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Vol.  10  No. 9 September 2008  Page 2
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Prerequisite to Biblical Interpretation:
Handling Aright the Word of God

By Louis Rushmore

Louis Rushmore

The principle of 2 Timothy 2:15, “Give diligence to present thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth” (ASV emphasis added), applies aptly to the categorization of Scripture a would-be-interpreter may make of the Word of God. If one adopts an improper attitude toward any portion of the Word of God, obviously his interpretation of biblical passages must be viewed with a degree of suspicion. This is so important because faulty hermeneutics (or biblical interpretation) conceal the authority of God’s Word and the subsequent application of it to mankind. Whereas one must properly distinguish between the two Bible testaments, likewise, one must handle aright especially the New Testament since all people now living are amenable to it. All divine instruction (e.g., salvation, worship, Christian living, Christian service, etc.) and promised blessings (e.g., eternity in heaven) that are applicable to mankind today can only be learned from properly interpreting the New Testament.

For instance, the assertion that there is a distinction between the Gospel and doctrine, the former only being essential and pertaining to salvation, while the latter applying to Christians only and not pertaining to salvation, is a biblically unsubstantiated interpretation and false doctrine. Defining the Gospel of Christ to exclusively refer to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), and as it pertains to imitating it in baptism, distinguishing the Gospel (and salvation) from the balance of New Testament instruction is erroneous and false doctrine. The Gospel is suitable for preaching to Christians (Romans 1:15) as it is to non-Christians (Mark 16:15-16), and is a synonym for the Word of God in the New Testament (Acts 8:14; 2 Peter 3:5) or doctrine (Acts 2:42; 5:28). Therefore, doctrinal instruction cannot be wholly separated from instruction about salvation.

Furthermore, defining “the doctrine of Christ” (2 John 9-11) to include only references to the historicity of Jesus Christ is false doctrine, the only purpose of which being to avoid (1) application of God’s Word to oneself, and (2) to denounce Christian doctrine as having any bearing on one’s salvation. Given the 20 centuries since the ministry of Jesus Christ, not the historicity of Jesus Christ (i.e., not merely the doctrine about Jesus Christ), but New Testament doctrine (teaching) is the basis of salvation, as well as the basis of fellowship both with fellow Christians and God; to attack New Testament doctrine or the church for which Jesus died to establish is to attack Jesus Christ Himself (i.e., Jesus Christ specifically sent His apostles to all the world to communicate not His historicity but His teaching or doctrine, Acts 1:8; 2 John 9-11; what the apostles taught as they went throughout the world preaching constitutes the fulfillment of what our Lord directed them to do). Christianity is a useless, hollow shell without New Testament doctrine.

Contemporaries of Jesus of Nazareth did not deny his historicity. The biblical record obviously speaks to the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth, but so does secular history acknowledge the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth. Only rarely and relatively recently do some deny the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth, and only then by ignoring the agreement between the biblical narrative and secular history concerning the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth. Not the historicity of Jesus Christ, but His teaching or doctrine (the New Testament or the Gospel) was the object of the spoken and written instruction of the apostles of Christ. Hermeneutical gymnastics with the New Testament may appease some people’s repulsion and application of New Testament doctrine to themselves, but such shenanigans do not equate to correct biblical interpretation.

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