doctrine

Theological error. Church tensions. Leadership challenges. Ministry responsibilities. These are just a few realities that can distract a church from its mission. Challenges and changes are inevitable in the life of the church. But for a church to be healthy, it must realize that God’s redemptive work through the gospel is central (in belief and practice).

One of the primary reasons we are studying through 1 Timothy is so that we can learn how to guard the gospel in the church in both our orthodoxy (doctrine) and orthopraxy (ethics). We are responsible for right beliefs and behaviors.

At Wilkesboro Baptist, we began this series on Sunday January 30. Our study through 1 Timothy will take us through the end of May. This pastoral epistle is good for our church.

But it is not to the ministry only that these Epistles are of so much value. They are of scarcely less importance to the church at large. Its vitality; its purity; its freedom from strife; its zeal and love and triumph in spreading the gospel, depend on the character of the ministry. If the church will prosper from age to age, the pulpit must be filled with a pious, learned, laborious, and devoted ministry, and one of the first cares of the church should be that such a ministry should be secured. This great object cannot better be attained than by keeping the instructions in these Epistles steadily before the minds of the members of the church; and though a large part of them is particularly adapted to the ministers of the gospel, yet the church itself can in no better way promote its own purity and prosperity than by a prayerful and attentive study of the Epistles to Timothy and Titus.

Albert Barnes, Commentary on 1 Timothy.

Our study through 1 Timothy will help us as church to prayerfully seek God’s blessing and direction for the ministries and mission of Wilkesboro Baptist Church. If you are not part of our church but would like to follow along in our study, check out the media page on our website. You can also follow along by subscribing to our podcasts.

I believe deeply in the value of theology for spiritual formation. In fact, the purpose of growing deeper in our understanding of God is to become more faithful followers of Jesus Christ. Our mission at Wilkesboro Baptist Church is to lead our neighbors and the nations to follow Jesus by worshiping, learning, serving, and replicating. Learning about Christ and about our beliefs and behaviors is a significant part of following Jesus.

In addition to our study through 1 Timothy, we are adjusting our church schedule beginning March 2022. Wednesday nights since Covid have been another worship service that we have recorded for our streaming platforms on Sundays. We’ll continue streaming on Sundays at 11 each week with some modifications to the service. We plan to record from the 8 am service and upload for those who are still watching and worshiping at home.

For Wednesday nights, we will go back to a doctrinal Bible study in our sanctuary at 6 pm. We’re calling it: Doctrine and Devotion: Theological Reflections for Spiritual Formation. Each week, we’ll look at a specific doctrine, find its biblical anchor, discuss its place in theology, and link it to devotional application. If you are able, we ask that you join us in person for this doctrinal study. If you are unable to join us, we plan to record and offer each week as a regular podcast.

Frank Sheed puts it this way:

A virtuous man may be ignorant, but ignorance is not a virtue. It would be a strange God Who could be loved better bay being known less. Love of God is not the same thing as knowledge of God; but if a man loves God knowing a little about Him, he should love God more from knowing more about Him: for every new thing known about God is a new reason for loving him.

Frank Sheed, Theology and Sanity (quoted by R. Kent Hughes and Bryan Chapell in 1-2 Timothy: Guard the Deposit).

The more we learn about the God who loves us, the better able we will be to love him and fulfill our church’s mission.

Today’s post is a transitional post. Recent word of the week posts have concentrated on various aspects of the doctrine of Revelation (Scripture). In the coming weeks, our posts will focus on the Doctrine of God and terms that further reveal the glory and wonder of God to us.

Hermeneutics is the scholarly term for interpretation. Hermeneutics is the science and art of biblical interpretation. Because we believe the Bible is inerrant and authoritative for our Christian faith and practice, it is important that we interpret the Bible accurately.

“For the classic Protestant, though the individual believer has the right to the private interpretation of Scripture, he is capable of misinterpreting the Bible. But while he has the ability to misinterpret Scripture, he does not have the right to do it. That is, with the right of private interpretation comes the responsibility of making an accurate interpretation.”

R. C. Sproul, “The Establishment of Scripture” in Sola Scriptura, 42.

One of the most important aspects of my ministry as a pastor is interpreting Scripture accurately. It is not my job to share my opinions or even primarily my convictions from the pulpit. Rather, I am tasked to proclaim “thus says the Lord.” Preaching authoritatively requires that I interpret Scripture accurately.

Following are some principles that will help us interpret Scripture as accurately as possible.

  1. Interpret Scripture in context. Often, interpretive errors happen because we pull a Scripture out of its immediate, book, or literary context. For example, we could be inaccurate interpreters if quoted a verse as true from one of Job’s three friends. Asserting one of their affirmations without considering that the book of Job understands their affirmations to be in error could lead us to be inaccurate in our interpretations.
  2. Interpret Scripture with Scripture. The clear teaching of Scripture should inform and illuminate the more difficult passages. See for example the question of eternal security raised in Hebrews 6 with a counterpart in John 10 (John 10:27-30 vs. Hebrews 6:4-6)
  3. Interpret Scripture in light of its literary genre. Narrative, Didactic, Law, Poetry, Prophetic, Apocalyptic, and Epistolary each have unique interpretive principles for determining meaning. For an example of this in an upcoming sermon, I will be preaching on Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Many have taken that proverb as a promise. But the book of Proverbs is not a book of promises, but rather general observations about life.
  4. Right interpretation derives from a recognition of biblical authority. The author, not the reader determines the meaning. Meaning then is discovered by the interpreter, not determined. In contrast, when we interpret Scripture through an interpretive lens (whether theological as in dispensationalism or personal as in our own experiences), we can read our own preconceived notions or ourselves into the text. This is a reader-response interpretive strategy that may have benefit for some kinds of literature, but has no bearing on the meaning of the biblical text. The text means today what it has always meant (what it meant to its original readers).
  5. Remember the two guardrails for correct interpretation: the Holy Spirit (John 16:13) and the church (historical orthodoxy). In order to interpret Scripture well, we need the Holy Spirit and church history. Depending on the Holy Spirit and leaning on orthodoxy will keep us from interpreting texts (difficult or clear) inaccurately. Robert Letham reminds us, “Moreover, it is impossible to come to the Bible with a blank mind, unaffected by philosophical or cultural presuppositions, or previously received teaching” (Systematic Theology, 228).
  6. Scriptural application is built upon good interpretation. Certainly, the applications we can derive from Scripture are culturally conditioned. For example, when Moses tells us to number our days (Psalm 90:12) or Paul tells us to make the best use of our time (Eph. 5:16), we can apply those admonitions to scrolling through social media apps or binge-watching tv shows. But the application must flow out of the clear meaning of Scripture. Scripture means today what it meant when it was written. To misunderstand what the Scripture originally meant can lead to serious misapplications. 

When I interpret passages of Scripture for preaching, I find word studies, commentaries, and theologies to be helpful. When I compare my own study and insights with those of commentaries and theologians, I am more likely to interpret Scripture accurately.

So, in your reading and study of the Bible, trust that it’s God’s Word, study the Bible deeply, and trust the Holy Spirit to guide your interpretations.

Photo by Jonny Swales on Unsplash