Interpretation Versus Belief
by Phillip Owens
via The Elgin Hills Examiner, Vol. 1, No. 5, May, 2006.
"Interpreters" explain or give the meaning of words from one language to another language. No one would knowingly say of a competent interpreter, "Well, that's just his interpretation," meaning that his translation is only an opinion, has no solid basis to support it, and should be discounted as unworthy of any consideration. If he knows both languages and is honestly doing his work, he can be depended on.
Most don't need an "interpretation" of the daily newspaper. It is fairly self explanatory. If there are several articles in one newspaper on one breaking story, reading all the articles gives on a clearer picture of the event. On the whole, this is true of the Bible. It has been my observation that "interpretation" or understanding what the Bible says is not that big a problem. Believing it is! Reliable translations of the Bible use English words understandable to most people. Where then does the problem lie? It lies in rejecting what is the obvious.
Is Jesus Christ Deity (God's Son), Or Merely A Historical Character?
Jesus claimed to do the works of His Father (John 5:17,18), to be able to give life (John 5:26), which only God could do, to be sent from God (John 5:36), to be eternal with God (John 8:58), and to be "one" with the Father (John 10:30). He taught as only one who had divine qualities could teach (Matthew 7:28,29). Honest people recognized that His Words and Works were signs that He was from God (John 3:2). His resurrection from the dead was God's sign of signs that Jesus of Nazareth, born of a woman and living as men live (Philippians 2:5-8) was also deity (see Romans 1:4). These passages are straightforward. If one believes the Bible to be God's Word, how much "interpretation" does one need on this subject? It is as straightforward, and I would say much more so, than most headline stories in newspapers. He was both a historical figure and Immanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23).
Why then don't people "understand" this? Likely it is because of all the consequences. If Jesus is God's Son, all He says is significant -- it is authorative. His Words are true, morality is important, how we deal with each other has eternal bearing, and He will judge us in the final day (John 12:48). We should therefore live our lives according to His teaching. Therefore, Jesus' being God's Son is not so much interpretation as it is belief!
The Bible Teaches There Is "One Church"
Most Bible students understand that Jesus said He would build His church (Matthew 16:18), that it began through the preaching of the gospel of Christ after His death, resurrection and ascension (Acts 2:22-47), that saved people were added to it (Acts 2:47), and that the apostles' words constituted the Supreme Court on all questions (see Matthew 10:40; Acts 2:42; 15:24; Galatians 1:6-9; I Corinthians 11:34; 14:37). These passages are straightforward. The New Testament also teaches that there is "one body" (Ephesians 4:4), and that body is the church (Ephesians 1:22,23; Colossians 1:18). It is into that "one body" that penitent believers are baptized (see also I Corinthians 12:13). While there were a plurality of "local" churches or assemblies of Christians during the first century ("the churches of Christ salute you" Romans 16:16), they were all taught the same gospel (I Corinthians 4:17). Apostolic instructions concerning their worship, work, and organization were the same (I Corinthians 1:1,2; 16:1). Church historians recognize these truths. They also recognize that an apostasy was predicted (Acts 20:29-31; II Thessalonians 2:1-12) and that it came.
While there were religious sects during the first century (such as Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, Essenes and others), Christ and His gospel were intended to eradicate them and bring everyone into "one body" (read carefully, Ephesians 2:11-22 and John 17:20,21). Since Christ is not divided, and neither Paul nor anyone but Christ was crucified for us, and we are not to be baptized into anyone except Christ, then Paul argues that we "speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (I Corinthians 1:10-13).
This is straightforward and really needs no "interpretation." The problem is that given hundreds of years from the first century, religious division, a plurality of man-made churches, and a failure to use only the Scriptures as our authority, we now have religious chaos. To say that the New Testament teaches there is one body, one church, sounds so narrow to many. Yet it is the truth. Why do people have problems with such an "interpretation"? It is not because the Bible "means different things to different people, but because people do not believe it.
Don't be fooled by the "just your interpretation" idea. Believe the Bible can be understood (Ephesians 3:3-5) and believe and obey the gospel.