Vol. 11 No. 3 March 2009
Biblical interpretation or hermeneutics is no more than meaningless academic gymnastics—unless there is definitive application. Without application, biblical interpretation amounts to no more than wasted hot air associated with senseless banter, misspent time reflecting on biblical hermeneutics and ruined office supplies corresponding to paper, ink and computer bytes devoted to nothingness. Biblical interpretation—what does it all mean? How can one demonstrate in a practical way that biblical hermeneutics is important?
Well, one way to demonstrate the practical application of studying biblical interpretation is to consider the aspect of New Testament worship we call the Lord’s Supper. This is so because the New Testament definitely teaches that the Lord’s Supper is to be observed by Christians weekly on the first day of the week. However, that definitive teaching derives from an apostolically approved example, which in addition, people living outside of Troas in the first century or anyone living since then must recognize the divine implication and correctly infer.
The command to the Corinthian church to give of its wealth weekly on the first day of the week (1 Corinthians 16:1-2) is similar to and comparable to the wording of Acts 20:7 respecting the worship on the first day of the week, during which the Lord’s Supper was observed; further, the stated purpose for the gathering on a weekly basis by the congregation in Troas was for observing the Lord’s Supper. The example of the day on which and the frequency of observing the Lord’s Supper is obligatory and permanently binding on Christians then and now. The biblical precedent for when and how often to observe the Lord’s Supper provided sufficient divine instruction for first century congregations to know God’s will on this subject, as well as this same biblical precedent provides sufficient divine instruction for congregations in any century to know God’s will respecting the day on which and the frequency for observing the Lord’s Supper.
The strongest example is with the church at Corinth. First Corinthians 11:20-16:2 basically deals with problems concerning the assembly on the first day of the week and regulate this assembly. Paul, by inspiration, regulates that they are to observe the Lord’s Supper in a worthy manner. They are to sing, pray, and edify one another decently and in order in their assembly. They are also commanded to make a contribution in their assembly. According to I Corinthians 16:2 the time of their assembly is the first day of every week. The RSV translates, “On the first day of every week”… The example is missing of early Christians and churches ever observing the Lord’s Supper on any other day [than the first day of the week]. (Kearley 68-69)
Consider also that every memorial day in Scripture is definitively specified and repeated regularly (e.g., Pentecost annually, 50 days after the Passover each year, Leviticus 23:16; Passover annually 14th day of the first month, Leviticus 23:5; New Moon monthly, Numbers 10:10; 28:11; Lord’s Supper weekly, Acts 20:7; cf. 1 Corinthians 16:1-2). It is reasonable (logical) to find New Testament instruction for the regular observance of the Lord’s Supper. The instruction for on what day and with what regularity to observe the Lord’s Supper does appear in the New Testament, howbeit, by approved, apostolic example.
To dismiss from the biblical hermeneutic approved example has the effect of dismissing divine instruction respecting the observance of the Lord’s Supper on the first day of every week. Proponents of an amended (decimated) biblical hermeneutic have no problem with that, of course. Frankly, the overall objective of meddling with hermeneutics is to free oneself from what some consider burdensome strictures that God has levied on mankind. Hence, instead of divine instruction, we are told that the Bible is a collection of love letters from God; how much structure for Christian living, Christian service, salvation and Christian worship do mere love letters invoke in humankind? Not much, we would say by observing and listening to those who opt to jettison correct biblical interpretation.Works Cited
If I were discussing any Bible subject with a person in an effort to determine what is the proper action to take, and should discover that he is not concerned with whether or not God approves of such an action, I would stop that discussion. The reason is simple. If there is no standard by which to measure anything, there is no value in discussing whether it should or should not be anything.
If a person indicates that he is concerned about God’s approval, the next step is to discover how he decides if God approves or disapproves of something. If his standard of measurement is how he feels in his heart, we stop the discussion, for not only is there no way for me to determine how he feels in his heart, but there is no way for me to determine if he feels the same way from one moment to the next. If he concludes that the way to decide what God wants in a matter is by an examination of God’s Word, then we ask, “What shall we look for in God’s Word to determine that?” If he admits that God’s specific command that a thing be done is one way we may be assured that God approves of it, we continue talking. If he admits that we do not have to find a specific command provided there is an approved example shown to be approved by the inspired record, we continue talking. If he admits that even if we cannot find a specific example, if it is necessarily implied that God approved, then we continue.
To illustrate how this works, let us take the subject of when we should partake of the Lord’s Supper. There are those who claim membership in the Lord’s church who are today suggesting that since the Lord’s Supper is for the purpose of calling our attention to the sacrifice of Christ for us, and we can properly remember the Lord’s death at any time, then we can properly take the Lord’s Supper at any time.
Let us examine the question in this fashion: Does the Lord approve of us taking the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week? If we have already established one of the means for finding out what pleases the Lord is an approved example, then we settle that matter by reading Acts 17:20.