretation = Money is evil and therefore we should not desire to have it.

2) Applying proper attention to the details (however) shows this to be the correct understanding = It is the “love of money” that is evil – or the “root of all evil” (notice again the text).

This means there is nothing wrong w/ money in and of itself. As a matter of fact, money (according to Solomon in Ecc 10:19) is “the answer to everything” (i.e. the solution to many of life’s problems).

6.2. (Gal 6:2): 1) Lack of attention to the details yields this interpretation = Don’t be harsh with those caught in sin. Instead, show “gentleness” in your discipline no matter the crime.

2) Applying proper attention to the details (however) shows this to be the correct understanding = We are to show “gentleness” in how we “restore” people – not discipline them (notice again the text).

  1. Have I vetted my conclusions based on their consequences?

(For example)

7.1. (Gal 6:2): We are to show “gentleness” in our discipline of those people who get busted –no matter the crime

The consequence of this understanding = We are to act contrary to the behavior of God or refuse to be image-bearers in this respect since this is not how God responds to those in sin.

It is also not how we are commanded to respond – or what is found in the examples of others in Scripture (In re: to God: Deu 28:15-22, 28-32, 45-47, 53, 56-57, 58, 63; In re: to us: Deu 19:21; e.g. Deu 21:18-21; Pro 22:15, 23:13-14).

7.2. (Gen 6:1-4 “sons of men” = Giants/“Nephilim”): Giants are the offspring of an angelic father and human mother.

The consequence of this understanding = God is sinful for giving angels sexual organs and sexual desire yet providing no way to see it fulfilled (Mat 22:30 – angels are not given in marriage).

The correct understanding = These verses are the prelude to the flood and are meant to establish just how catastrophic it would be. How? By indicating that the earth (at that time – or the time of the flood) was filled with people – i.e. human men (or the “sons of God”) were making lots of babies with women (the “daughters of men”) (1Co 11:7 – men created in the image of God = sons of God; women created in the image of man = the daughters of men).

The fact that these verses tell us that mighty men and giants (“Nephilim”) also existed at this time simply indicates that such people were also the offspring of normal human parents. Hence the reason we find them popping up again after the flood – though the only kind of people that existed after that point were the purely human descendants of Noah and his kids.

7.3. (Act 2:38-39) The NC can only be entered by those who can express/demonstrate repentance. Peter’s reference to children (in v39) is therefore signaling their need to also demonstrate repentance if they are to be baptized and receive the promises of forgiveness and the Holy Spirit (i.e. They teach believers’ baptism).

The consequence of this understanding = God is reneging on His former covenant promises as it regards those who were already in covenant (but infants at the time of the New Covenant’s inauguration) since they could not demonstrate repentance for baptism.

Imagine what this would have looked like for those families listening to the preaching of Peter if this was what he was saying (“Under the OC, junior is God’s kid and safe, under the New –all such benefits will be taken away, until such time that he can choose to re-apply for them”).

How many Jews that had little ones at home would sign up for a deal like that? How many wb attracted to the NC if that were the case? (“God is reneging on His former promises” – but you should sign up [since the benefits outweigh the risks]”) (???). NO JEW wb good w/that –yet the text says many joined (Act 2:41).

The correct understanding = The reason Peter mentions the “promise” being available to children (in v39) is to confirm that the special circumstances afforded to children (or infants) under the OC for covenant entrance still applied under the NC.

IOW: these verses are teaching paedo-baptism.

It is worth mentioning, that the call for adults to “repent” is also congruent w/OC entrance requirements (i.e. the adults were always called to demonstrate such repentance for entrance or ratification), whereas for infants (or those unable) this was never required.

7.4. The (evangelical) belief that our obedience was a condition to salvation under the OC but is no longer is under the NC (since Jesus or the Holy Spirit did – or does it, for us).

The consequence of this understanding = God has compromised His own moral code/law. His code/law went from us needing to be obedient to letting someone be obedient for us. (e.g. Johnny can obey for Sally and keep Sally from getting in trouble when she is bad). God’s law not only condemns and prohibits such a concept, but so does every legal system on the planet. Our reputations and records are determined by our own actions never the actions of another (i.e. no one can be our substitute in those things). To claim God has now made such a change means therefore that God has corrupted Himself (or is now corrupt) since He has compromised in relation to His own moral code/law (our obedience was once part of His definition of righteousness, now it no longer is (as long as someone else does it for us).

The correct understanding  = Our obedience is still a condition of salvation under the NC (just as it was under the OC) that we must faithfully fulfill to be saved (and no one – including Jesus or the Holy Spirit can do it for us. They can help us – but the responsibility of carrying out such obedience is our responsibility – not theirs).  

7.5. EXAMPLE IS ON SCREEN (“Jesus took my place on the cross to give me a place in heaven”)

The consequence of this understanding  = God is the cosmic child-abuser (punishing His innocent Son for someone else’s sin). The subsequent consequence to this kind of thinking is the destruction of justice (or the need to serve justice among those who are Christians) since Jesus was already punished for our sins (double jeopardy is not only an untenable position in our human courts but also in the divine courts of God – i.e. you can’t be punished twice for the same crime).

The correct understanding (of Christ’s death) = Jesus made propitiation  – or cleansed away the moral stain associated w/ our sin – something that can only take place after justice has been embraced by the guilty individual. Hence the pre-requisite of repentance for salvation (i.e. cleansing and forgiveness) (e.g. Luk 19 and Zac). Jesus’ act of going to the cross was related to justice only as it related to mercy – never punishment. IOW: He fulfilled what God’s justice ultimately required to make propitiation (not punishment) –which was never animals (Rom 3:25-26/Heb 9-10 = The animals were a temporary fix – a pass over, until the time when God would send His perfect son to make propitiation –making God [then] “just and the justifier” – i.e. A God in compliance w/His law [regarding propitiation] and the One who thru such compliance has truly justified [or made righteous] His people).