Right about now you should have Bible in hand looking at the book of Psalms 14:1, you will find that it states, “The fool has said in his heart ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, They have done abominable works, There is none who does good.”
The fool may say in his heart, and out loud, what ever he will yet, the wise have the responsibility to check out what the fool says. Mind you the fool is not always wearing a jesters hat. Some of the most intelligent people in the world are fools, they wear suits and ties, they write books and teach at our collages.
Rabbi Saul of Tarsus, later named Paul, was a very intelligent and well-learned man. He was a perfect picture of Judaism. He says about himself as a Jew, “circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless” (Philippians 3:5-6). Yet, Paul, blinded by zealous orthodoxy, was kept from the truth by the law, until the Messiah caused his eyes to be opened and filled him with the Holy Spirit (see Acts 1:17).
“Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded [or more noble] than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:10-11). When Paul would preach to Jews he would reason with them out of the scriptures (see Acts 17:2). The Old Testament was the only scriptures at the time. This great intellect presenting a very impressive sermon on the Gospel, using the Old Testament, himself being a Jew and yet, this was not enough for the Bereans. If Paul’s great teaching was found to contradict what scripture already says, the Bereans would not have received his message with all readiness. In fact they probably would have attempted to stoned him with all readiness.
The same responsibility is place upon us today. When we are told, “The Bible says…” we are to see if those things are so. This is not just to say that we look up one verse and say, “Yep, that’s what it says alright.” A passage can be taken out of context and made to mean anything, for instance, “There is no God,” which is also an example of cutting a verse in half.
Con and Pre Text:
There is a danger in taking a passage out of context and making it a pretext.
Context: That which comes immediately before or after a passage and helps to explain it.
Pretext: Ostensible reason or motive which cloaks the real reason; pretense.
An isolated verse can be made to mean anything it is therefore, imperative that we put it back where it belongs, wrapped around the sixty-six books that make up the Bible. If we don’t understand a verse we must look at the context, which expands. First we look at the verse before and after the verse in question. If this is not enough we expand, we read the whole chapter. If this is not enough we read and understand the whole book, including who wrote it and why. If this is not enough we must read and understand the whole Bible, what its message is, its main points, and its basic teachings. Moreover, we interpret difficult passages in the light of clear ones. We should not build essential doctrines by use of one unclear passage.
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing (interpreting) the word of truth” (2nd Timothy 2:15).
Hermeneutics is a proper understanding of scripture (or any writing) by an application of such things as the understanding of idioms, language, historical and cultural setting (historical and grammatical context). These are just a few examples without which we could take literal language and twist it into subjective symbolism. For example, the false teaching that the devil is not a real personal but a metaphor of evil and sin. We might also take symbolic language and force a literal meaning. For example, we might think that when we see God in that glorious day, we would see a rock with a door on it, having hands and feet, with feathered wings, and having very powerful sea parting nostrils (see 1st Corinthians 10:4, John 10:9, Psalms 8:6, Psalm 91:4, Exodus 15:8).
“If you instruct the brethren in these things,
you will be good ministers of Jesus Christ,
nourished in the words of faith and of the good
doctrine which you have carefully followed”
1st Timothy 4:6