"No prophecy of the Scripture is of any interpretation" — 2 Pet. 1:20
From a casual observation it appears that Scripture needs more "application" today than it does "interpretation." Nearly everyone is ready to interpret and to express his judgment on a passage; but feeling impelled to apply to himself and put into practice what is interpreted is altogether a different matter. Our really big problem is not so much one of interpretation as it is respect for the authority back of what is said.
The Scripture itself is its own best interpreter, but each individual must make the application to his own life or to the problem before him. If we can learn to let Scripture interpret Scripture, then God himself will have become the interpreter of His message to man.
It shall be the purpose of this department to deal with problems and issues confronting the church as a body and of the Christian as an individual, seeking always a solution to such problems in the word of God. In order to do this the Scriptures themselves must speak, and faithful applications must be made. The immediate object of each article will be to inform in the truth, and to inspire to action. The end sought will be the edification and unification of the body of believers, strengthened and builded up in the faith.
The Need Today for Sound Thinking
The world today is confused, and in many respects so is the church. Grave issues, vital and important, face both. In order to decide issues clearly and accurately, each individual must learn to think straight. At least, there must be a diligent effort made toward that end. The thinking activity of the mind and its result is called a judgment. which judgment may be true or false, depending upon the factors entering into the thinking and reasoning of the individual.
Because of the gravity of the issues before us, and of the seriousness to which false judgments may lead, it is a time when straight thinking is sorely needed though it is a time when such thinking is difficult. Recognizing this seriousness, need, and difficulty, each should feel a hesitancy in assuming a dogmatic conclusion of subjects to which the Bible does not afford sufficient evidence for the conclusion to be a matter of faith, i.e., a definite conviction. On the other hand, when the teaching is plain and the interpretation clear, there can be no course other than to take a positive and definite stand in the application. The problems and questions within the ranks of the church today should challenge anew our thinking. This challenge we should gladly welcome and accept. In fact, each generation should study anew the ground on which conclusions handed down were reached. This new investigation of matters believed or judgments reached need not lead to a condition of hysteria among the brethren, nor need it tend toward skepticism of the conclusions reached by past generations. It should simply seek for confirmation on the ground of personal investigation.
Personal wranglings and bitter enmities should not be allowed to result from individual expressions on questions or the conclusions reached by another. As earnest seekers after truth, every Christian should be happy to say when shown the error of his thinking and judgment reached, "I made a mistake. Thank you for showing me the truthby pointing out the error."—This admission one seldom if ever sees. Is it because each who speaks or writes considers him. self infallible? or is Christian humility a forgotten virtue among us?
Straight Thinking and Right Conclusions
Warped judgment followed as a consequence of sin. Before he sinned, Adam thought clearly; "Adam was not beguiled" (I Tim. 2:14). But after he had sinned, he thought he could hide from God. This conclusion was the result of warped thinking. Sin and errors continue in the world as a consequence of warped thinking, while reconciliation to God and the carrying out of His purposes result from right thinking. So also do all right decisions in matters that pertain to our relation to Him. The thinking must be straight.
Failure to think straight has led to many hurtful results. Naaman left the house of the prophet in a rage, saying, "I thought...” (2 Kings 5:11). His thinking was warped. Jesus said rulers would kill the disciples, thinking they were doing God service (John 16:2). When explaining his conduct in persecuting Christians, Paul said, "I thought...” (Acts 26:9). Simon's thoughts led him to sin against God (Acts 8:20, 22) .God is able to do "above that which ye (we) are able to think" (Eph. 3:20). Much of our failure in service to Christ today is the result of not thinking big enough thoughts—God's thoughts, while our errors in conduct and in conclusions, result from warped or wrong thinking.
Thinking straight spiritually is to think God's thoughts after him, and this is achieved only by "casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5), In the life of every Christian this must be done. "For I say, through the grace that was given me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but so to think as to think soberly" (Rom. 12:3). One's thinking and his ability to think "after God" should grow with the Christian as he grows. As a child, Paul thought as a child; when he became a man he put away childish things (I Cor. 13:11).
Human opinions result from lack of 'evidence necessary to reach a conviction of faith. When opinions are enforced as dogmatic truth, trouble follows. When one says, "I think it this way or that," he is saying, "I do not know." On this point the apostle Paul says, "If any man thinketh that he knoweth anything, he knoweth not yet as he ought to know" (1 Cor. 8:2). If he knows that he knows, he dues not have to say that he thinks he knows. Let us not substitute "think so's" for knowledge that comes from God's revelation. But let Christians be able to say, "I know what He said, and upon that I act."
Problems in the church and before be individual today demand straight thinking. This thinking must omit self and be void of selfish motives. It must be mature thinking if mature conclusions are to be reached. Likewise, principle must be ever put before person, whether it be the person of friend or foe or self, "For if a man thinketh himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself" (Gal. 6:3). Let us love both our friends and our enemies, but let us be swayed in our thinking by neither.
In writing for this department, the writer shall strive to hold himself to principles and to what God has said when considering issues pertaining to the things of God. He will make mistakes, and of this he is conscious as he undertakes the task. The fact that man cannot be omniscient makes it impossible for him ever to know all the facts in a case. And because he is not omniscient, but limited in his knowledge, —and— because his thinking is influenced by erroneous judgment of which he is heir, somewhere mistakes will appear in his thinking. But in spite of all this, this writer pledges himself to strive always to let Scrip ture interpret Scripture, and, in endeavoring to "think God's thoughts after Him," to make the application consistent with the teaching of the Spirit in the Word of God. Likewise, he pledges himself to say, when shown an error in his thinking and conclusions, "I missed it that time. Let me back up and try again."
-The Preceptor, November, 1951