As Christians, we are taught that the scripture is breathed out by God and used for equipping God’s people for good work. It is sharp enough to pierce to the division of soul and of spirit, and within it lies the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.
Temptation of self-explanation
It is one thing to know the above facts as depicted in the Bible. It is another thing to approach scriptures with appropriate intellectual interpretations when we engage with them. Often, I discovered that some Christians, including me, have the inclination to explain the scripture according to their own feelings rather than digesting it and opening their hearts to what God has to say to them.
For instance, I have the tendency to link my current feeling and experience to the scripture I read. Another brother in our small group is fond of annotating scriptures based on his inherent and profound adoration of Chinese traditional culture. Both of us overlooked the essence of scripture itself and fell into the pitfall of self-interpretation, which is narrow and unacceptable.
It is ignorant to place our finite knowledge and feeling above God’s infinite words. In doing so, we reduce the likelihood of our lives to be renewed by the Word. It is a pity that we miss His blessings when we stubbornly hold fast to what we feel and know. We, as Bible students, should be judged by the scriptures, not the other way around.
Jesus’ faithful proclamation
Jesus set a perfect example for us in demonstrating, defending and deploying God’s word.
From Jesus’ life, we see that He honors the authority of His Father and was determined to pass down only what he was told. “I do nothing on my own authority but speak just as the Father taught me.” (John chapter 8, verse 28). He made it his mission to preach nothing but purely God’s words. “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well, for I was sent for this purpose.” (Luke chapter 4, verse 43). Moreover, when facing temptation, He responded to the devil firmly by quoting the scriptures.
It is hard to imagine what would have happened if Jesus had only understood God’s words based on His own feelings and knowledge. Would He have given up to riches and glories that the devil showed? Would he have forsaken the cross instead of acknowledging God’s will be done? Would he have proclaimed something else to profit Himself, as the Pharisee did?
Thanks to Jesus’ complete obedience, none of those hypotheses came true! His thorough submission to God’s word spared us from unthinkable consequences and empowered us to imitate His faithful example.
Help of Holy Spirit
Knowing we are defective in understanding His words correctly, God gives us not only Jesus, but also a divine Helper, the Holy Spirit. “When the Spirit of the truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things are to come.” (John chapter 16, verse 13)
Like Jesus, the Holy Spirit trusts not His authority but what He hears. He exalts God and His word only, and He is always there to facilitate believers’ understanding of the truth. With the assistance of God’s spirit, there should be no excuse to assume that we are not able to perceive the scripture. Nor should we abandon the help of the Spirit and turn to our own feeling and knowledge, as if they are better assistants.
The wisdom that the Holy Spirit enlightens us with is always in line with what God revealed in the Bible. Our feeling and knowledge are the mere exaltation of ourselves, which does no good to enable us to comprehend God’s word. Therefore, when come to the scripture, we should speak less of own feeling and experience, meditate more about Jesus’ example and seek the help of Holy Spirit diligently.
Cindy Cheng was born and brought up in central China. Cindy enjoys travelling and reading history books. Cindy is inspired by talking with local people when travelling abroad experiencing different parts of the world, as well as herself.
Cindy’s previous articles may be found at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/cindy-cheng.html