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Interpreting Scripture – a few things to consider

Questions to Ask in 2021
A continuation of yesterday’s blog… As the result of a power encounter in a refugee camp of an earthquake zone, our Peru team got zapped by God a few days ago. You can see a video of where they were, above. It’s a powerful video, take a minute to watch it. Afterwards, they spent about three …
By Seth Barnes

A continuation of yesterday’s blog


As the result of a power encounter in a refugee camp of an earthquake zone, our Peru team got zapped by God a few days ago. You can see a video of where they were, above. It’s a powerful video, take a minute to watch it.

Afterwards, they spent about three hours on their faces before him. Because of the turbo-charged atmosphere and some of the strange things that happened, a few team members wondered whether any of it was in fact of God. Now, I believe this is a good thing. Scripture tells us that we’re to test things and we know we have an enemy who counterfeits experience. I also believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, without error in its original form. So, let me distinguish between an appeal to the Bible as a source of truth and a polemical short-circuiting of that process by declaring something unbiblical.

As I wrote in yesterday’s blog, the problem came when someone uttered the following phrase as a means of justifying their perspective: “this isn’t biblical.” As though there is always some unarguable standard of what is acceptable behavior. The fact is that, while the Bible gives us the Ten Commandments and a number of precepts that are incontrovertible, it also leaves a lot that is open to interpretation.

Take for example the most famous thing Jesus said – John 3:16. Let’s look at the context, that is, the verses that precede it: “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the son of man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” (John 3: 14 – 15)


Here are some things we could interpret as biblical or not biblical based on this passage about what it means to “believe”:



  • Unless you say a prayer and ask Jesus into your heart, you don’t really believe and you’re not saved.
  • Belief must always be backed by action.
  • Belief is evidenced by what a person says.
  • Unless our belief is tested as was Moses and Jesus we don’t really believe.
  • Unless God performs a miracle (as he did with Moses) as a result of your belief you don’t really believe.
  • Unless you have a track record of faithfulness, you never really believed in the first place.

I could keep going with this list. What are we to make of Moses and the snake? Hyper-literalists somewhere have no doubt built one of the 30,000+ Christian denominations on this. After all, one sees snake handlers in West Virginia because the Bible says that snakes won’t hurt believers.


If experts like Charles Ryrie and John McArthur, who have given their life to properly interpret the Bible, can write whole books contradicting one another on the subject of what Jesus meant by “believe,” what are the rest of us no-account interpreters of Scripture to think?


It’s important that we look at Jesus’ words and try to interpret them. But beware of people who say, “that’s not biblical.” What they really mean is, “that’s not how I interpret Scripture.”


Ultimately it is the Holy Spirit, the Bible says, who will lead us into all truth. Truth is absolute, but we see thru a glass darkly and would do well to declare our understanding of it with humility.

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