That's Your Interpretation
By Lance Mosher
Have you ever been discussing the Bible with someone, and either you or your friend says, “Well, that’s your interpretation”? What does someone mean when he or she says that? From my experience, it’s a defense to hold to a certain belief, while allowing others to believe something different, even the exact opposite.
When it comes to worldly writings, such as Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Meyer’s Twilight Saga, there is little harm in multiple interpretation. Was Shakespeare referring to Lutheranism when he mentioned the fall of the sparrow? Does Meyer have a political agenda behind her romance story? Whether someone thinks so or not should not have any bearing on our eternal souls. However, when we look at the Bible, the word of God, it has everything to do with our eternal souls.
Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.
So, when we ask the question, “Is baptism essential for salvation and the forgiveness of sins,” why should we be comfortable with multiple interpretations? If someone says yes, and he is wrong, then he is binding where Scripture does not bind, which leads to falling from grace (Gal. 5:1-4). But if someone says no, and he is wrong, everyone who follows his teaching will die without salvation, without the forgiveness of sins!
Peter says that we should know something “first of all.” What is it? It’s that we do not have the right to have differing interpretations of Scripture.
So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
When a prophet of God was given an inspired word to deliver to the people, it was not the prophet’s job to offer his own interpretation, and thus, muddling the Holy Spirit’s meaning. If prophets did not have the authority to provide individual interpretations, what makes us think we do?
God is our Father. We are His many children. How many parents allow their children to argue over “interpretations” of the rules of their household? God means what He says, and He says what He means. It is our responsibility to be diligent to accurately handle God’s word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15). It is our responsibility to “be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10) “so that with one accord [we] may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 15:6).
Every argument over “what the Bible says” has its roots in selfishness, regardless of how sincere the contenders are. Paul told the young evangelist, 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). He also told him, “Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene.” (2 Tim. 2:14-17a).
It should be every Bible student’s desire to learn God’s message as accurately as possible. That requires one to ask, “What did God mean when He had these words written?” Not, “What does this passage mean to me?” This type of approach to Scripture involves study, not superficial skimming. Are you willing to spend the time to truly study the Scriptures? Your soul depends on it!
Except where noted, Scripture quotations are taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation