Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What does SCRIPTURE say without our added interpretation?

Recently I have seen a lot of people claiming that we all “interpret” scripture because we all approach it with a particular bias. But is that really the case and to what extent do we “interpret” scripture?
As far as possible I take scripture at face value, accepting what is written without trying to redefine its clearest meaning, as long as its context does not suggest that it should be taken as being symbolic. (Regarding biblical symbolism – rarely is the reader left in ignorance about the meaning of a symbol. The interpretation is usually revealed in the text.)

Let me give you an example of accepting God’s word AS WRITTEN compared to God’s word “INTERPRETED”


Revelation 20: 1-10 And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.
I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.

When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God's people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

How do we address this passage:

AS WRITTEN: After Jesus’ return Satan will be imprisoned and his deceptive power over the nations will be totally removed from the earth. Jesus will reign with his saints for 1000 years. After the 1000 years Satan will be released and will gather an army to oppose the rule of Jesus. Satan will be defeated and thrown into the lake of fire. There will be a thousand year gap between Jesus’ return (and the resurrection of the saints) and a second resurrection (that of the unsaved) which will precede the judgement.

AS INTERPRETED: This 1000 years is a symbolic period representing the church age, Satan was bound by Jesus at the cross and the saints are now ruling with Christ who is seated on His throne in heaven. Jesus’ return will be immediately followed by the judgement because there is no literal 1000 year earthly reign.

This is an extreme example – but it is one that is very WIDELY applied. Am I guilty of “interpreting scripture” because I choose to believe what is actually written instead of trying to explain why it doesn’t really mean what the passage actually says?

Another example:

When scripture tells me that
“God our Savior, … wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ
Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men”


“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is
patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Why should this mean anything different to what it says?

And yet many add to, change or reinterpret the meaning of these verses because taken according to their literal meaning they totally discredit their favoured doctrines.

When scripture tells me that God desires all to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth and that God doesn’t want any to perish – then I don’t try to “interpret” or explain those statement away to make them fit other doctrines.

When I read statements that refer to election – those references to election do not negate the truths about who God desires to be saved. Instead of ignoring or redefining the statements about God’s desires, we should look further and see WHO is said to be elected and under what conditions. Again, when we find the answer to that it would be foolish to ignore that answer because it contradicts a doctrinal bias. Especially when that answer is totally consistent with other references through scripture

Is it “INTERPRETING” these verses when we accept that they mean that God wants ALL MEN to be saved, that Jesus gave Himself as a ransom for ALL MEN, that God does not want ANYONE to perish but wants EVERYONE to come to repentance?

Is there anything in the context of these statements that would indicate that a literal meaning should not be applied?

Sometimes the intended meaning of a few verses isn’t always immediately apparent from the content of the verses themselves. If that is the case we must allow scripture to interpret scripture . In other words, what does scripture elsewhere say that will open our understanding?

For example, what are we to make of John 1?

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.

What would this mean to us if we were reading it for the first time? There is nothing in these first two verses to tell us what or who this “Word” is. We have to read further into the chapter to see:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.' "

From this we get a better idea of what the first two verses are about. The “Word”, from the context of the following verses can be seen to be Jesus. This truth becomes even more apparent when we continue into John’s writing.

This is also the case with Ephesians 1 – one of the favourite proof text passages regarding unconditional “election”. Not only is it the case that nowhere in this chapter does it indicate that “election” is unconditional, the chapter actually spells out the condition continually.
That election and every benefit available to “the elect” are THROUGH HIM (Christ) and IN HIM. And the passage also includes the revelation of how people come to be IN HIM.

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of his glory.

So to be in Christ someone has to hear the gospel and believe. And then being in Christ we are included in the elect. This is also totally consistent with other parts of scripture that reveal that believing or having faith in Jesus is a primary condition of salvation. (A well known example being John 3:16 – “Whoever BELIEVES will not perish…”).

During many doctrinal discussions I find myself repeating “But what does SCRIPTURE say. What are the words on the page telling us – not how can I manipulate those words to make them fit my doctrine.
Too often we are prone to “interpreting” scripture instead of submitting ourselves to its clearest and plainest meaning because that clearest meaning can be more challenging than we like. Recognising the clearest meaning would require some kind of change, whether in doctrine or behaviour. It is much more comfortable to find a way of “interpreting” the text so that uncomfortable change is not necessary.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

“PARROT” is not a God ordained Ministry Function.

One of the most common (and most ridiculous) accusations levelled against non-Calvinists is that they believe they contribute to their own salvation.

Firstly I have NEVER heard any Christian (non-Calvinist or otherwise) suggesting that any action of their own has in any way made their salvation possible.
Secondly the ONLY people I have come across who make such accusations are those who are parroting what others have said – resorting to clichéd responses learned from other Calvinists rather than through referring to the truth of the situation.

It is an accusation I am fed up of refuting because it is so ridiculous it shouldn’t really need a response. I address the issue here merely as a forewarning that any further use of this accusation in any comment will not be allowed passed the moderation stage.

I can no more contribute to may own salvation through an act of my own will than I can become a millionaire by choosing to be one.
However, if a multi-billionaire made a million dollars available to whoever would receive it, then would receiving of the freely offered gift make the receiver a contributor to their newly affluent state? Of course not! They would only be receiving what another had freely given at HIS cost and not at the receiver’s cost.

Neither does receiving God’s free gift of salvation make anyone a contributor to their own salvation. Accepting the gift doesn’t mean someone has any better attributes than the one who rejects the gift. They are merely responding to the grace that God has extended to all of mankind through the giving of His Son.
Why should it be seen that accepting God’s gift requires someone to be better, smarter, and wiser than someone who rejects it? Why not see the rejecter as someone who prefers his/her own independence? As someone who chooses to remain in their rebellious state? Why suggest that having faith in God is more of a “work” than actively resisting Him?

Of course the claim that someone willing to receive salvation must, in some way, be “better” than those rejecting it (and would therefore be contributing to their own salvation) is yet another clichéd response passed on by Calvinist teacher to unwitting student.

Wake up to the truth. Wake up to the Gospel and abandon man’s corrupt theology. Stop basing beliefs on the parrot-like repetition of theological clichés and seek revelation from God through His word by His Spirit.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


I’ve probably been around too long to assume that Jesus will definitely return in my life time. In my late teens (oh so long ago!!!) there was a lot of excitement about Jesus imminent return and how the “rapture” could occur at any moment. All of the signs in the world seemed to match Jesus’ prophecies about the signs of the end times and I know friends were not only expecting Jesus to come in their lifetimes, at least one was worried that Jesus might return before his (my friend’s) wedding, so he would miss out on sex.

Now over 30 years have passed and the signs are still there (even more so) and I discovered that the pre-trib rapture has no scriptural foundation. I recognise that before Jesus returns there are many significant things that need to happen. Some of those could happen at any time – others will clearly take longer. The only thing I can say for certain is that they WILL happen at their appointed time and that Jesus WILL return with His saints and for those saints who survive the tribulation.
It is entirely feasible that all of this could happen during my lifetime, but looking back to those teenage years, I know I would have found it hard to believe that I’d be here 30+ years later and that Jesus hadn’t yet returned.

I suppose the thought of surviving until Jesus returns gives me mixed feelings. Firstly, how wonderful it would be to be caught up and whisked off to Jerusalem to meet with Him in the air!!!

But then I realise the hardships and the horrors that would have to be experienced in the preceding years before that glorious day arrived. Who could survive those years without the encouragement and forewarnings given in scripture – particularly in Revelation?
When those days have undeniably arrived, those who witness them will know there are only a few short years to go before our Lord’s triumphant return. How much more will they be encouraged to endure and overcome through those terrible times, knowing how close it is to His return?

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Election & Predestination in Ephesians 1

What does Ephesians 1 say about election and predestination? Looking at the clear and simple text with emphasis of particular points but without interpretation.

Eph 1: 3-14 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.
In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of his glory.

And just in case you missed the point, election and predestination are IN CHRIST and THROUGH CHRIST – and we are included IN CHRIST when we hear “the word of truth, the gospel of [our] salvation. And it is Having believed, [we are] marked IN HIM with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit…”