T. Austin Sparks
1. The Eternity Of God
The first principle of the interpretation of the Bible is the eternity of God. We must always remember that all time is present time with God. There is no past and future with God: all that is past and future with us has been present with God always. At any moment in what is time to us, eternity is present with God.
The architect always has the completed plan before him. If he is the designer of a ship, he has a model made of that ship before anything is done. He sees in the model the completed object, that is, exactly how the thing will appear when it is finished. If it is a great building, or even a city, it is the same. The architect draws what we call a scale model, and he sees in that model exactly how the building, or the city, will be when it is finished. The builder works day by day according to that completed plan. Those who only see the parts cannot understand, and must not take the parts as being the whole. Sometimes when you look at the parts of a building, you cannot for the life of you understand what it is going to be. It is only as the completed thing is seen that you can understand the parts.
2. The Comprehensiveness Of Christ
Christ is the interpretation of all the Bible, to know Christ is to understand the Bible. Men like Peter and Paul knew the Bible, but they did not understand it until they knew the Lord Jesus. We first know the Lord Jesus, and then we take Him back into the Bible, and He is the interpretation of the Bible. Therefore, we cannot really understand the Bible until we know the Lord Jesus. That results in this—that the Bible is really a Person, and not a book. The Bible is a Living Person, and not a dead letter. Because this Person is inexhaustible, He makes the Bible inexhaustible.
Now that is a more important principle than perhaps you realize. It is possible to exhaust the Bible as a book. We have known great Bible teachers who went through the Bible teaching it again and again, but at the end of their lives they were having difficulty in finding something fresh; and they were only repeating again and again things that they had said in past years. The reason for this is that they dealt with the Bible as a book. That will never happen if you know the Lord Jesus and see the Bible in Him, and Him in the Bible. I repeat that the Lord Jesus can never be exhausted. As the Holy Spirit reveals the Lord Jesus to us, the Bible is always more alive.
3. The Interpreter Of The Bible Is The Holy Spirit
Now we come to number three: the interpreter of the Bible is the Holy Spirit. I have said that Jesus is the interpretation of the Bible. I am saying now that the Holy Spirit is the INTERPRETER of the Bible. We are familiar with the words in the Letter to the Corinthians, but let us just look at them again now. The First letter to the Corinthians, chapter two and verse thirteen: “Which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.”
Now I do not know if you have marginal references in your Bible but the more correct translation of those words is this: “interpreting spiritual things to spiritual men.” Let us read the whole passage again in that way:
Which things also we speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Spirit teaches; interpreting spiritual things to spiritual men.
4. The Final Mention
The final mention of any particular matter in the Bible is usually a key to all its meaning. That is something that we must think about! We find certain things mentioned again and again in the Bible; but when we come to the final occasion where that thing is mentioned, we usually find the key to all that has been said about that matter before. If you take a particular matter, where it is mentioned for the last time, and then note the setting and the context and the relationship, you will get the full meaning of all that has been said about that before.
Now that is a statement that I have made, and you will need to think and to work on that, but I will help you by taking just one illustration. In the last chapter of the Bible, Revelation twenty-two and verse two, we have the last reference to “the tree of life.” Now when we go right back to the beginning of the Bible, we have “the tree of life” mentioned, but we are told nothing about it—it is just referred to as something that exists. We have no explanation, we are not told what that tree is, or what it means; it is just referred to as “the tree of life.” We have to go to the end of the Bible for the explanation, and when we come to this last chapter of the Bible, by the context and relationship, we have a very large explanation.
5. The Only Real Value Is The Spiritual
We must remember this when we are reading and studying the Bible, and we must keep this in mind in these times in which we are together. We must not come here just with a thirst for more information or a craving for more knowledge. There are people who just want to get more and more knowledge and education. Now that constitutes a danger. That is exactly how Adam was caught. You see, Satan said: “If you take of this tree, you will know”; it was “the tree of knowledge.” And there is always a danger in eating of that tree. It might just lead us into death and not into life. So, I repeat this principle of Biblical interpretation: the only real value is the spiritual. And spiritual value is just how something affects our life with God! I do wish that Adam had recognized that! When Satan tempted him to take of “the tree of knowledge,” if only Adam had said, “How will this affect my life with God?” he, and we, should have been saved all the trouble.
If Christ is the interpretation of the Bible, then the spiritual knowledge of the Bible results in an increase of Christ. If our days together do not result in an increase of the measure of Christ, we have missed the Way. If we do not go away more Christ-like men and women, with a larger measure of the Lord Jesus, this training course has failed. So I beg of you to pray all the way through that this time together may mean SPIRITUAL INCREASE and not intellectual enlargement, but SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE.