Friday, July 6, 2018

Am I Rightly Dividing the Word of God? (pt. 2)

So the Scripture is the beginning, middle, and end of the church. For that reason, we hold to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. Sola Scriptura means Scripture alone is authoritative for faith and practice. Scripture alone determines if your ministry is effective or not.  

DO YOUR HERMENEUTICS HOLD TO SOLA SCRIPTURA?  Are you rightly dividing the Word of truth in your personal bible study or when you share your convictions at a men's or ladies' bible study?  When you quote the Bible on social media are you accurately reflecting what God's Word has to say about such and such an issue?

One needs to consider three questions before arriving at a personal verdict (2 Tim. 2:15; James 3).  1) Have I done the hard work?  2) Am I trying to use biblical interpretation fine print?  3) Do I have a hermeneutic of surrender?

"Our commitment to Sola Scriptura leads to a commitment to hermeneutics—how we study the Bible. Hermeneutics matters because it determines whether we truly hold to Sola Scriptura or not. Here are three questions to help you determine if your hermeneutics hold to Sola Scriptura:
Do I have a hermeneutic of surrender?

God’s Word is His communication to us (cf. 2 Tim 3:16). God has made it clear and accessible via human language (Josh 23:14; Deut 30:11-14; Rom 10:5-10). He has also made it authoritative. We as readers do not have the right to argue with it or change it. It cannot be broken (John 10:35). Rather, we are empowered (Eph 1:17; Jer 31:33) and accountable (2 Pet 3:16) to understand and live out the Scriptures (Jas 1:22).We need to learn to stop struggling against the text and surrender

With that, we don’t have interpretative options when it comes to God’s Word. The Bible is not some platform from which we can pontificate our own theology and advice. Its assertions are also not that which we can shrug off and ignore. It doesn’t have to live up to our reason or sensibilities. Rather, we need to learn to stop struggling against the text and surrender. Its statements become our statements, its reasons our reasons, its categories our categories, and its implications/applications our own worldview and life. Anything else adds to or subtracts from Scripture. Anything else compromises Sola Scriptura.

So as we read Scripture we need to make sure we are surrendered to Scripture. Have I learned what the author has said for the reason he said it and with the range of applications he has ordained? Do I have Scripture’s intent alone? These are critical questions in making sure our hermeneutic upholds Sola Scriptura.

Am I trying to use hermeneutical fine print?

We know what fine print is. It allows you to say one thing and undermine it through a loophole. That’s exactly what some have done with God’s Word. The excuse is pretty standard. They may claim they have a high view of Scripture, but at the same time, claim we can never know what it means. And because we do not know what it means, we cannot be held accountable to an errant view. At that point, people have subverted the authority of God’s Word through the hermeneutical fine print.

To be sure, Scripture has tough passages and doctrines (2 Pet 3:16). Knowing what it means takes hard work (cf. 2 Tim 2:15). Nevertheless, such difficulties in Scripture do not provide an excuse or fine print to hold to any view one desires. Let’s be clear. The moment you do that, you don’t have God’s Word, but your word and you’ve abandoned Sola Scriptura.

We need to ask ourselves the hard question of whether we have used hermeneutics to get out of a hermeneutic of surrender. Have we used supposed ambiguity to cover the fact that we really don’t want to say what Scripture ordains (or even believe that Scripture has said something on an issue)? Have we used a supposed lack of clarity to justify our theological creativity? Those are the questions of the hermeneutical fine print.

We don’t want to get out from the authority of Scripture but further under it. Complexities in Scripture shouldn’t be our excuse to think what we want. It should drive us to study it harder so that we can know what it says and live out the right conclusions. That will mean tremendous patience with ourselves and others as we work through these issues (cf. Eph 4:15; 2 Tim 4:2). Nevertheless, we still need to work through them. That is the demand of Sola Scriptura on hermeneutics. It wipes out the hermeneutical fine print.

Have I done the hard work?

We know the Scripture is rich and deep (Ps 119:18). Verbal plenary inspiration demonstrates that every word is inspired, God’s very own communication (2 Tim 3:16). The biblical writers exhibit this as they show how individual phrases (Rom 4:3-12) and words (Gal 3:16) of Scripture bring forth its sublime truth. The clarity of God’s Word leads to its precision and profundity. All of it, down to the word, is useful, powerful, and binding.

In light of this, the question is whether we have done the hard work. Have I really studied a passage and understood the background, context, point, structure, theology, and applications of a text down to the detail of every word? Can I put all of this together so that I know precisely all the author has willed in this passage?

Doing that takes hard work but that is the very nature of Scripture and what it demands (cf. 2 Tim 2:15). The reason that sermons, Bible studies, Sunday school lessons, or devotions lack depth is often because we haven’t spent the time and effort to go beneath the surface. The depth is there; we just need to apply ourselves to discover what God has said.

So we need to remember that Sola Scriptura is not merely the sola but also the Scriptura. The doctrine not only reminds us of what is excluded but all that is included as authoritative for life and practice. That is the totality of the Bible in its breadth and depth. Thus, we need to really check ourselves if we have done the hard work required. That truly upholds Sola Scriptura.


We do not want to be people who merely confess Sola Scriptura but those who live it with conviction. That flows into our hermeneutics. Every time we open our Bibles, we need to be ready to say only what Scripture says, to work hard to know all it says, and to not have excuses that would undermine any of that. Sola Scriptura leads to a hermeneutic of absolute surrender so that what we have in the end is the Scripture and nothing but the Scripture. At that moment, our people will not only hear us declare Sola Scriptura but see it in our lives."

Article first published by Dr. Abner Chou.  Chou is one of the best instructors today in the biblical languages and in the arena of hermeneutics.  This is part 2 of 2.  Part 1 of this short series was posted on July 5th, 2018.

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