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.

Examples

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]

What’s Going On? – Part 4

The goal of all biblical interpretation is to discover the timeless, moral principle being established (“What’s the point?” [WTP]). The reason every Christian should be striving to do this is because this is how we grow in our relationship with God. We do it by discovering Who He is through the principles He has established in His Word (by discovering WTP?). The bible is God’s self-disclosure: the means to understanding Him – or getting to know Him, so that we will trust Him, obey Him – and be passionate about following Him. Learning how to interpret the bible is therefore not a hobby –or something that only those who like reading books or studying grammar and history do for fun. It is again, essential to every Christian to grow in their relationship w/God. Hence the reason a person’s lack of trust (or obedience) to God is often (if not always) proportional to their neglect in attempting to discover WTP? (e.g. Mat 22:29 = Sadducees’ distrust/disobedience directly tied to their failure to “understand” WTP? when it came to Scripture – and in turn, “the power of God”). To discover WTP? (however), first, requires the mental effort (and work) of understanding WGO? [“What’s going on?”]. The following represents what must be among our most basic considerations if we are to understand WGO?:

Biblical Interpretation: What’s Going On? – Part 1

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

Biblical Interpretation: What’s Going On? – Part 3

Who was the original audience? (it’s not you or me – e.g. Jer 29:11)

What was the culture or their cultural biases? (e.g. their view of children [as cheap labor and security] – e.g. Psa 127)

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]- e.g. Rom 3:28)

How is this action or idea used elsewhere that might give additional insight into its meaning? (e.g. faith [baptism] – e.g. 1Pe 3:21 – “baptism now saves you”; Act 2:38 – “repent and be baptized”; Gal 3:27 – “as many of you were baptized into Christ have put on Christ”)

Am I dealing with an ancient idiom? (“him who has an ear let him hear” – those who are seeking righteousness and welcome to God – e.g. Mat 11:15)

Have I practiced attention to the details? (Gal 6:2 = “gentleness” in restoration – not discipline)

Have I vetted my conclusions based on their consequences? (Gen 6:1-4 = If “sons of God” refer to fallen angels then God is guilty of sin since He gave them sexual organs and desires w/no ability to fulfill their purpose – Mat 22:30)

Is this an allusion to something in the OT? (Joh 8:20-24 an allusion to Zec 8:23 and Christianity as a very Jewish religion in how it functions)

9. Have I looked for parallels or parallel versions for additional information? (OT and NT)

(For example)

9.1. In the OT (1Ch 21:1 w/Jam 1:13 [?] w/2Sa 24:1 = 1Ch 21:1 is not teaching that God tempted David to sin. God does not tempt anyone (Jam 1:13). He instead allowed Satan to entice (or temp) David to rely on the strength/number of his troops rather than God (bc of David’s prior sins and God’s subsequent anger – Pro 22:14 “the mouth of forbidden women is a deep pit; he w/whom the Lord is angry will fall into it – i.e. God will not protect those who continue to covet a particular sin but allow it to come and capture you. IOW: God gives us what we desire – good or evil).

9.2. In the NT (Mar 10:1-12 w/Mat 19:1-9 = Divorce for any reason is not prohibited. Sexual immorality is the exception.)

I am familiar with the genre (or how it works)?

(For example) prophecy

10.1. Big on signs, symbols and metaphor (Rev 1:1 “made it known” = σημαίνω) = To reveal by way of signs, symbols or metaphor (LXX – Dan 2:30 of 28-44 [σημαίνω])

(e.g.) the day of the Lord/the Lord coming on the clouds =

The actual day of Christ’s return or final judgment (1Th 5:2; 2Pe 3:10-12) is often used as a metaphor to refer to God’s temporal judgment against dignitaries or nations in the form of human or (even) insect invasion (Isa 13:1-16 = Invasion by the Medes/Persians (vv17-19); Joe 2:1-11 = Locust invasion; Amo 5:18-20 = The Assyrian invasion and exile of Israel//Psa 104:3; Isa 19:1 = Coming civil war, corrupt princes and [eventually] invasion by the Babylonians and Persians [vv2-3]; Psa 18:10-11 = David’s deliverance from king Saul; Psa 104:3; Mat 24:29-31, 26:64 and Rev 1:7 = 70 A.D.).

10.2. Multiple and diverse fulfilments w/majority of relevancy to original audience (Rev 1:1-3 “soon take place…the time is near”; Mat 24:34 “this generation will not pass away”; Isa 7:10-16 w/8:3-4 then [700 yrs to Mat 1:23]).

What many Evangelicals do w/the prophetic book of Revelation (bc they do not recognize/follow what the genre prescribes or demands in order to interpret correctly) : They fail to acknowledge the earlier “day of the Lord/the Lord coming on the clouds” language (in the OT) and apply a strictly futurist-literal interpretation w/no relevance to the original audience to those passages found in the NT (i.e. all prophecy in the book takes place thousands of years after its original audience – which means no real relevancy to them). They also fail to treat the rest of the things mentioned in the book from the prescribed symbolic (and OT allusory) viewpoint. As a result, the locusts w/power like scorpions in Rev 9:3 become Apache helicopters and the bloody sea of Rev 16:3 becomes the overgrowth of algae known as a red tide).

Do I understand the backstory?

11.1 (Mat 5:48)

The backstory = (Mat 5:43-47) = Jesus is demanding that we treat all people –including our enemies righteously (i.e. that we “love” them also) since this is how God functions. He too treats all people righteously (the “evil” and “good”) as demonstrated by His provision of the “sun” and “rain” for their crops.

How this helps us understand the text = We are to be perfect in who we love/treat righteously (which is all people, good or bad) not how we love. IOW: it is perfection in scope not behavior – -how Evangelicals misinterpret this passage (“God calls us to be perfect in our behavior/obedience.”)

11.2 (Mat 19:16-17)

The backstory = Jesus’ ministry was to the Jews (Mat 15:24). This means unless otherwise indicated, we are to assume those Jesus interacts with are Jews –or those already in covenant relationship with God (i.e. not needing to gain a relationship w/God)

How this helps us understand the text = Jesus is reinforcing that if this Jewish man (already in covenant w/God) wants to get to heaven, he needs to maintain what he has gained (i.e. be faithful to “keep the commandments”) – Jesus is playing a cruel joke by setting up (or reinforcing) a standard of earning your way to heaven He knows this man cannot achieve (The Evangelical interpretation)

11.3. (Act 15:19-21, 28)

The backstory = In the first century (and in most cities) Gentiles bought their meat from pagan temples. The meat came from animals that were killed in a cruel way, their blood not fully drained and their deaths often in front of temple prostitutes performing sexual acts to their false god.

How this helps us understand the text = The apostles on not prohibiting several things – just one, the purchase of meat from pagan temples (something common among Gentiles living in the cities). Why? Though it was still only a piece of meat (there are no gods beside true God, 1Co 8:4), it would be an immediate hindrance to Jews receiving the gospel. As such, we need to place a colon after “by” in verse 20 and “sacrifice” in verse 29).

11.4. (Psa 51:1-19)

The backstory = (See the [inspired] intro to the Psalm)

How this helps us understand the text = David is out of covenant w/God bc of his capital crime with Bathsheba (Hence v 12). As a result, God will NOT receive his “burnt offering” (v16) (i.e. will not grant atonement/forgiveness) until David does repentance in attitude and action (vv17-18). Then God will accept such atoning sacrifices from David and grant him forgiveness and restoration to the covenant (v19) versus casting David away in apostasy (v11). The fact that David is praying for such forgiveness (vv1-2, 7-10), confessing his sin and God’s justice for his sin (vv3-6), also TEACHES US that THIS IS WHAT GOD ALLOWS for those out of covenant IF THEY are indeed seeking to be right again w/God through repentance in attitude and action (IOW: Pro 28:9 and “those who have turned their ear away from listening to the law” [or the “wicked” in Pro 15:8 and 29] does not include those out of covenant if they are seeking righteousness and repentance).

What’s Going On? – Part 3

The goal of all biblical interpretation is to discover the timeless, moral principle being established (“What’s the point?” [WTP]). The reason every Christian should be striving to do this is that this is how we gain or grow in our relationship with God. We do it by discovering Who He is through the principles He has established in His Word (by discovering WTP?). The bible is God’s self-disclosure: the means to understanding Him – or getting to know Him, so that we will trust Him, obey Him – and be passionate about following Him). Learning how to interpret the bible is therefore not a hobby –or something that only those who like reading books or studying grammar and history do for fun. It is again, essential to every Christian to gain and grow in their relationship w/God. Hence the reason a person’s lack of trust (or obedience) to God is often (if not always) proportional to their neglect in attempting to discover WTP? (e.g. Mat 22:29 = Sadducees’ distrust/disobedience directly tied to their failure to “understand” WTP? when it came to Scripture – and in turn, “the power of God”). To discover WTP? (however), first, requires the mental effort (and work) of understanding WGO? [“What’s going on?”]. The following represents what must be among our most basic considerations if we are to understand WGO?:

Biblical Interpretation: What’s Going On? – Part 1

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

Who was the original audience? (it’s not you or me)

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])

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])

How is this action or idea used elsewhere that might give additional insight into its meaning? (e.g. belief [baptism] and love [loyalty], holiness [what you tolerate]) (another example)

4.5. The idea of prophecy existing today (i.e. that the supernatural/sign gifts continue today) (e.g. Act 2:17-18). If we allow our study of this phenomenon to extend to the OT (as it should), we would realize that any person claiming to prophesy or be a prophet after 70 A.D. is false and therefore guilty of a capital crime (Deu 13) (Zec 12:2 w/13:1-3).

Am I dealing with an ancient idiom? (a stiff-necked person who urinates against the wall = a stubborn person who is male [versus female]) (another example)

(Mat 11:15) “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” = A reference to those who are welcome to God – i.e. those whose hearts are teachable and ready to submit to God’s truth (irrespective of how many “sacred cows” may have to die to do so) [sacred cows = modern idiom referring to beliefs we hold as not only true but vital to our current identity, way of life or expectations for the future. As a Christian, the only “sacred cow” we should possess are the principles established in God’s Word —since to do that means that the only sacred cow you ultimately possess is God Himself. Remember, the bible is His self-disclosure. So to understand and follow it correctly [which is what interpreting it correctly accomplishes], is to understand and follow God correctly (i.e. to possess the kind of relationship w/Him that is faithful, fruitful, satisfying, and saving).

Have I practiced attention to the details? (last week we looked at 1Ti 6:10 “love of money” versus “money” as evil, and Gal 6:2 “gentleness” in restoration, not discipline). (ANOTHER EXAMPLE in this respect)

6.3. (Mat 9:9-13): 1) Lack of attention to the details yields this interpretation = Jesus liked to hang out/have fellowship with unfaithful/flaky Christians (v10 – “many tax collectors and sinners were reclining at the table with Jesus…v11 – ‘your teaches eats with tax collectors and sinners’”). 2) Applying proper attention to the details (however) shows this to be the correct understanding = Jesus’ reason for having interaction was to “call” them (the “sinners”) back to righteousness. His purpose, therefore, was corrective – not comfort, penal – not pleasure.

Have I vetted my conclusions based on their consequences? (last week we looked at Act 2:38-39 on baptism and Gen 6:1-4 in re: to the sons of God)

(ANOTHER COUPLE OF EXAMPLES worth mentioning here – these I would distinguish from the others as “contextual vetting – meaning that the larger context of the book – or what is said later in the book [or text] is something that we need to be aware of as possible support – OR “squash factor” to what we are initially considering as our conclusion to a given text)

7.5. (Mat 7:1) = Jesus is prohibiting all forms of judgment (or condemnation) of other people.

The consequence of this understanding = I have no ability to put into practice the instruction Jesus gives 5 verses later (in verse 6 “Do not give to dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn and attack you”) since to do so requires that I judge (or identify) people as fitting in this (very condemning) category of “dogs” and “pigs”.

The correct understanding = Jesus’ injunction on judgment in verse 1 is to be understood in light of what is said in the remainder of His instruction on the subject (which extends through verse 6). This means that Jesus is not prohibiting all judgment, just wrong forms of judgment (such as hypocrisy).

7.6. (1Th 1:4 w/Eph 1:3-4) = Each individual Christian was chosen by God to be saved –and that before God even created them, which means there is no way they can lose their salvation.

The consequence of this understanding = Paul is abusing people by scaring them about things that could never happen to them (1Th 3:1-4; Eph 5:1-7).

The correct understanding = Being chosen (or saved) by God (even if it were true that this happened for every single Christian before God created everything – which is not who Paul is referring to when he says that [the “you” refers to the church – not individuals])… NONE of that (being chosen by God etc) negates the possibility of losing it through our actions. Such choosing and saving on the part of God simply heightens that responsibility seeing how gracious it is. IOW: Paul’s words are meant to motivate us in our efforts to faithfulness (“don’t screw up the amazing and merciful gift that has been afforded to you”).

Is this an allusion to something in the OT?

Allusion (def.) = A reference to previous words or actions whose meaning has bearing on what’s currently being communicated.

A large part of what is said in the New is an allusion to something in the Old (there are over 4K OT allusions in the NT. That’s over 50% of everything said in the NT). Some of those allusions are obvious but many are not. This means anytime we are reading the NT, we need to ask the question, “Is this particular set of verses (or chapters) alluding to something in the OT? And when that is the case, going back to that OT text since WGO in that OT will determine WGO in our NT text.

So many hack-job interpretations of the New Testament (think evangelicals) are the result of ignorance in this respect –or an outright refusal to believe there is any connection between what is said (or happening) in the New Testament and what has been said or happened in the Old Testament. Such is the case with evangelical pastor Charles Stanley’s evangelical pastor-son, Andy Stanley- who recently called for Christians to do away with the Old Testament. He said (and I quote)

“Jesus’ new covenant, His covenant with the nations, His covenant with you, His covenant with us, can stand on its own two nail-scarred resurrection feet. It does not need propping up by the Jewish (i.e. OT) scriptures.

The Bible (meaning again, the OT) did not create Christianity. The resurrection of Jesus created and launched Christianity. Your whole house of Old Testament cards can come tumbling down. The question is, did Jesus rise from the dead? And the eyewitnesses said he did.” (And you thought I was just making this stuff up! “The evangelicals aren’t really THAT bad”)

(Some examples then of OT allusion we need to understand to properly determine WGO in the NT):

 

8.1. Mat 3 and 4: Jesus’ baptism and wilderness temptations. They are an allusion to Israel’s baptism in the Red Sea and wilderness wandering/testing (in Exo 14 -17 and Num 20-21).

This means that we are to interpret these actions/events as Jesus establishing the new covenant Israel (in fulfillment of Jer 31).

8.2. Mat 5: Jesus ascending the mountain/hill to give the people God’s law. These events are an allusion to Moses ascending mt. Sinai (in Exo 24) to give Israel God’s law.

This means we are to identify Jesus as the New Moses (in fulfillment of Deu 18).

8.3. (Mat 21:12-13) “house of prayer”: The fact that we are dealing w/an OT allusion sb obvious given the words, “it is written”. The words that follow come from (Isa 56:6-7) = God promises a time when the Gentiles will be allowed to come into His temple and make supplication and sacrifice (IOW: they wb received as His people).

Plugging that back into then our understanding of our text means = What Jesus is doing through His actions (of cleansing the Temple) and words about God’s house being a “house of prayer” is not a concern that there be enough quiet space in God’s house so that people can pray, but that there be space in the Temple for the Gentiles (who – like the Jews, would soon have their prayers heard by God since God was opening the way for them to become His people). Why that directly related to Jesus’ actions with the moneychangers? BC the place where they had set up shop was in the court of the Gentiles. Their actions, therefore, were a communication of just the opposite (the Gentiles are not – or will not be, welcome to God).

8.4. (Luk 5:1-9) “catching men”: An allusion to (Jer 16:16-17) = The “many fishers” (like the “many hunters”) refer to the Babylonians – who through their actions of killing and capture, would be bringing unfaithful Israel to judgment.

Plugging that back into then our understanding of our text means = Jesus is calling Peter (and the other disciples) to a ministry of judgment: of confronting and condemning unfaithful Christians/Christianity (versus winning people to Christ – which is how these Jesus words regarding “catching men” are most often translated). Paul calls us (as Christians today) to the same ministry (Eph 5:11). Notice (btw) what qualified Peter for such (an important ministry: he (first) recognized his own sin.

8.5. John 4:20-24 “neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father…for salvation is from the Jews”: An allusion to (Zec 8:23) = In the future (or under the NC to come), many Gentiles will realize that the Jewish God (the “lord of hosts in Jerusalem”) is true God and will therefore establish their own places of worship (“ten men from the nations of every tongue” – Gen 18) in accordance with – or consistent w/the religion (or salvation) of the Jews (“shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you’”).

Plugging that back into then our understanding of our text means = Jesus is not only announcing that the time of the Gentiles seeking and setting up their own places of worship to God has come (“neither on this mountain nor that mountain”), but that (if they are legitimate), their religion (or salvation) will be consistent w/the already existing Jewish religion (most especially as it relates to salvation [“salvation is from the Jews”]) –versus something new—or the antithesis of what God established for the Jews (e.g. evangelicals and Andy Stanley [“Christianity does not need propping up by the Jewish (i.e. OT) scriptures. The Bible (meaning again, the OT) did not create Christianity. The resurrection of Jesus created and launched Christianity. Your whole house of Old Testament cards can come tumbling down.”]; God has changed His moral requirements for salvation – our obedience is no longer necessary).

What’s Going On? – Part 2

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:

Who was the original audience? (it’s not you or me)

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])

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])

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?”

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.

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).

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).

What’s Going On? – Part 1

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, first requires we determine the context (“What’s going on?”). The following represents what must be among our most basic considerations:

Who was the original audience?

(For example)

1.1. The word, “you”

The “you” in Scripture refers to the original recipients/audience (not the current reader) (e.g. Jer 29:11)

1.2. The Jew and Jesus

Unless otherwise indicated, Jesus’ audience was always Jewish and already in covenant relationship w/God. This means the issue He is most concerned with addressing is covenant maintenance (not entrance) (Mat 15:24 w/Mat 19:16-17; Luk 10:25-28).

What Evangelicals do bc they miss this: they interpret Mat 19 and Luk 10 as men trying to earn their way to heaven and Jesus is playing along [as the means to discouraging them] and so that they will eventually look to Him in faith).

What was the culture or their cultural biases?

(For example)

2.1. In re: to culture: The culture during biblical times (or in the ancient Middle East) was essentially agrarian and archaic – i.e. sustenance farming w/o the governmental resources/infrastructure to protect personal property.

How this impacts interpretation (or WGO?)

(Psa 127:3-5) = In the aforementioned culture, where there was also the frequent threat of bandits, children provided not only the cheapest form of labor but also security.

As such, the author is not making some blanket statement like “the more children you have, the more blessed you are” (the homer-cult interpretation). Rather, he speaks this way for practical reasons. They were instead to be viewed as the Lord’s blessing because of their ability to provide extra (and cheap) hands in labor and security.

2.2. In re: to cultural biases: Employment outside of the home for women was limited to prostitution or begging.

How this impacts interpretation (or WGO?) (e.g. Tit 2:5) = Given what we know about employment for women in the ancient Middle East, the emphasis (in this verse) sb on what the women are doing not where they are doing it. They are to be “working at home” versus “idlers” and “busybodies” (1Ti 5:13).

The summary distinction then is this: God wants women to not be lazy while at home, but productive contributors to the family (e.g. Pro 31) — versus God wants women to be housewives and not pursue work or a career outside of the home (the homer- cult interpretation).

Again, based on what we know about the culture (or its biases), the emphasis in this verse is to be placed on what the women are doing NOT where they are doing it.

How is the word/phrase being used (or what is it associated with) in the book?

3.1. “the obedience of faith” (Rom 1:5)

Interpretative options: 1) Paul’s mission is to get people to obey God’s command to have faith, [OR] 2) Paul’s mission is to get those who have faith to obey God’s commands.

Answer based on usage: Option 2 since Paul is including the Roman Christians (those already possessing faith) in those who he intends to “bring about the obedience of faith” (Rom 1:6-8 “including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, to all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints…your faith is proclaimed in all the world”, See also 11-13a “mutually encouraged by each other’s faith both yours and mine…brothers”).

3.2. “the works of the law” (Rom 3:28; Gal 2:16)

Interpretative options: 1) A reference to people attempting to earn their salvation through their good deeds (or obedience to the law) [OR] 2) A reference to circumcision and its corollaries, the OC atoning sacrifices or prescriptions regarding separation.

Answer based on usage: Option 2. The phrase is always and only used in relation to discussions about the need or value of these OC cleansing practices continuing in the future (Rom 3:1 w/20 w/28 w/29-30; Gal 2:1-16).

3.3. “heavenly places” (Eph 1:3)

Interpretative options: 1) Heaven, the home of God, good angels, and the dead saints, [OR] 2) Those places that exist or are a part of the spiritual realm.

Answer based on usage: Option 2 given that this word is also used to refer to demonic forces (Eph 6:12).

How is this action or idea used elsewhere that might give additional insight into its meaning?

(For example)

4.1. The action/idea of love. We often think of love only as it regards affection/attraction (Jug 16:1 w/4). However, when studied throughout the whole of Scripture, we find that the thing most often communicated by this word is “loyalty”.

This means that whatever else is being communicated about it (such as affection), this (too) must be included in our understanding (e.g. Joh 13:34-35).

4.2 The action/idea of belief. The NT reveals the sacrament of baptism to be synonymous with belief — at least from God’s perspective. IOW: He views your baptism as your belief (1Pe 3:21; Act 2:38 w/Mar 1:15).

Hence when we think of belief, we are to think of baptism (or better yet, when someone claims to be a believer/Christian, our first question sb, “When and where were you baptized?”)