Originally pub., September, 2007
It’s foolish to imagine one can understand the Bible — deeply, accurately, profoundly — without reading the Word hand in hand while discussing it with its author.
Most people would respond: “What? You going to find some weirdo psychic so you can ‘channel’ Matthew, Mark, Luke or John? You gonna chat with Isaiah, Ezekiel and Nebuchadnezzar about what they wrote?”
And, of course, no one can do that — but these people wrote as the Holy Spirit moved them to write. In order to understand what the Holy Spirit “moved them” to write, requires the Holy Spirit to bring understanding to today’s reader. And He is “immanently” available for dialog today!
This is why the apostles Peter and Paul both wrote that no Scripture is a matter of one’s own, personal interpretation, because prophecies were written by people moved by the Holy Spirit — Scripture was not created by an act of human intellect nor can it be understood merely by human intellect. [cf. 2Peter 1.20f & 1Corinthians 2.14]
So, what does this look like?
Picture being able to sit down with T.S Eliot to discuss his epic and esoteric poem, The
Wasteland. You come to the famous lines: “April is the cruellest month, breeding./Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing./Memory and desire, stirring…” How much better could you understand those lines if you could ask questions and listen to Eliot’s own explanations? But since T.S. Eliot died in 1965, for all intents and purposes, it’d be impossible to hold such a conversation today.
But the Holy Spirit, Author of the prophetic words of Scripture Who “moved” upon the minds and hearts (and pens!) of people throughout history, is not dead but lives today. Furthermore, whoever desires a dialogical Relationship with the Spirit will not be denied. Jesus came to bring Truth to humankind, but when he left this world physically, He poured out His Spirit on all the earth just so that the Spirit could continue bringing His Truth to those people who desired to understand it. [John 14.26]
Bible teachers and theologians each have their preferred “rules” for how to “accurately understand” Scripture — but the apostle John wrote that no person ought to depend on these merely human “teachers” to reveal to them spiritual truths. In his first letter, John the Beloved wrote that none of his “little children” in the faith needed to “have any man teach them” because each of them had the Spirit of God (the “Anointing”) “dwelling within” them — and this same Spirit is completely adequate to lead them into Truth and protect them from foolish teachers who go about trying to “spiritually seduce” them for financial gain. [1John 2.26f & 2Peter 2.3 telling about false teachers, who “through greed will — with good-sounding arguments — try to make merchandise of you…”]
Then, should we never pay any attention to Bible teachers who try to help others better understand the Living Word of God? Of course not! (Or I wouldn’t be writing this blog!) But whenever you listen to someone “explaining” Scripture or “teaching” about spiritual things [Grk. pneumatikos], you need to “receive it with a grain of salt”… Hear what is being said but then dialog with the Spirit of God within you (the “Anointing”) and hear Him in order to confirm or reject what the person is teaching.
For example: with this blog (or any other I write), after reading it, reflect on it prayerfully, asking the Holy Spirit to confirm any part of what’s written here as God’s Word or discard it as merely human rationalizations. It won’t make any difference to me which you decide — but it’ll make a difference to you if you dialog with the Author of God’s Living Word every time someone tells you what they think about spiritual things!
Just reflect on the Last Day when you stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ. Since Jesus “poured out” His Spirit on “all flesh” just so He could ensure you had access to His Truth, it would be awkward to try and point to some favorite preacher or devotional author and say, “But he told me something that wasn’t true!”
Truth — God’s Truth — has been made completely accessible to you and to everyone who learns to dialog with the Indwelling Spirit of God. Spiritual Truth is no one’s responsiblity but your own.