Part 2: Misunderstood Biblical Texts on Evangelism and Discipleship

June 8, 2011
By dreiher2

As I indicated in Part 1 I will give you my list of 9 principles of interpretation scripture, especially relevant to the Grace view of Evangelism and Discipleship texts. This is NOT intended to be a Bible Interpretation course (generally called a Hermeneutics course) or a Bible Study methods course. If you have NEVER studied Hermeneutics or Bible Study methods, then you really need to do so. I will be making reference from time to time of resources which have helped me tremendously. If you ask me I may even post Dr. Radmacher’s hermeneutics video series on Youtube. (23 sessions).  I don’t think he would mind.

For those of you who are new at this, I recommend “The New Joy of Discovery in Bible Study” by Oletta Wald. Go through the whole thing, and do ALL the exercises. Slowly. We used that at Moody. I also recommend “Methodical Bible Study” by Robert Traina, which is one Howard Hendricks recommends.. I don’t want to discourage people who know little or nothing about studying the Bible from sticking around here for this study on misunderstood texts. I think it requires very little understanding of hermeneutics to understand from scripture exactly what we have to do to be 100% sure we have everlasting life. My prayer is that, no matter how long you have been going to Church, or been involved in Bible study, that you will get excited about learning to apply principles of hermeneutics, and gain confidence in your personal study of Scripture, as well as your confidence in exactly what a person has to do to get 100% assurance of everlasting life. Never forget, even a child can believe in Jesus for everlasting life, God’s kind of life, that can never be lost. Nothing more is required. It is not complicated, except for adults.

My prayer is also that you will have the courage to correct what you hear on the internet, or radio or TV or in sermons, or in books or tracts with what the Bible actually says. Don’t get too cocky. It means you probably need to correct what you have said or written or taught in the past too! I know I have to correct myself. However, I must confess I think 99% of what I hear and read and see about Salvation issues have serious hermeneutical errors. Some of the speakers I personally enjoy (at least to some degree), are closer than others so I am not saying everyone is totally out to lunch. But some of these errors of well meaning people, who should know better, are leading people towards eternity in the lake of fire.  Remember, people who teach error are not the enemy. They are the victims of the enemy. Please don’t use what you learn here to attack people. However, use what you learn to reject false teaching for what it is, FALSE TEACHING. If someone points you to a text of scripture, and totally butchers it, you should be able to say to yourself, “You know that teacher does not know what the author of that text meant. I think it really means ____________.” To be honest, I do this while listening to people asking questions on Harold Camping’s Open Forum on Family Radio. Take the good, and be gracious about the bad, at least as much as you can. Try to be gracious if you point out the errors to people. Don’t beat people over the head. If they are not willing to listen, just let it go. Of course it might help if you stop listening to people who are wrong most of the time!

OKAY. . . on to the 9 rules I have come up with.

Here are my 9 rules for interpreting Evangelism & Discipleship passages, not in any particular order.

1. The importance of the Gospel of John in Evangelism. John is the only book in the entire Bible written with the express purpose of leading people to believe in Jesus as the granter and guarantor of everlasting life (John 20:30,31).

2. Importance of chair passages. There are texts of Scripture which speak with clarity and authority, and leave little or nothing implicit about Faith, eternal life and salvation issues. For example, John 3. It is sometimes expressed, “Use the clear passages to interpret the unclear, and don’t use the unclear passages to interpret the clear.”

3. The immediate context determines the meaning of Biblical words. You do not determine the meaning of a word from it’s Greek or Hebrew stem, or from taking a Strong’s concordance and looking up every meaning of the word and picking the one you want, or worse yet, blending all the meanings together into one single broad concept.

4. Make a hard and fast distinction between things which the Bible makes hard and fast distinctions between. You MUST determine if the recipients of a passage are unbelievers, or believers, before applying it today.  For instance, John 3:16,17 is apply to an unbeliever in order to believe in Christ for everlasting life. On the other hand, in the Epistles believers are exhorted to work,  obey, yield to God, persevere in good works, dedicate themselves to God, Walk in the Spirit,  etc. There is a big difference between simply believing in Jesus, and doing all those other things.

5. Careful, and prayerful inductive study of the text trumps, historical or traditional interpretation. Because Church fathers from Augustine onward,  were basically the source of Catholic theology, their teaching about Salvation is skewed heavily toward salvation by faith that works.

6. Distinguish the difference between the Person and Work of the Messiah throughout the entire Bible, which is the BASIS for the offer of salvation, and the RESPONSE we need to have to it to be born again. The Bible does not say that everyone who believes in some sort of list of facts about Jesus in the Bible has everlasting life.  We are saved by believing in the person of Jesus alone as the granter and guarantor of everlasting life. We believe in Him.

7. We should use Biblical words, with Biblical definitions, and Biblical meanings when talking about Biblical concepts such as Gospel, Salvation, Faith, Obedience, Born Again, etc. Many words like “Believe,” “Born Again” and “Gospel” sort of have a life of their own in Liberal Christianity, and American culture. When you use those words, you need to communicate whether you are referring to secular meaning, or the specific Biblical meaning, AND exactly what passage you are referring to. We must agree on what we mean by these terms, and not just assume we know what the other person is talking about.

8. Think in categories. For example, a categorical statement is , “a person must have 100% assurance that they have everlasting life, or else they do not believe Jesus’ promise.” That does not mean they had to be able to pass a Theology 101 exam on Eternal Security, before they got saved, or have never doubted, nor does it mean they do not doubt right now. It means that at some point, they did have 100% assurance that what Jesus offered in John 3:16,17 was NOT a lie, but was true.  You cannot believe a proposition (i.e. Jesus is the granter and guarantor of everlasting life to all who believe in Him for it) and doubt the exact proposition at the same time.  It is possible to doubt other things about Jesus such as the place of his Birth, The virgin birth, PreMillennial return of Christ. How many 5 year old kids understand these things when they believe in Jesus? Of course as older children and adults, it would be strange to be as naive or gullible as a child to doubt these things and Believe in Jesus at the same time, but you never know. Or, you can doubt the saving proposition in John 3:16,17 later (maybe a minute later), but at that moment you were born again you did not doubt it, and as a result are eternally secure whatever you believe, or however you behave.

9. Do not use “kitchen sink,” or expand definitions of words as used by an author in one particular passage. Words themselves often have many, many MEANINGS and not A MEANING. That means you have to use the immediate context of the verse to narrow down the author’s intended meaning to ONE meaning. Some people think that is wrong, and they call it “reductionistic.” They say you have to look at all the other meanings of faith in the Bible and read it into John 3:16. Some people think you have to get a concordance out, look up every use of “Believe” in the Bible, and load all of those meanings into “believe” in John 3:16. Some people say, “The Bible says other things are part of  the Christian faith such as works, Baptism,  repentance, obedience, sacrifice and confession.”  If you read through the whole Bible you can probably find hundreds of things that are part of the Christian “faith,”  but they should not be “read into” the simple and plain meaning what John meant by “believe  in Him,”  in John 3:16.

Whew. There are 9. Feel free to comment. I am sure there are more. I am sure I will adjust a few things too.

- Don Reiher

One Response to Part 2: Misunderstood Biblical Texts on Evangelism and Discipleship

  1. dreiher2 on June 8, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    I just thought of a 10th principle. I would call it the principle of remedy. For example, if a text says that you have a problem, and that you solve the problem by doing anything besides simply believing, then it is talking about Christian Life or discipleship issues rather than evangelism. John 3:16,17 (to fix the problem you believe) compared to Rom 2:7-10 (to avoid wrath, you persevere to the end in good works). The former (perishing) is solved by believing, the latter (facing God’s temporal wrath) is solved by doing good works. This is based upon the principle that faith is not a work, and that faith and works are complete opposites (i.e. Eph 2:8,9). Two different principles, two different outcomes, two different salvations.

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