Explaining the Scriptures
When a person opens his Bible and begins to read from its words, he has opened the revealed mind of God. As Paul said, “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:11). Therefore, the Bible is not another ordinary book written from the fascinating imaginations of man, but rather it is divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit working through God’s prophets and apostles. The Bible has stood the test of time because it has existed throughout all of man’s history, even prior to the creation of the world (John 1:1-3). With this foundation, we want to understand where to begin when trying to explain the Scriptures to others.
We live in a very religious area, known as the Bible belt, where people are interested in spiritual things and growing in knowledge of the Word of God. While the majority may allow manmade doctrines and preconceived ideas to influence their understanding of the Bible, there are others truly seeking for the truth, and we need to be able to show them clearly the way. There is no need for a study in systematic theology or memorization of certain written creeds but simply an open Bible and a honest heart. A faithful Christian is commanded to have a reason for the hope within him, and this reason should not be based upon anything other than the words contained in the Bible.
Some may ask, how can one simply rely upon the Bible in the age of commentaries, lexicons, dictionaries, etc.? Our knowledge of the Word of God is not matured by the depth of understanding in various languages and theological thoughts, but rather it is matured by sound reading, studying, and application in our lives. When one carries out the task of “speaking where the Bible speaks and remaining silent where the Bible is silent,” he is simply relying upon the only foundation given for strength, the Bible. While we may gain insight in certain passages from consulting outside resources, ultimately our first source of all information should always be the Bible. Clement of Alexandria said it best, “Explain the Scriptures by the Scriptures.” There comes a time when everything else must be put away and a good and honest heart must answer the meaning of the Word of God. In the end, a lexicon or commentary will not stand the trails of life for you but rather your knowledge of the Word of God.
We should all take note that the idea of Sola Scriptura was nothing new with Thomas Campbell, Martin Luther, Clement of Alexandria, etc., but rather it was something that had always been taught in the Bible. On the morning of Jesus’ resurrection, two disciples were walking on the road to the village of Emmaus. Luke records that Jesus appeared to them but their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him (Luke 24:13-14). After asking them concerning the events of the past few days, Jesus taught them from the Scriptures beginning with Moses and all the prophets concerning the Messiah (24:27). It was only after their eyes were opened did they say, “Were not our hearts burring within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” (24:32). Jesus did not consult distinguished Jewish theologians, Talmud, Midrash, etc., but rather from the pages of Scripture, He opened their hearts to better understand the prophecies concerning Himself.
On another occasion, Jesus opened His disciples minds to understand the Scriptures, by again explaining from the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms concerning their prophecies (24:44-45). In the book of Acts, example-after-example can be noted for their reliance upon Scriptures to explain Jesus. Peter repeatedly quoted from Old Testament prophecies to undergird his lesson on the day of Pentecost concerning the deity and messiahship of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:15-36). Philip, once he joined the Ethiopian Eunuch in the chariot, “beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him” (Acts 8:35). Paul, on the first missionary journey, stood in the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch and preached from the Scriptures Jesus Christ (Acts 13:16-43). This same point can be made again-and-again throughout the book of Acts, because these men of God were not interested in speaking anything but the Word of God. What a difference it makes when only the gospel is taught and everything else is left alone?
Our task in reaching the lost, admonishing the weak, and edifying the saved all rest upon our knowledge of the Word of God. Therefore, we cannot fulfill these objectives without diligently reading, studying, and meditating upon the Word of God. It is only when we are efficient in these three areas that we are not only able to battle against our own trials, but also fulfill the command of going and teaching. When Jesus commanded the disciples to “Go,” He did not tell them to go with commentaries, doctrines, creeds, etc., but to go with the gospel. Let us do the same with our daily study and teaching of God’s Word.