Have you ever been misunderstood? Have you ever had your words taken out of context? Have you ever had someone take your words and give them their meaning? If you have, you understand the frustration that can come with being presented inaccurately. Yet, I’m sad to say, this happens all too often with the most important Words in our world – those spoken and given by God Himself.
The Need to Rightly Divide
Ryrie, in his classic book on Dispensationalism, asserts that there are three non-negotiables for being a dispensationalist. First, and foremost, deals with the way Scripture is interpreted. Within a dispensational scheme, Bible expositors have a goal to consistently interpret the Bible in a way that is described as the grammatical-historical method. This is sometimes referred to as the literal method. Others prefer to call it the normal (or common-sense) method.
Regardless of what the method is called, the approach has a goal to understand the passage in its historical, cultural, and grammatical context. The approach gives priority to God’s progressive revelation. In other words, we don’t judge David’s actions by New Testament standards (that revelation was yet to be given). God’s revelation was given “here a little, there a little; line upon line, precept upon precept.”
It cannot mean what it never meant
The Bible’s meaning doesn’t change with time. Each successive generation does not have the liberty to say, “Today, the Bible means this…” In a Bible study, we do not ask, “What does this mean to you?” We simply ask, “What does this mean?” What it meant then is what it means now. The meaning is consistently the same.
Why a literal approach?
Hey parents, have you had that moment when your kids do something totally opposite of what you said, but are convinced they have still obeyed? When you try to wrap your mind around their thinking, here’s their “out” – “Hey dad, today’s Opposite Day…”
When there is no agreed-upon meaning, you cannot have communication. All you have are las palabras en el pagina. I mean, after all, εν αρχη εν ο λογος! Some may be able to pronounce the words I added…but that doesn’t mean you necessarily understand them. For communication to take place – whether written or spoken – we have to be speaking the same language!
If God is going to communicate with man and be understood, and if those words are to have an objective meaning – then the normal, historical, grammatical, literal approach should definitely be given priority.
The prophecies that have already been fulfilled were fulfilled literally. We have warrant to expect that the remaining prophecies will be fulfilled in like manner.
If we believe that God is able to communicate with His creation – and we do – then it makes sense that He would use a way in which there would be no misunderstanding His message. Granted, there are times He wanted to hide the meaning from those in the audience…So, when He wanted to hide the meaning, He used parables. When He wanted no equivocation on what He meant, He spoke plainly.
Regardless of where you are within the world of hermeneutics, I believe the desire of all sincere believers is to understand what God has said. The hermeneutical method of Dispensationalism has been a great help to me in my own personal Bible study.
Stay tuned for more!