A philosopher once said, “The text has disappeared under the interpretation.” I am not totally sure what he meant.
But I can tell you what I mean by that statement!
But the result of my interpretation might be this:
“What I want your words to mean has hidden what your words actually mean.”
Somebody once said, “Everything looks like a nail to him who has a hammer.”
The tendency to have an agenda for our own words is not a problem. That’s called communication. But forcing our agenda on the words of others is a problem. Because that is anti-communication!
This is perhaps most dangerous when it relates to God’s word. Paul was referring to this sort of thing when he talked about how he had renounced his old ways of “adulterating the word of God.” (See 2 Cor 4:2)
When we come to God’s word, not as a judge (to tear it apart) or an activist (to spin it to support our agenda), but humbly as children who long for instruction – then we may be morally prepared to receive the word as God intends it.
Let me get to a great biblical example.
He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, SO THAT we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. (1 Peter 2:24-25, emphasis mine)
“By His stripes we were healed,” has for many Christians become the foundation stone for a gospel they preach. They believe that miraculous physical healing is already provided and to be had by all people immediately, on the basis of faith in Christ’s “finished work”.
I am tempted to address that specific belief system at this point. But I have written on the subject elsewhere. I must not drift away from the main point of this post…and even more importantly, of Peter’s words above.
What’s my main point? Simply that in most writing there actually is a main point. Or at least there is a clearly intended meaning by the author. And it is our responsibility to honestly try to get to it.
Look again at the Biblical passage quoted above. I have placed the “so that” in bold font. Peter (and the Holy Spirit) not only had a very specific meaning intended, but he actually uses specific language to draw a bulls-eye around his meaning! All of the sentences in that paragraph (as well as several of the verses that preceded it) were actually intended by the author to convey this extremely clear meaning.
Peter is actually interpreting Scripture himself: the words of Isaiah the prophet. And bless his soul, Peter is very careful to allow Isaiah to say exactly what he means. Isaiah’s words MATTERED A LOT, and Peter is not trying to change the meaning at all.
“So that,” is the way Peter highlighted his intentions and sought to direct us to the proper application of the truths he has just conveyed through words.
Prayerfully, will you spend 2-3 minutes (or more) reflecting on the passage above yourself? As you do so, try to distance yourself from the sound-bytes and agendas that might come flooding out of your memories.
Ask yourself this question, “What is Peter getting at here? What is he trying to convey about the cross of Christ?” Be sure and look at the larger context in this passage (vs 21-25.)
We can compare notes in the next post.