LET GOD SPEAK - HIS WORD IS AUTHORITY
EXCERPTS FROM THE BOOK
[FULL TEXT ONLY AVAILABLE AS AN eBOOK, AVAILABLE AT THE ON-LINE STORE]
PRINT-ON-DEMAND AVAILABLE AT AMAZON (See Home page for link)
How do we LET GOD SPEAK (HIS WORD IS AUTHORITY)?
In Jesus’ day the religious leaders were severely rebuked:
v.29 You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.
They did not have authority. They did not KNOW (oida - to know absolutely, as opposed to γινωσκω – to know from experience) the Scriptures with certainty—even if they studied diligently and memorised much of them.
v.28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching,
v.29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. (Matthew 7:28-29, emphasis added).
We can only have authority in the preaching and teaching of the word of God, if we let God speak. And we do this, by building on the foundation established in chapters one (Inspiration) and two (Interpretation/Hermeneutics).
The Word of God is inspired. The Bible IS the Word of God.
Hence we are concerned with CONTENT—the actual words that God inspired.
We have already noted that a literal interpretation is the only method of interpretation consistent with the nature of inspiration.
Therefore, our very exegesis must (and indeed does) commence with a study of words and grammar, the two fundamentals of meaningful speech. Each word was inspired by God, and He chose each particular word, and it is incumbent upon us to discover that precise meaning.
We do this by seeking to recover the original meaning intended by the author of the biblical text to the recipients at that time and place.
We need to know when the book was written, and to whom, and for what purpose. Why was the Book of Hebrews written? What was the purpose overall? Only then does it start to make sense.
Also, the Greek tenses can be very instructive in understanding the precise meaning and intent of God’s word.
An example that highlights the significance of the Greek tenses, is Romans 6:6 (emphasis added):
For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be done away with (destroyed), that we should no longer be slaves to sin.
Both of the emphasized phrases are in the aorist tense. They refer to completed acts in the past. Our old self has been crucified with Him—that is finished. Our salvation is complete and irreversible.
Similarly, the body of sin has been destroyed, completed, finished, never to return. Again, this is a determinative verse concerning the security of our salvation.
v.6 " … that we should no longer be slaves to sin,
v.7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin".
(Romans 6:6b, 7.)
We are free from sin and the past. The Greek makes this perfectly clear. Hold your beliefs with conviction.
Exegesis is critical concerning our theology.
Correctives for exegesis are detailed, especially for the erroneous use of “dynamic equivalents”.
Guidelines are established for looking at the contemporary culture of the recipients of the books.
By way of illustration, consider the significant cultural background applicable to Psalm 23:5a. The verse states:
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
Fred Wight explains this in the context of Eastern hospitality:
In the lands of the East, when a host accepts a man to be his guest he thereby agrees at whatever the cost to defend his guest from all possible enemies during the time of his entertainment ... The host took a piece of roast mutton and handed it to the missionary, saying as he did so, "Now do you know what I have done?" In answering his own question he went on to say: "By that act I have pledged you every drop of my blood, that while you are in my territory no evil shall come to you. For that space of time we are brothers." The Psalmist felt utterly secure, though he had enemies close by him, when he knew that God was his host. "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies".
Wight 1953, 78.
An even more graphic illustration of the need to do biblical background studies, is shown in the following:
Among Eastern nations it is considered a terrible sin indeed for anybody who has accepted hospitality from a host to turn against him in the doing of an evil deed. This feeling goes back to very ancient times and is often alluded to by various writers. The prophet Obadiah refers to this sin: "The men that were at peace with thee have deceived thee ... They that eat thy bread have laid a wound under thee" (Obad 7). The Psalmist David speaks of this terrible evil, "Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me" (Psa 41:9). And the Lord Jesus quotes this very passage from the Psalms as having its fulfilment in the treachery of Judas the betrayer, who sat at the same table with Him (John 13:18).
Wight 1953, 78 (emphases added).
Against these background considerations, practical steps are taken to do actual exegesis of selected passages of scripture. For each passage or verse, we need to ask:
i. What is the historical background?
ii. What are the contemporary circumstances?
iii. What are the sources of the author?
iv. What do individual words mean?
It is this final step that is the real bones of exegesis.
Having done the exegesis, the next step is to make application to the contemporary day and culture in which we live. This is the work of preaching and teaching.
There are three steps to achieve this goal:
1) CAREFUL EXEGESIS of the verse or passage. Here we discover the actual meaning for the people of that day—the recipients of the letter. This is foundational.
2) IDENTIFY TRANSFERABLE PRINCIPLES—abiding principles for any time or culture, derived from the exegesis of the passage.
3) MAKE THE CONTEMPORARY CULTURAL APPLICATION (Preaching/teaching). This must be relevant to any particular time or culture—using the transferable principles.
For example, if we consider 1 Corinthians 11:3-6, in reference to the covering of women, having done the exegesis (worked in the text of the book), the preacher/teacher might conclude that the “transferable principle” being enunciated here is—perhaps in the form of a question—“How may a woman in any culture demonstrate her submission to her husband by the way she dresses?”
• If the preacher was in Corinth in the first century, he would do what Paul was doing, and enjoin the appropriate covering of the head.
• If the preacher were in New Guinea or some third world country, it may well be acceptable for a woman to be bare-breasted, but otherwise having appropriate neck-to-ankle clothing, sari, specific head wear, nose-ring, stretched ears, etc. etc.
• If the preacher were in twenty-first century western cultures, he should avoid trying to be prescriptive: eg “hem-line must be below the knee”, etc., or that bikinis are banned. To try to lock-in legalistic prescriptions emasculates the devotional response of the woman, and is doomed to a very temporary Pharisaical position. The appropriate response might well be, to say to the woman, “Can you stand in front of the mirror as you are dressing and pray, ‘Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me’?”
Certainly God’s UNIVERSAL view, is the importance of womanly modesty—a fundamental attitude, irrespective of any cultural expression. As Peter and Paul both affirm:
v.3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry [sic] and fine clothes.
v.4 Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.
(1 Peter 3:3-4, emphasis added.)
(Or verse 4 of Peter via J.B. Phillips):
“The unfading loveliness of a calm and quiet spirit”, which is in the sight of God of inestimable worth.
v.9 I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes,
v.10 but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.
(1 Timothy 2:9-10, emphasis added.)
Hence God speaks to us individually in our time and culture, with authority and relevance.
* * * * *