Tag Archives: New Testament

Interpretation or Application

2 Peter 1:20 can be confusing at times. In the NIV, it says, “[…] no prophecy of scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation.” The LEB says, “[…] that every prophecy of scripture does not come about from one’s own interpretation.”

What does this mean? It ties closely back to what Peter says earlier about not following clever myths but being eyewitnesses (2 Peter 1:16). The revelation he spoke about was their experience of God speaking on the mountain. In verse 19 he goes on to say “we have the word of the prophets made more sure.” This experience verified the words of the prophets and their experience was itself a revelation from God.

It is from here that he makes his statement about prophecy. Peter is saying the experience of the apostles verified and supported the words of the prophets. They did not just make up stories. Neither did they twist and abuse the Old Testament prophecy to make it say what they wanted it to say. Many people twist the words of scripture to say what they want it to say. This is not proper behavior because the words of scripture were not given to say whatever you want. Peter goes on in verse 21 to say prophecy originated in the will of God, rather than the will of man. The important consideration is not what I want the scripture to say, but what God meant for it to say. It is not my meaning or interpretation that matters, but God’s intent. Prophecy is how God chooses to speak, and our responsibility is to handle it properly and seek understanding of what God actually says. We are to look for God’s meaning behind the words, not use them to hide our own intentions in a scriptural smoke screen and present the resulting illusion as revelation from God.

This thought continues into the next chapter of Second Peter. Keep in mind, the chapter and verse divisions were added centuries after the actual words were written. Don’t see them with any authority. Chapter 2 verse 1 gives us the counter to those who properly handle the words of prophecy. Peter says that he and the other witnesses to Christ were properly handling the prophecies. But; just as in the past there were false prophets who, rather than speaking for God, spoke their own words for their own intentions; false teachers would rise up in the church misusing the words of the Old Testament and the early Christian writers to introduce and support heresies. He even gives an example of one such heresy: “even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them.”

In a conversation years ago about something from scripture, a woman said, “There are many interpretations of scripture. It can be made to say anything you want it to say.” Actually, she was quite wrong, but still managed to strike upon the biggest problem we have in the church. There is only one interpretation—the right one, intended by the divine author. Proper exegesis involves seeking that single true interpretation. From this single interpretation, there may be applications. In each of our lives, the words of scripture will apply in any number of ways. A passage applied a certain way in my life may need to be applied in a very different way to your life. So long as these applications are based upon a proper interpretation they are acceptable. Unfortunately, we too often mistake the application for the interpretation. We try to make the way it applies in my life normative for all Christians. This too often leads to legalism. Seek the meaning of the author of scripture. Then look for how to apply that to your own situation and life.

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Our Journey, The Next Step

Our last Sunday in the Danbury building will be January 18, 2015. Interestingly, many people ask questions showing a misunderstanding about “church” and about what is happening. Often I hear questions asked which imply that once the building is sold we will no longer exist as a church. This could not be farther from the truth of biblical teaching.

The word “Church” in English is actually a very different word from the one used in the New Testament—they are not even related. However, there is some cross-over. Our word “Church” comes from the German word kirche. This word finds its origin in the Greek word kyriakon. Literally it expresses the idea of “The Lord’s house” kyri-a-doma (Dictionary.com). The New Testament word for church is ekklesia. This Greek word defined an assembly of citizens called together to make decisions and take action. It was the meeting where civic body acted in concert. The New Testament church is the gathering of God’s people acting in concert in service to God.

By looking at the different words you can see the problem. The New Testament idea of church doesn’t assume a special building or place of meeting. It assumes a collection of people called out from the world coming together as the local expression of Christ. The modern English word “church” is very hard to separate from the concept of a building where special services are held and functions are performed. The modern idea would have reminded the apostles of the Jerusalem Temple. However, the temple was a picture of the assembly of the people. We are the temple of God and no building can usurp that role.

Yes, we are selling our building. We will, for a time, not have a regular facility dedicated only to meetings and services. The board has decided to spend some time meeting in a home. This means we will likely go “from house to house” for a time. This is actually biblical and more in keeping with the New Testament. Will this be our permanent condition? That is up to God. He has to guide us into his plan for the church.

During this time, keep in mind that we are still a Church in the New Testament meaning—we are an assembly of believers called out to be the local expression of Christ. Also, keep in mind that Christ promised to be in our midst wherever two or more are gathered in his name. He didn’t say, “When you gather in a suitably dedicated building, I’ll be there.” We could gather in a house, in a barn, in a tent, in a field and Jesus would still be there among us. The important thing is continuing to love one another in the name of Christ and to live out the gospel where he has us.

After January 18, we will no longer have a building. However, we still have a temple. You and I are each stones in that edifice built by God. It is a living temple, built of the people of God. When we gather together Jesus is with us. The Holy Spirit still empowers us to minister.

How long will we be without a facility? That is up to God. I am not giving up looking. This is where we are now—and we go this way in obedience of God. However, as one who has experience in house church I know we can be blessed while in this condition. Blessing comes to a congregation through being the Church, not through bricks, sticks, stones and mortar.

If being without a building undermines our dedication to each other, we would have to admit we were never an actual New Testament church. I don’t believe this is going to happen. I see this as an opportunity to get weaned off of love for place, and restore a fresh love for one another. Turn your gaze from the building and look for the presence of Christ among your fellow believers. God stopped occupying buildings when he came to live as a man (Christ) and then poured out his Holy Spirit on all flesh. People build and occupy buildings; God builds and occupies people.

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