Any successful church revitalization plan must begin in the pulpit.
If a church is going to experience solid, lasting growth (both numerically and spiritually), it has to be exposed to solid, Biblical preaching on a regular basis.
With that thought in mind, I am honored to welcome a “guest columnist” to my blog today, my good friend Jeff Jones.
Jeff is Pastor of Hilltop Church in Fuquay Varina, North Carolina , one of the fastest growing churches in our movement. He is also Chairman of the Board of Directors at both Southeastern Free Will Baptist Bible College and Free Will Baptist North American Ministries.
Jeff not only teaches homiletics at Southeastern, but is widely recognized as one of the great pulpiteers of our day.
He is uniquely qualified to share with us on the subject of Hermeneutics, which he does in the following article, originally published in the “Hicks-Smith Journal” of West Frankfurt, Illinois in 2016.
“The Standard Four Laws of Hermeneutics”
Have you ever been talking to someone about the Bible and hear them respond by saying, “You can make the Bible say anything you want it to say!” I chuckle when I think of an example given to me about this very issue. An individual said, “You could say the Bible is for stealing or against stealing with the same verse.” The individual quoted Ephesians 4:28 two separate times, each time pausing for a different emphasis. First he said; “Let him that stole steal no more: (pause) but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good.” The second time he said; “Let him that stole steal (pause) no more let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good”. I wrote this “tongue in cheek” and with a big smile because you know I distorted the text on purpose to make a point.
I do not believe you can make the Bible say anything you want it to if you follow a few simple laws of hermeneutics. We believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. We believe every “jot and tittle” is of value. We must keep that in mind when we look at our text. In my humorous example in the first paragraph, notice a few words had to be dropped for me to change the meaning. When interpreting, we must see the whole text in question. We should acknowledge each word as important. I would like to pose 4 questions that are not original with me, but will help anyone correct understand what the text you are studying is saying.
1) Who wrote the book I am studying? The Word of God does not answer this for every single book, yet even when it doesn’t we still have a general idea of who the author might be. I remember in my college days at Southeastern taking the class on Hebrews. A big discussion developed on the authorship of this tremendous book. Finally our professor with a wide grin on his face declared; “I wrote the book of Hebrews”. The class erupted in laughter. Yet, when studying this book we at least know it was either Paul or someone influenced greatly by him. This helps in interpretation.
2) Who was the book written to? John Stott in his book “Between Two Worlds” reminds the expositor to never forget when interpreting that the Bible is a “Real book written by real people to real people.” You need to know who was intended to have received and originally read the book, gospel or epistle. Using the book of Hebrews as an example again, we know the book was written to Christians facing persecution. With this understanding, the book literally comes to life as you read the text written to people facing danger to their very life. Knowing who is receiving the text and their various circumstances is such a need in understanding the meaning of a passage. A simple Bible Handbook such as “Ungers” or “Hailey’s” will serve to help in these instances of your study.
3) What do the verses above and below the text you are studying say? Jerry Vines said; “Text without context is pretext”. The word “context” comes from two Latin words: con, which means with or together, and texere, which means, “to weave”. Context has to do with something woven together. Many people are guilty of taking a verse completely out of context by not reading the verses above and below the very one they are quoting or using. It is always wrong to use a verse to say something the verse is not saying.
4) What does the Bible consistently say? When interpreting scripture it is good to know that the Bible never contradicts itself. When you have a principle taught in a verse that raises a question mark, often times finding that doctrine or principle taught somewhere else in scripture will confirm or dismiss it. I remember preaching years ago on Matthew 6:12 where the text says; “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” I asked the question, is it right for me to preach that you are wasting your time asking God to forgive you for the sin you committed yesterday if you are holding bitterness and unforgiveness toward someone else? It didn’t take me long to find Matthew 18 and even our Lord’s Prayer. I made three statements of truth to confirm a principle of forgiveness taught from God’s Word.
1. I need to forgive others the way I want to be forgiven.
2. God, the way I forgive others will forgive me.
3. The way to forgive others is the way God has forgiven me.
Let’s be true to the Word of God. Declare it without apology, but be sure to portray it accurately.