Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 8, 1968
NUMBER 39, PAGE 9b-10a

Everybody To His Own Interpretation

Donald R. Givens

Is it true that each person can have his own interpretation of the Bible, and do what he wants to, and still please God? Have you ever been asked that question? Have you perhaps asked that question yourself'? In answering, it would be best to begin by defining the word "interpret." It means "to construe; to understand; to comprehend." Whenever a person interprets the Bible he is personally understanding (or misunderstanding) it. So it boils down to a question of: "Can we all understand the Bible alike?"

Yes, each person must interpret the Bible for himself, but the point is: Is his or her interpretation correct? There cannot be such a thing as truth contradicting truth. If one person's interpretation differs from another person's interpretation of the Bible, then either one of two things follow: (1) Either both persons are wrong in their conclusions, or (2) only one of them can be correct. Both of them cannot possibly be right, because truth does not disagree with truth.

Now, the main point is: Did God write a Book that we can all understand (interpret) alike? Did God have the wisdom to write a Book that we can understand? or is the Bible so confusing that everyone must interpret it differently? Who will dare question the wisdom of God? (Romans 11: 33-36)

By way of illustration: Consider a recipe. Say that it is a recipe for cake. Does the housewife have enough wisdom and sense to write down a recipe that all other cooks can understand (interpret)? Can other cooks interpret that recipe and bake the same cake?

Certainly. Then does God have enough wisdom to write a "recipe for eternal life" that others can interpret correctly? Who will affirm that humans can write clearly enough for others to interpret, but God cannot so write?

Ask the person who says that "everybody has his own interpretation of the Bible, and we cannot understand it alike," to interpret some passage for you! Ask him or her to interpret Mark 16:16 for you. How does he understand or construe it? How many ways can it be interpreted?.

Ask someone to interpret Eph. 4:4-6. How many ways can that be interpreted? Is there more than one way to correctly interpret the word "one" that occurs in this passage? IF my interpretation of this passage is that there are three baptisms, am I still right because "everybody is entitled to his own interpretation?"

The precise problem with the people who will give this excuse of "everybody to his own interpretation," is actually not one of interpretation, but of BELIEF. Shall we believe what the' Word of God says or not? THAT is the main problem. In many cases people agree on what the Bible teaches, but the point of disagreement is whether one needs to DO what it teaches, (such as Mark 16:16 and Acts 2:38).

So each individual must use his own mind in understanding (interpreting) the Bible. The question never to forget is: "Am I understanding it correctly?" Each individual MUST understand the Bible — Eph. 5:17 commands it God would not give us a command that could not be performed. It IS possible to understand the Bible or else the Lord would not have asked us to do, it. Paul says that when we read, we can perceive his understanding in the mystery of Christ. (Eph. 3:4)

God is no respecter of persons. When He speaks, He speaks to all alike. Our Lord means something by every word. The Holy Spirit had a purpose in everything He inspired. The Lord did not just throw together a bunch of jumbled-up words and mean a dozen different things by them. Yet this is the conception many people have of the Bible.

The person who really does NOT want to DO what the Bible says, will, not be able to properly understand it (John 7:17). But the honest truth-seeker CAN understand the Bible and correctly interpret it and LEARN from it (John 6:45)

If God wrote a book wherein everyone could interpret it just any old way they pleased, and still be saved...then WHY write a book to begin with? What use would the Bible be? What good could it possibly do? How could it possibly be a GUIDE? (Psalm 119:105) The entire chapter of Psalm 119 is very good regarding how the Bible is a guide, lamp unto our pathway, and profitable for understanding. Psalm 119:104 plainly states: "Through thy precepts I GET UNDERSTANDING..." And Psalm 119:130 says that the Word of God GIVETH UNDERSTANDING even to the "simple."

When people interpret the Bible differently, where does the fault lie? With the Bible? Did God write a book of confusion? Did the Holy Spirit inspire confusion? No, God does not confuse (I Cor. 14:33), but the fault lies with our understanding (or misunderstanding). We have misunderstood and misinterpreted the Bible if we get conflicting answers to the same question. Only when a person will clear his mind from all prejudice and dishonesty can he understand and interpret correctly the Bible. This can and must be done.

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