We are going to occupy the first
part of this morning with preparation for what we are going to
consider later, and I want to speak now about some principles of
Biblical interpretation. It is very important for us to be able
to know how the Bible is to be interpreted, and this will be
especially seen in what we have to consider later on. Unless we
do understand these principles of the interpretation of the
Bible, the Bible is not an open book; we may know what is in the
Book as a book, but we do not understand it until we have the
principles of interpretation. So I ask you to try and remember
what I am going to say now and bring it over into our later
The first principle of the interpretation of the Bible is:
Eternity of God.
We must always remember that
all time is present time with God. There is no past and future
with God; all that is past and future with us has been present
with God always. At any moment in what is time to us, eternity
is present with God.
The architect always has the
completed plan before him. If he is the designer of a ship, he
has a model made of that ship before anything is done. He sees
in the model the completed object, that is exactly how the
thing will appear when it is finished. If it is a great
building, or even a city, it is the same. The architect draws
what we call "a scale model", and he sees in that model
exactly how the building, or the city, will be when it is
finished. The builder works day by day according to that
completed plan. Those who only see the parts cannot
understand, and must not take the parts as being the whole.
Sometimes when you look at the parts of a building, you cannot
for the life of you understand what it is going to be. It is
only as the completed thing is seen that you can understand
Now, the Bible is just full of
parts, but they are all the parts of something that God sees
in completion. God is the Great Architect, He has the
completed and perfect plan before Him before He begins any
work. God's eternity is in every part. So we must realise that
God has His full Mind behind everything that He does!
God's full intention governs everything that He
does! You must realise that God's Mind never grows - God
Himself is incapable of development.
Now, I think I would like to say at this point, if you do not
understand anything that I say, and would like something more
said about it, just put up your hand. I do not want to just go
on and leave you not understanding what I'm saying. You will
have an opportunity in the second session tomorrow to ask
questions, but I do want to be sure that as we go on you know
what I'm talking about. So if you would like anything repeated,
just put up your hand, and I'll say it again. Now we continue.
The temporary form of anything
contains the eternal and full thought of God. You must
realise that there are always two meanings in
anything that is in the Bible: there is the present meaning,
that is, how that applies to the present situation; but there
is also the future meaning. Everything in the Bible, while it
has a present application, has a fuller meaning in the future.
That is the first law of interpretation, it is: the eternity
The second law of interpretation is:
Comprehensiveness of Christ.
Christ is the interpretation of
all the Bible. To know Christ, is to understand the Bible. Men
like Peter and Paul knew the Bible, but they did not
understand it until they knew the Lord Jesus. We first know
the Lord Jesus, and then we take Him back into the Bible, and
He is the interpretation of the Bible. Therefore, we cannot
really understand the Bible until we know the Lord Jesus. That
results in this: that the Bible is really a Person,
and not a book. The Bible is a Living Person, and not a dead
letter. Because this Person is inexhaustible, He makes the
Now, that is a more important
principle than perhaps you realise. It is possible to exhaust
the Bible as a book. We have known great Bible teachers who
went through the Bible, teaching it again and again, but at
the end of their lives they were having difficulty in finding
something fresh and they were only repeating again and again
things that they had said in past years. That is because they
dealt with the Bible as a book. That will never happen if you
know the Lord Jesus and see the Bible in Him, and Him in the
Bible. I repeat that the Lord Jesus can never be exhausted. As
the Holy Spirit reveals the Lord Jesus to us, the Bible is
always more alive.
So, we have our first two
principles of interpretation: 1, The Eternity of God; 2, The
Comprehensiveness of Christ. Now we come to number 3:
Interpreter of the Bible is the Holy Spirit.
I have said that Jesus is the
interpretation of the Bible. I am saying now that the Holy
Spirit is the Interpreter of the Bible.
familiar with the words in the letter to the Corinthians, but
I think we might just look at them again now. In the first
letter to the Corinthians, chapter two and verse thirteen: "Which
things also we speak, not in words which man's wisdom
teacheth, but which the Spirit teacheth, combining spiritual
things with spiritual words." Now, I don't know whether you
have marginal references in your Bible, well, the more correct
translation of those words is this: "interpreting spiritual
things to spiritual men." Let us read the whole passage again
in that way: "Which
things also we speak, not in words which man's wisdom
teacheth, but which the Spirit teacheth, interpreting
spiritual things to spiritual men". Well, that's a very
important statement and it definitely affirms the principle
that we are now setting forth: the interpreter of the Bible is
the Holy Spirit.
First of all then, the Bible is
the Holy Spirit's Book. The Bible is not firstly man's book,
it is not our book, we have not got the book. We have
got certain writings which are called "Scriptures", but in
truth we do not possess the Book.
You remember the case of the
Ethiopian eunuch, when Philip came near to his chariot, he
heard him reading. He was reading the book at Isaiah 53.
Philip said to him, "Understandeth thou what thou readest?"
and he said, "How can I, except someone explains?" Well, here
is a man who had the book in a certain sense, but in a real
and profitable sense he did not possess the book. We
can have the book as a volume, and yet we may not possess the
book because the Bible is the Holy Spirit's book first. The
mind of man and the Mind of the Spirit are two altogether
Do you know, there are many,
many Christians who do not recognise that! There are many
Bible teachers who do not recognise that! And this is the
cause of very much confusion and the reason for very much
spiritual smallness and weakness. I think this may lie at the
bottom of most of the controversies. The Bible is a closed
book to all but spiritual men. This is the principle
that the Lord Jesus set before Nicodemus: You must be born
from above before you can see what is above.
Our measure of understanding of
the Bible will be just in accordance with the measure of our
spiritual life. That is why the Lord takes us through
experiences in order to bring us to understanding. The measure
of our death to the natural mind will be the measure of our
understanding of the things of the Spirit. Please remember
that in these days which are before us - something has got to
happen in us before we understand the Scriptures. We
cannot understand the Word of God by just deciding that we are
going to have a training course, we are going to have some
classes for Bible teaching. That is not the way in
which we come to understanding of the Word of God. We shall
only understand according to the measure of our spiritual
life. That is the third principle of Biblical interpretation.
Now number four.
Mention of any Particular Matter in the Bible is Usually the
Key to all its Meaning.
That is something that you must
just think about. We find certain things mentioned again and
again in the Bible, but when we come to the final
occasion where that thing is mentioned, we usually find the
key to all that has been said about that matter
before. If you take a particular matter where it is mentioned
for the last time, and then note the setting, and the context,
and the relationship, you will get the
full meaning of all that has been said about that
before. Now, that is a
statement that I have made, and you need to work on that, but
I will help you by taking just one illustration.
In the last chapter of the
Bible, Revelation 22 and verse 2, we have the last
reference to the tree of Life. Now, when we
go right back to the beginning of the Bible, we have the
tree of Life mentioned, but we are told nothing about
it - it is just referred to as something that exists. We have
no explanation, we are not told what that tree is, or what it
means; it is just referred to as: "the tree of Life."
We have to go to the end of the Bible for the explanation, and
when we come to this last chapter of the Bible, by the context
and relationship, we have a very large explanation.
Supposing we look at the
passage. Revelation 22: "And He showed me a river of
water of Life, bright as crystal, proceeding from the throne
of God and of the Lamb." Note the context: "the
throne of God and of the Lamb". You've got to read the
whole book of the Revelation to understand that! There's a
tremendous amount in the early chapters of this book about "the
throne of God and of the Lamb". And you have to
understand what the throne of God is and what is the
significance of the throne of the Lamb - in the midst of the
throne is a Lamb!
Now, in relation to "the
throne of God and of the Lamb," there is "the river of the
water of Life... in the midst of the street thereof. And on
this side of the river and on that side was the tree of Life,
bearing twelve manner of fruit, yielding its fruit every
month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the
nations. And there shall be no curse any more; and the throne of
God and of the Lamb shall be therein and His servants shall
serve Him." There is the tree of Life. It bears immortal
fruit, there is no place for death here. Its fruit are
borne every month: this is fruit immortal, or fruit without
leaves of this tree are for the health of the
nations. I am sorry that in most versions the word is wrongly
translated. I don't know what the word is in your translation,
but the original is not for the healing of the
nations, but for the health of the nations. You may
ask, "What is the difference?" Well, one is the removal of
disease and the other is the prevention of disease.
In this chapter we have come to
the time when the spiritual diseases of the nations have been
healed, but the health of the nations needs to be
preserved. It is a state that is to be maintained. So the
leaves are not for healing, they are for preservation. And so
it says: "And there shall be no more curse."
You see, you've got the whole
history of the Bible in those words! You have got all that
came on the nations through Adam's sin. You have corruption
and death - moral disease - the result of a curse; all that is
now cleared up. And the Tree of Life represents
victory of Life over all that, Life triumphant, and Life
abundant. Here the full meaning of the
Tree of Life is revealed. And it is like
that with all other matters. When you come to the last
mention, you have the key to the whole subject. That is a
principle of the interpretation of the Bible.
Now I come to the last
for the present, number five.
The only Real
Value is the Spiritual.
You must remember this
when you are reading and studying the Bible, and you must
keep this in mind in these times in which we are
together. You must not come here just with a thirst for more
information or a craving for more knowledge. There are people
who just want to get more and more knowledge and education.
And I think that is a particular characteristic of the people
in the far east. You will do anything to get education. You
will go to the other side of the world if you can get more and
better education. Now, that constitutes a danger. Of course it
is better than not wanting to know anything, but there is a
danger about this.
We must not come to these
classes with a craving for more knowledge. That is exactly how
Adam was caught. You see, Satan said: "If you take of this
tree, you will know..." it was "the tree of Knowledge." And
there is always a danger in eating of that tree, it might just
lead you into death and not into Life. So, I repeat this
principle of Biblical interpretation: the only real value
is the spiritual. And spiritual value is just how it
affects our life with God! I do wish that Adam had recognised
that when Satan tempted him to take of the tree of Knowledge.
If only Adam had said, "How will this affect my life with
God?" he, and we, should have been saved all the trouble.
So, let me say this again:
spiritual value is just in how it affects our life
with God. Shall I put that in another way - just how much it
increases the measure of Christ. If Christ is the
interpretation of the Bible, the spiritual knowledge of the
Bible results in an increase of Christ. If our days together
now do not result in an increase of the measure of Christ, we
have missed the Way. You may go away in two weeks time with
your notebooks very full, and you may have an idea that you
have got a lot more knowledge, but if we do not go away more
Christ-like men and women, with a larger measure of the Lord
Jesus, this training course has failed. So I beg of you to
pray all the way through that this time together may mean spiritual
increase, not intellectual enlargement, but spiritual
Everything has got to be judged
by how much it contributes to the Ultimate Purpose of God. We
have to ask, "Where does this lead us to? Is it
leading us anywhere? What is it leading us to?" All spiritual
knowledge leads to an increase of Christ; it contributes to
the ultimate Purpose of God. The question always is:
"How much of Life is there in it?" It is not a matter
of interest. It is not. The real value is the spiritual.
In our second hour we shall take
that over into our special subject for study in these coming
days. Now you have a little over half an hour before we meet
again. May I suggest, that if you can, you will read some
chapters. I would like you to read the first three chapters of
the prophet Ezekiel. You will have to read them more than once
in these coming days, but it would be a help if you had
refreshed your minds with what is in those three chapters. So
we will come back with that in half an hour.