Thursday, May 26, 2011

One last word on False Prophets, Discernments, and Private Interpretations

Harold Camping misinterpreted The Bible because he believed he had received some special revelation from God about how to interpret the Bible. Therefore, through a system of numerical calculations, he felt he had come up with the date of the exact end of the world. He was wrong.

First, the Bible is not a complicated book. The Bible says that if the Word of God seems complicated or hidden, it is complicated and hidden to those who are lost. Now, I'm not talking about reading the Bible in a language you can't understand, such as a Spanish Bible or the King James Bible or a French Bible. I'm saying that if you are reading the Bible in your own language you will not be so confused as to get some far-off interpretation of a doctrine or a prophecy.

Secondly, the Bible declares that Scripture must be used to interpret Scripture. Numbers may mean certain things in the Bible but nowhere are Christians told to use numerical calculations to interpret the end of the world. Just because the Bible says "To God a thousand years is LIKE a day a thousand years is like a day" doesn't mean that a thousand years IS a day.

But what then about the verse that declares "knowledge shall increase." What about all the verses that declare the church will grow in knowledge, goodness, love, power, etc? How are Christians to react when some new insight pops up? How can we discern between truth and falsehood? After all, we have people like Mohammed who says he was the promised Holy Spirit. We have Mrs White whose "revelations" created the Seventh Day Adventists. We have Joseph Smith who creates the Mormons. In addition to these false prophets, we also have modern teachers who are showing us how to understand aspects of our faith that have long been forgotten, neglected, or unexplored.

The third thing to remember is that the Bible does not contradict itself. (Folks who don't know their Bibles are always saying it does but it doesn't.) Harold Camping and other false prophets often hold on to their own interpretations in the face of verses that challenge them. Jesus declared, "No man knows the day or the hour." Even if Jesus now knows the day and the hour, He is not going to tell anyone. We understand some date-setting is made in the Book of Revelations. But that was not what Harold Camping was talking to.


So, how are we to deal with discerning?

Well, the Bible tells us:

Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. 2 Peter 1:20


All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16


Well, let us see what Paul does with a particular insight into a verse:
"Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain." This verse is found in  Deuteronomy in a long list of verses about all sorts of stuff. 





He considers this verse so important that he says it again in 1 Timothy 5:18
For the Scripture says, "Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain," and "The worker deserves his wages."



He uses this verse in his second letter to the Corinthians. Here is the entire excerpt:
Who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ. Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel. 2 Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 9




I'm choosing this excerpt because 
A) Paul did such a good exposition job expounding on the meaning of the verse 
B) this verse is so abused by so many money-grubbing ministers who ignore the balancing verses such as the ones warning people not to "suppose that godliness is gain" 
and C) I want to show you the principles Paul used in applying his interpretation to this verse. 


First he uses human logic.



 Who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?

Then he brings in human logic and common sense. He wants to show that the insights he received about the verse is from God:

Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.

Then he shows other Bible verses that shows why his interpretation of that particular verse is right:
Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.


Before Paul said this interpretation about the ox and the corn, no one else in the Bible (as far as I know) had hinted so clearly that the ox is the minister of God's word, that the corn was the word of God, that the treading of the corn was the teaching of the word and the breaking (down) of the spiritual bread into bite-sized pieces. We know the corn is the seed/Scripture because Jesus hinted that the sower sowed the word, when he told the parable of the sower to the crowd. But He had never broken this down to this extent. This is the first time we see (again, as far as I know) this verse being used to show how ministers should be paid from their ministries.




Let's find another example:


Paul writes:
"In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"  Acts 20:35


Now, Jesus never said this specifically. It looks as if Jesus said this to Paul in a vision. And Paul must have told the vision to his hearers and he is reminding them of what Jesus told him in a vision.

What are we to do with what Paul heard in his vision? What are we to do with what we hear in a vision?
The Bible tells us that we must try the prophets to see if what they are saying is true. It tells us we must not believe any spirit that comes to us -- whether an angel who comes in a vision, in a trance, or in a dream, whether it's from a human being, or a supposed alien. (Remember, Mohammed and Joseph Smith had visions of angels. Remember, Mrs. White had her revelations in a trance...just as St Peter had a trance. Remember, the little girl with the gift of divination (mentioned in the Book of Acts) also spoke the gospel. So just because something is supernatural and someone seems to have heard from God...doesn't mean we can listen to any or all of what they tell us.)

So, Paul says, "Jesus told me that it is more blessed to give than to receive."
The question we ask ourselves is this: Does this sound like Jesus? Has this "rhema" spoken to our spirit, has this angelic message, has this comment in a dream, been echoed anywhere in the gospel?
In Paul's case, this word from Jesus is true. Why do we think it is true?

Because Jesus said: Give and it shall be given unto you, good measure, pressed down.
Because Jesus said: Bless them that curse you.
Because Jesus said: If your enemy hunger, feed him.

Although we don't get the same exact "It is more blessed to give than to receive" coming from Jesus' mouth, the words spoken to Paul fall in exactly with what Jesus would say.

I remember getting two statements in dreams.
In one dream, a horse said to me: "You've got to be conceited just enough to survive." This was given to me because I tend to be a pushover and had very little self-esteem as a kid.
The second was another dream where someone said to me: "The exception on earth is heaven's rule."

Both these statements are with me and have helped me for a long time. Now, are they "Biblical"? After pondering them, I believe them to be.

Psalm 91 declares that those who live in the shelter of God's arms will be protected in all dangers. They will be protected so much so that they won't even hit their foot against a stone. They will be so protected that 1000 people may fall at one's right side and 10,000 to one's left side but no danger will come near them.  Can we dare to believe that we could be so protected? Yes, if we can trust that God loves us so deeply and personally. It takes a great deal of conceit -- good spiritual Christian conceit-- to believe that. Conceited enough to survive in this world but no more. Plus, a horse said it to me. In addition to the pun, (I heard it from the horse's mouth) the Bible shows a horse speaking to Baalam. Moreover, the Bible declares, "Let God be true and every man a liar." So there is a precedent for being conceited in God's power, because God's word alone is truth. If God says an impossible thing can be done, a modern Christian must learn to be conceited enough to believe that the impossible can be done...despite what others might think.

As for the other statement, "The exception on earth is heaven's rule," in the Lord's Prayer we are asked to pray that "God's kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is done in heaven." The pun on the word "rule" is found in that prayer.  Rule meaning "standard" and rule meaning "control." God alone has power to make us the exception on earth, and what is normal in heaven is abnormal on earth. We are, however, to pray that God's kingdom come to earth.

So what do we do if we get a word from God in a dream or in a vision? What if an angel tells us something? We go to the Bible and search it to see if these things are true. God's Holy Spirit will not whisper into our hearts anything that is different from what He whispered into the hearts of the Bible writers.

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