Interpretation the Inductive Way

Author Pete De Lacy

The Bible often says exactly what it means, but that is not true all the time. When interpreting the Bible, we must seek the author’s intended meaning, not our own, imposed on the text. To do this, we need to remember that context rules. What is context, and how do we determine it? Everything is said in an immediate context, the verses preceding and following. Then there is a broader context. For the Bible, the broader context is the rest of the book we are interpreting, then other writings by the same author, followed by the New or Old Testament, and finally the whole Bible.

Let’s turn to 1 John 4:8 (NASB) and apply this principle: “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

Immediate Context

First John 4:8 says “God is love.” The immediate context of this phrase includes verses 7–9. (Read these verses.) The immediate context of the passage also leads us to 1 John 4:10 (NASB): “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

Now we see what “love” is, but we are still left with the question: How is “love” connected to the “propitiation for our sins?”

Broader Context

To examine the broader context of 1 John 4:8, read 1 John chapter 4, then the entire book of 1 John. Now turn to John’s other writings, such as the Gospel of John, to see what else he says about “God is love” or what he says about “God” and “love.” As you do, ask the five “W” questions and the one “H” question: who, what, when, where, why and how.

When we expand the context to the Gospel of John, we see that John 3:16 (NASB) helps explain 1 John 4:10: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” The propitiation for our sins was so that those who believe will have eternal life.

Check Commentaries

Research what other Bible students have understood about the passage by checking commentaries. This will help you to see if you’re on track or not. If your interpretation has never been presented by a biblical scholar before, it’s likely that you’ve misinterpreted the text. God spoke to us that we might know truth. Take the Word of God at face value—in its natural, normal sense, letting the passage speak for itself.

1John_Gospel of John

Even though commentaries are very helpful, Scripture is our best commentary on Scripture because it can’t be “broken” (John 10:35). Commentaries should be used to inform our interpretation, not define it.

When John says “let us love one another” (John 4:9 NASB) it’s pretty plain and easy to understand. This is not always the case. When figures of speech such as metaphors are used, they must be handled accordingly. It’s important not to take one difficult to understand verse and use it to define others. Let the clear, repeated teaching of Scripture inform the obscure. “Let us love one another” and “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” are clear enough to inform our interpretation of the rest of Scripture.

To better understand the word love, we can do a word study using Bible software, but we must be sure that context determines how we apply the definitions in dictionaries and lexicons to the text. Likewise, we can run a search for the phrase “God is love,” or search for every time “God” and “love” occur together.

Propitiation 

We all have sinned (done wrong) by God and other people. Sin puts us out of right relationship with God, making us subject to his wrath. Propitiation is the act that appeases God’s wrath and enables us to be brought back into right relationship with Him. In the ancient world, the sacrificial death of an animal brought people temporarily back into right relationship with their God—it was a temporary propitiation for their sins. Jesus’ death brings us permanently back into right relationship with God—it is the eternal propitiation of our sins. See the different ways “propitiation” is used by reading: Rom 3:25, Heb 2:17, 1 John 2:2; 4:10.

To learn more about the Inductive Bible Study Method, go to Precept.org

Bible Study Magazine delivers tools and methods for Bible study, as well as insights from respected Bible teachers, professors, historians, and archaeologists. Take over 30% off the cover price—subscribe now!

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Logos Bible Software. Originally published in print, Vol. 1 No. 4.

Born Again ... and Again and Again?

Author Michael S. Heiser

Was Jesus open to the idea of reincarnation? The question may seem odd, but it’s one that many people, even biblical scholars, contend has a positive answer.[1] The idea comes from a passage you’ve likely read dozens of times.

John 9:1–4 ESV

“As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but in order that the works of God might be made manifest in him (he was born blind). We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work.”

BornAgain

Notice the disciples’ question: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Many presume the question indicates that the disciples believed the man born blind really could have sinned before he was born, and that his pre-birth sins caused his congenital blindness. This presumption is followed by another: that Jesus’ answer wasn’t a categorical denial. Since Jesus doesn’t come out and say, “What a silly idea, don’t be ridiculous!” Some have argued that his response means that in this case the man born blind didn’t sin in a previous life, but perhaps that could have happened in another case. Could this interpretation be correct?

Reincarnation is the belief that the soul migrates from one body to another, different body, in a long (possibly endless) succession. The idea of the “migration of the soul” cannot be found in the Bible, or in other Jewish writers of antiquity,[2] which indicates the disciples were likely presuming something different: People can do good and evil while still in the womb. Paul addresses this misconception in Rom 9:9–13, when dealing with the case of Jacob and Esau. Even if a pre-born person could sin in the womb, this does not involve the migration of a soul.

Romans 9:9–13 ESV

“For this is what the promise said: ‘About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.’ And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’”

Matthew 16:13, where some people suggest that Jesus was John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the Old Testament prophets, is also no help to those who want to see reincarnation in John 9:3–4. Jesus and John were contemporaries, born six months apart (Luke 1:8–36), thus John’s soul could not have migrated into Jesus’ body. Elijah never died (2 Kgs 2:1–17), and so the migration of his soul is also not possible. If Jesus were one of the prophets, who had come back to life, then the prophet would be resurrected, not the prophet’s soul in another body. There are other, more technical flaws in this interpretation of John 9,[2] but from this examination alone, it should be apparent that the idea of Jesus approving of one being born again into another physical body,  is dead . . . again.

Notes:

[1] The notion that Jesus embraced reincarnation is usually associated with New Age writers such as Elizabeth Clare Prophet and Dolores Cannon. However, J. D. M. Derrett, a highly-respected Greek New Testament scholar, recently promoted this view in a scholarly journal article, “The True Meaning of Jn 9, 3–4” (Filología Neotestamentaria xvi 2003), pgs. 103–106.

[2] See “Did Jesus Allow for Reincarnation? Assessing the Syntax of John 9:3–4” at MichaelSHeiser.com/John9.pdf

Bible Study Magazine delivers tools and methods for Bible study, as well as insights from respected Bible teachers, professors, historians, and archaeologists. Take over 30% off the cover price—subscribe now!

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Logos Bible Software. Originally published in print, Vol. 1 No. 3.

What Does the Bible Teach about Justification and Sanctification?

Author Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum

In the Bible, justification and sanctification are solutions to long-standing problems.

Justification

The Problem
All people are guilty of doing wrong (sinning) against other people and against God. All are personally responsible for their sins and thus under condemnation (Rom 3:23; 6:23). Just as people who break the laws of a society are brought before a court to be tried and judged, God brings each individual before Himself to judge them.

The Solution Is there a way to fix all that we have done wrong? God fixes our wrongs by providing Jesus Christ. Jesus’ righteousness satisfies God’s demands. His righteousness (right actions, status and sacrifice) is accredited to all who believe (Rom 3:21).

Justification Defined
The term justification means “to declare righteous.” The New Testament writers, specifically Paul, use the term in a judicial sense. Imagine God the judge, sitting on His throne, declaring to the believer, “In light of what Jesus has done on your behalf, you are (now) righteous. Things are now right between you and me. Court dismissed.”

The defendant of course would ask, “How did this happen? And what did Jesus do to make things right between God and I?” The defendant is really asking is, “What is the basis for justification?”

The Answer is Threefold:

WhatDoestheBibleTeach

God’s grace (Rom 5:15)—Provided by Jesus Christ’s obedience to God the Father.

Jesus’ blood (Rom 5:9)—Jesus’ suffering and death made all who choose to believe in him right with God.

Jesus’ righteousness accredited to believers (1 Cor 1:30; 2 Cor 5:21)—Those who believe in Jesus are freely given “right status” with God, not on the basis of their own works, but on the basis of what God has done in Jesus Christ (Rom 3:28; 4:5–6; Gal 2:16).

Once wrongdoers (sinners) have placed their faith in Christ, God declares them righteous. New believers have peace with God (Rom 5:1) because all sins, past, present and future are forgiven. Once forgiven, believers are no longer subject to the judgment that was once due (Rom 8:1). The declaration of this is justification.

In summary, justification is an act of God’s grace: A guilty sinner places his or her faith in Christ and is acquitted by God. A wrongdoer is “made right” with God.

“In light of what Jesus has done on your behalf, you are (now) righteous. Things are now right between you and me. Court dismissed.”

Sanctification

The Problem Wherever there is the presence of sin, there is conflict. Paul wrestled with this conflict in Rom 7:15–25. This passage shows us that resolving this conflict is a process. It involves God making us more “set apart” from our wrongdoings and more like Him.

For the believer, there must be a constant and ever-increasing sense that although sin remains, it is not in control. It is one thing for sin to live in the believer, but it is quite another for the believer to live in sin.

WhatDoestheBibleTeach2

The Solution The Holy Spirit is the continuous agent of sanctification, who works within us to subdue sinful impulses and produce fruits of righteousness, or right actions (Rom 8:13; 2 Cor 3:17–18; Gal 5:22). This process is sanctification.

Sanctification Defined The basic meaning of sanctification is “to be set apart.” The Hebrew word (qadosh; שודק) has a basic meaning of “separation.” As a moral term, sanctification is translated as “holiness” or “purity.” The term in Greek (hagios; ἅγιος) is translated as “holy”, as in “Holy” Spirit, or “saint.” In the spiritual sense of a believer’s life, sanctification means “to be set apart for God,” or to be made more holy through conforming to the image of His Son.

Summary Sanctification is a work of God’s grace. The whole person is enabled to die to sin and live according to God’s will. Justification occurs at the moment of salvation, whereas sanctification is a process. When our lives are over, we will enter into God’s presence glorified, free from the presence and power of sin—already justified, fully sanctified.

 In the spiritual sense of a believer’s life, sanctification means “to be set apart for God.”

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Logos Bible Software. Originally published in print, Vol. 1 No. 1.