Lesson 6

Why Is Interpretation Needed?

(Luke 24, Hebrews 11, John 9)
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Introduction: My granddaughters are beginning readers. I watched a video of one of them reading her Bible. When she faced a more difficult word, she would sound out the letters, and then consider whether that word made sense in that sentence. We should never get over determining how the words of the Bible work together to make sense. How is the best way to do this? Let's see what the Bible teaches us on this subject!

  1. Belief


    1. Read Luke 24:36-37. What would cause the disciples think that Jesus was a ghost? (Dead people who visit are not real.)


    2. Read Luke 24:38. What is Jesus really asking? Drill down to what is at the bottom of His question? (Why do you presume that I am still dead?)


    3. Read Luke 24:39-40. Let's look at how Jesus goes about changing their presumptions about Him. What is the first approach Jesus takes? (He gives them practical proof. He appeals to their sense of sight and touch. Jesus' hands and feet would show the marks of His crucifixion.)


      1. What is an equivalent today for helping someone to correctly interpret the Bible? (To show how the Bible has changed you or changed someone else.)


    4. Read Luke 24:41. Why did the disciples not believe their sense of sight and touch? (They were overwhelmed with joy. It was "too good to be true.")


    5. Read Luke 24:42-43. How is this different than showing His hands and feet? (This is still physical proof, but it also involves their understanding of the difference between humans and spirits in terms of the life process.)


      1. What is an equivalent today for helping someone to correctly interpret the Bible? (Instead of a snapshot of the life of a changed person, you would show how they approach problems differently. Their thinking process has changed.)


    6. Read Luke 24:44-45. How is Jesus changing their presumptions now? (He turns to the Bible to prove this is what was supposed to happen to Him.)


      1. The equivalent today would be teaching an unbeliever through a Bible study. Why did Jesus not start His proof with the Bible?


        1. Is there a lesson in this for us today?


    7. Read Luke 24:46-48. Jesus is quoting the Bible. He seems to have Hosea 6:1-3 in mind. Let's read it. What new element has Jesus added to His proof that He is risen? (He points to a text that not only mentions the third day for restoration, it sets out the path for the disciples - they will "press on" to acknowledge Jesus' work as His as witnesses. What could be better than a prophecy that mentions the work of the person that you are trying to convince?)


    8. Read Luke 24:49. What additional proof will the disciples be given? (They will be "clothed" with the power of the Holy Spirit!)


      1. Have you considered adding this to your understanding of the Bible?


        1. Will the Holy Spirit reinforce (or challenge) your understanding of the Bible?


        2. Should you invite a nonbeliever to look for the leading of the Holy Spirit?


    9. Read Hebrews 11:6. What is the ultimate requirement for interpreting the Bible? (Faith! A belief that God can change things.)


  2. Our Limitations


    1. Read John 9:1-2. What caused the disciples to believe that blindness came about because of sin? (Their spiritual understanding is filtered through their existing beliefs.)


      1. Is this a problem for us in understanding the Bible?


    2. Read John 9:3. What is required to believe Jesus? (The disciples would put away their belief that sin caused this.)


    3. Jesus gives the blind man sight. Let's skip down a few verses and read John 9:14-16. What prevented the Pharisees from believing that Jesus healed this man? (It was their understanding of the Bible and the nature of sin.)


      1. What motivated others to argue that Jesus was not a sinner? (Their understanding of the Bible that sinners could not perform miracles.)


      2. Do you see that we have two different understandings of the Bible that result in different conclusions?


        1. How should we avoid this problem? Can it be avoided? (The Pharisees argue that their understanding of the Bible prevents Jesus from having performed this miracle. The other group accepts the miracle and Jesus' role in it. This second group looks for a correct understanding. Following the course of the second group helps us to set aside prior thinking in understanding the Bible.)


    4. Read John 9:19-22. What motivates the response of the blind man's parents? (They are afraid of being "put out of the synagogue.")


      1. Does this reflect a problem today when we try to understand the Bible? Are we afraid to reach certain conclusions because of the reaction of those within our church?


      2. If we read the views of early leaders of our church, we find exhortations not to allow what we have believed in the past to control our present understanding. However, the established church tells us to hold on to the "pillars" and to rest on the "firm foundation" of current belief. Which is correct? Are both wrong?


    5. Read John 9:30-34. What was feared happened - the man is thrown out of the synagogue. What do you think about the logic of the formerly blind man?


      1. How important is logic to understanding the Bible? Can it be a trap? (While I understand the warnings about pride and human reasoning, I believe that logic is essential as shown by this formerly blind man. Recall two weeks ago our discussion about the dishonest servant ( Luke 16:8), and how the master commended him for being "shrewd?" That counsels common sense.)


      2. What do you think about the formerly blind man's lack of deference to the religious leaders? (His lack of deference arises from a combination of his understanding of what happened to him and his religious beliefs. That is much different than simply being disrespectful.)


    6. Read John 9:39-41. Do we struggle with blindness in interpreting the Bible? How can we cure this? (In our story Jesus intervenes to fix the blindness of those who want a cure. Today, we can call on God in the form of the Holy Spirit, if we are willing, to fix our blindness.)


    7. Read 2 Peter 3:15-16. How easy is it to correctly understand the Bible? (This text tells us that some things written by Paul are "hard to understand.")


      1. What is at stake if we distort the Bible? (Our eternal life. We must be very careful in studying to try to reach the correct understanding.)


        1. Is this a matter of intelligence? When you think back to school, some students understood the subject better than others. Are some, who are less intelligent, at a disadvantage in understanding the Bible? (We all have equal access to the Holy Spirit. Those who think they are smart, may be at a disadvantage because of pride of opinion.)


    8. Friend, will you approach the Bible with a mind open to its truth? Will you ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into a correct understanding of the Word? Why not resolve to do that right now?


  3. Next week: Language, Text, and Context.

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Lessons on Biblical Interpretation

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