1 Corinthians 11:1-16
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” — 2 Timothy 2:15
There are some people who have told me, “I have a high view of Scripture. I simply follow what is written in the Bible to the letter. I do not approach a text with any bias.” I would ask them about Jesus’s teachings on adultery, where He says, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away” (Matthew 5:28-29). After reading those verses, would they actually gouge their eye out because of sin? Obviously not, because when Scripture is not plain to us, we engage in the practice of interpretation.
There are three rules to interpreting Scripture that are commonly held theological approaches. Firstly, Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit as the revelation of God’s will; therefore, whatever it means, it must be submitted to and obeyed. Secondly, Scripture is given at a particular time and to a particular cultural context. In other words, the context in culture influences the assumptions made by the first readers, which determines its initial application. For example, it is important to distinguish between moral law and non-moral judgments; for the latter, we need to understand the historical context in order to learn the principles being taught. Lastly, those principles that are being taught must then be reapplied to our present-day culture and context.
For example, in John 13, during the Last Supper, Jesus gets up, goes around the table and washes His disciples’ feet. When He finishes, He says, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:14-15). We may look at a text like this and ask ourselves, “Are we supposed to wash one another’s feet as we observe the Lord’s Supper?” To be honest, I cannot recall the last time I washed someone’s feet. At best, I might have taken some snow off my kid’s boot because my cultural context has more snow than dusty feet.
What, then, is the passage in John 13 teaching us? When we apply the three rules of interpreting Scripture, we learn from Jesus the lesson and principle of servant-hearted leadership—not necessarily the washing of feet, but of loving and serving one another.
As we seek to understand, follow and apply what we read from Scripture into our lives, may we approach it with the above three rules of interpreting Scripture.
PRAYER: Dear Lord God, thank You for Your written Word. Help me to interpret Your Scripture appropriately as I seek to understand, follow and apply Your truth to my life. Amen.