Dr Myles Munroe once said, ‘When the purpose of a thing is not known, abuse is inevitable’’. These words are timeless and they resound with so much truth.  In applying this to scripture, we must have it at the front of our minds that every biblical book is a unified document and that interpreters have no right to isolate one aspect of the truth by excluding others. Therefore, it is important to understand the purpose of the whole book in terms of: who is writing to whom, why it was written, when it was written (time relevance), where was it written (geographical location), what the author’s intent was, and the recipient understanding of that intent. Afterwards we can proceed to interpret the individual units. If we go ahead and interpret the individual units without understanding the purpose of the entire book, we are bound to apply it wrongly. Proper interpretation must always precede application.

For instance, it is easy to pick up the book of Revelations as the book about things that will happen at the ‘END OF THE WORLD’’ without any background knowledge of the purpose of the entire book, why it was written, the history behind it, and the pervading thought of the original audience which will be an abuse of the inspiration of the Spirit by which it was penned.

But let’s take a quick look on the Revelations in context:

‘‘THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST, which GOD GAVE UNTO HIM, to shew unto his servants things which MUST SHORTLY COME TO PASS; and HE SENT AND SIGNIFIED IT (PUT IN SYMBOL) by his angel unto HIS SERVANT JOHN:’’ (Revelations 1:1 KJV)

We see that chapter one of the book of Revelations gives us a clear purpose and an overview of the whole book and put God’s message to John to the seven churches in Asia into context. The purpose of the book in context was to unveil the prophecy of Jesus Christ; therefore, it was presented to John with the use of prophetic symbols and content. What was the revelation of Jesus that was revealed to John? It was the unveiling of the prophecy Jesus gave to his disciples (Matthew 23, 24) about the ‘END OF THE AGE OF THE OLD COVENANT and the institution of the NEW TESTAMENT and was given to him in a prophetic language. The time for the fulfillment of the prophecy was very close (‘‘must shortly come to pass’’). As shortly as in John’s time not in 2016. This was the Spirit in which the original recipient or audience of the John’s letter understood his message and the same spirit in which we must interpret it; else we will be disregarding his letter.

Friends, never should a bible passage mean to us what it never met to the original audience. If it does, that is an abuse on the intent of the author and on the inspiration of the Spirit by which it was penned. Therefore, when studying scriptures we must put the following at the forefront of our minds:
  1. Seek to understand the author's intent of a biblical book before interpreting. The original author had a purpose and a message to communicate.
  2. The historical setting in which a biblical book was written and the particular historical occasion for its authorship.
  3. A text cannot mean something to us that it never meant to the original, ancient, audience to whom it was written to.
  4. The author's intent not our historical, emotional, cultural, personal or denominational need—is the key for proper exegesis.
  5. Every biblical book is a unified document. Therefore, we must seek to understand the purpose of the whole book before we interpret the individual units; the flow of chapters to chapters and verses to verses.
  6. And it must be reiterated that every biblical text has one and only one meaning. This meaning is what the original biblical author intended through the Spirit's leadership to communicate to his day.
On a final note: ‘‘when a text is taken out of its context, is becomes a pretext for deception’’-Anonymous

Put first things first!

Grace to you.

About Jemine James


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