The Problem Of Misinterpretation of The Scripture
There is obvious gross interpretation of the Scripture as a result of the way and manner the Scripture is studied. The inappropriate studying and reading of the Scripture has led to wrong interpretation of the Scripture. And that also has resulted into wrong application of what the Scripture says. Evidently, many are reading the scripture but they do not have a proper understanding of what they are reading. The Ethiopian Eunuch Philip met on his way was reading the scripture and yet Philip asked him this question.
“And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?”
It is based on this premise Apostle Paul advised his progeny in the Lord; Timothy thus:
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
2 Timothy 2:15
Hence, is very important to underline this statement in the quotation above “rightly dividing the word of truth”. It shows that the word of truth, though the truth must be rightly divided. If not the one who is studying or reading will go into error though he’s handling the word of truth. It is apt to say that one can make a lie from the word of truth because of erroneous studies. Sometimes these errors are induced intentionally and in most cases it is as a result of not knowing better.
Following Erroneous Steps:
This mainly comes into effect because of carryover from mentors and teachers, who do not know better. And this continues as an extended goad in the hand of people and spreads across.
In one of his epistle as quoted below Apostle Peter talked about being established in the present truth.
“Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth.”
2 Peter I: 12
The implication is that, if someone didn’t study rightly, he will not be able to decipher what the present truth is. And ultimately will walk in error and there is no way one can know the truth in error. No wonder he warned his audience about people who were misinterpreting the letters of Apostle Paul and as quoted here:
“And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.”
2 Peter 3:15-16
This Problem Has Been There For A Long Time:
From the quotation above it is easy to deduce that erroneous interpretation didn’t start in this present times. This issue of erroneous interpretation has been there back in the days of the early Apostles. And unfortunately we are still facing it till this present day. And that is why there is a need for us to tackle it and put it to rest. In his epistle Apostle Jude warned believers about handling the word of truth wrongly and I quote:
“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”
Jude verse 3
Notice that the statement in the quotation above “and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” implies that we should make sure that the document called the faith is kept intact without alteration. The word faith in the sentence is not faith as in the ability to cause miracle to happen. It is referring to the doctrine or the teaching which has been sourced from the Scripture.
Identifying The Truth:
This doctrine sourced from the scripture is called the word of truth. It is disheartening to know that many were doing this because of their selfish earthly gains and otiose glory. And Apostle Paul openly exposed their works as he stated in his epistle to the Philippians thus:
“Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)”
Warning His Audience:
He also said the same thing to his audience in Rome. And he warned them about the consequence of the mishandling of the stipulations of the Scripture. Apostle Paul advised them to avoid those that perpetrate these heinous acts that decimate the sanctity of the faith we have received. The reason for avoidance is that such teachings will definitely lead to error and wrong application is inevitable.
Apostle Paul thus stated:
“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.”
The Need TO Tackle This Problem:
Without mincing words, Apostle Paul in his days never took the issue of erroneous teaching lightly. He was always predisposed to what is taught rightly and rescues himself from the wrong teaching. And he would not give an inch space to someone who wants to bring such in his fold. Apostle Peter received verbal affront from him in Galatia, notwithstanding that he was his senior colleague in the Ministry of Christ.
“But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?”
Interestingly, Paul openly stated that Apostle Peter and his group were not walking according to the truth of the gospel. He openly expose Peter’s mistakes, he didn’t call him by the side or in secret. No wonder he instructed his progenies Timothy and Titus to rebuke those who are in error without mincing words (1Timothy 5:20, Titus 1:13, 2:15). However, of course after that encounter with Paul, Apostle Peter advised himself and knew better.
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Handling The Truth Carefully:
For this reason he audaciously wrote and recommended Apostle Paul’s teaching and instructed his audience not to misinterpret it. On several occasions Apostle Paul instructed his disciples not to go against the truth which he has taught them. This is because he knows that in the knowledge of the truth one can rightly be established in Christ. In the same vein he instructed Titus one of his sons in his epistle to him and as quoted below:
“A lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake.”
Instruction To Rebuke:
Apostle Paul didn’t stop there; he went ahead to instruct him on how he can stop them because it’s important.
“This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.”
As a result of this, Apostle Paul forewarned about the consequence of the erroneous teaching. That it will cause people to begin to choose the kind of teachers they want irrespective of what they are teaching. Here, the suitability of the message is the goal not its correctness. This is what Apostle Paul called itching ears and such is still in vogue even today.
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;”
2 Timothy 4:3
Protecting The Truth Is Very Important:
Overtly, there is this consistency of the word truth in virtually all the quotations that have been written or mentioned. This entails that the word truth is the crux of the matter. And also, it implies that why the Apostles were fighting was because of it. The word truth means the wholeness of the Scripture and it should not be altered for any reason. And if there be a little alteration to it, it is no longer the truth. This is because the truth must be whole for it to be the truth! Jesus in the gospel affirming the wholeness of the Scripture or Word as the truth declared as quoted below:
“Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”
The Work Of The Truth:
In the previous chapter He has declared to His disciples that the word He spoke to them sanctified them (John15:3). This means that what the word of truth does is to sanctify people whenever they hear it. In other words if someone is taught wrongly as a result of wrong interpretation of the truth, he or she will not be sanctified. The truth sanctifies but if it is misinterpreted it pollutes. This became a worrisome situation for the Apostles and they were relentless in pushing the right doctrine. As a matter of fact they continued to point it out to their progenies not to allow any alteration on the truth. This is because it will become the problem.
To be continued…
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