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Biblical Interpretation: What’s The Point?
Proper biblical interpretation requires two steps: 1) discovering WGO? (what’s going on?), 2) discerning WTP? (what’s the point?).
WTP (what’s the point)? = What timeless, universal principles of wisdom are established based on WGO (what’s going on)?
- Many preachers today discount (or outright reject) the need to discover WTP? believing it to be the Holy Spirit’s job (e.g. John MacArthur believes this and those who graduate from Master’s seminary are taught this – i.e. it is the Holy Spirit’s job [not the pastor] to apply the principles established by the text).
- The most obvious reason for people not pursuing WTP? in their study of the Bible is that it takes more time and mental energy than people are willing to give.
2.1. Discerning WTP? will often require as much – if not more, time than discovering WGO?
2.2. Hence the reason David says what he does in (Psa 119:97-99 “understanding” [Heb. Sawkal/Biyn– wisdom/principles of wisdom]) = Notice what David he does to gain this (“your law…is my meditation all the day…your testimonies are my meditation” = David spent lots of mental energy and time thinking about what is being communicated in God’s word). See also (v130 “unfolding of your words” = The discernment of WTP?; “gives light” –i.e. it “impart” [gives] understanding [principles of wisdom] to the “simple” [the unwise/fool/stupid – Pro 30:2-5])
- The reason discerning WTP? takes so much time and mental energy is b/c of the way God chose to write the Bible.
God chose to write in such a way that most of those timeless/universal principles in the bible are not obvious or apparent. This is what makes the Bible different than other books. It remains (for the most part) undigested as to its principles whereas other books are the digested thoughts/principles of the author (e.g. Over 70% of the OT is either narrative or prophetic in its genre —e.g. Gen 33:1-3).
*(In my opinion) a big help to discerning WTP? (or figuring out the timeless, universal principles of wisdom) whether it be w/the Bible or life is done through reading (digested) books (or books where you can see how the author is working thru and establishing principles).
Harry S. Truman (“not all readers are leaders, but all leaders, read”)
- That being said, discerning WTP? is not optional.
4.1. This is a part of what it means to seek God with all of our hearts (the key to finding Him – i.e. seeing the value in following Him) (Jer 29:13)
4.2. It is what we must do if we want the wisdom to avoid temporal and eternal pitfalls and the ability to truly help others (Pro 2:1-20, 3:13, 23:23, 24:3)
4.3. It is also what pastors are commanded to do in their ministries (2Ti 2:7) “think(ing) over” what has been said (i.e. putting the extra time and mental energy into discerning WTP?) is what is required if we want the Lord to give us (His pastors) “understanding in everything”.
- Discerning WTP? is exemplified in the teaching of Jesus.
(Mat 19:1-3, 4-5 w/6 [WTP?])
- Discerning WTP? is (also) imitated by Jesus’ Old and New Testament teachers/shepherds.
(Neh 8:7-8; 1Co 9:9 w/1-8 and 10-11 [WTP?]; Consider also Rom 15:4 “whatever was written in former days” = The OT; “was written for our instruction” = It contains the timeless/universal principles we need for “endurance” and “encouragement” and so we can have eternal “hope”)
- Jesus and the prophets reveal justice, mercy, and faithfulness to be the foundation of most principles communicated in the bible, therefore, providing a helpful guide in our process of discernment.
7.1. In regard to Jesus (Mat 23:23) “weightier matters of the law” = Where the focus in God’s Word resides. One or more of these three moral categories (justice, faithfulness, or mercy) will be undergirding the majority of principles communicated in the Scriptures; “neglecting the others” = Those principles not associated with justice, faithfulness, and mercy. Those that represent the minority of God’s Word (are also not to be ignored). BUT AGAIN, the majority wb associated with faithfulness, justice, and mercy. Which means this is where we should start/what we should assume when discerning WTP?
7.2. In regard to the prophets we see these same three moral categories coming up as the focus of all God’s instruction and (and therefore) expectations for us (Mic 6:8; Zec 7:9-10; Isa 1:17)
7.3. That justice, mercy, and faithfulness are the foundation of the majority of God’s instruction/principles should come as no surprise since they are at the heart of God’s character (and the bible is His self-disclosure) (Psa 35:5-6)
So again, when we are attempting to discern WTP?, we should think in terms of these three moral categories (justice, faithfulness, or mercy) since (once more) this is the main focus –or the main foundation for the majority of principles established in the Bible.
8.1. (Gen 1:1) = The universe is not eternal (what evolution teaches) but created by the One Who is (Heb 11:3) [category: faithfulness]
8.2. (Deu 19:21) = The punishment must fit the crime [category: justice]
8.3. (Deu 20:19-20) = Environmental stewardship is a moral obligation (our assessment on j-day will include how we treated the earth and its other creatures (Pro 12:10) [category: faithfulness/justice/mercy]
8.4. (Jer 44:16-18) = What a fool believes, he sees (versus what God calls us to: what you see, you believe; Doobie bros song; confirmation bias) [category: faithfulness]
8.5. (Hag 2:11-14) = We can be guilty of sin by our association w/sinful people or things (2Jo 1:9-11) [category: faithfulness/justice]
8.6 (Zec 7:13) = God responds in kind [category: justice]
8.7. (Mat 11:1-6 w/Isa 8:14-15) = Doubts are shored up by facts not feelings [category: faithfulness]
8.8. (Phi 1:27-28) = Letting those who oppose the sound gospel know that we (as the church) stand as a firm, unified and fearless front is a clear sign that we are worthy of salvation and they of destruction [category: faithfulness]
8.9. (Phm 1:10) = Christians always stand up for their brothers’ welfare or reputation (Gen 14:1-14) [category: faithfulness]
8.10. (1 Jo 4:1) = Might does not make right [category: faithfulness]