Weekly Devotionals 5-30-22
Why are there so many different Interpretations?”
Answer: Scripture says there is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism”
(Ephesians 4:5). This passage emphasizes the unity that should
exist in the body of Christ as we are indwelt by “one Spirit” (verse
4). In verse 3, Paul makes an appeal to humility, meekness,
patience, and love—all of which are necessary to preserve unity.
According to 1 Corinthians 2:10-13, the Holy Spirit knows the mind
of God (verse 11), which He reveals (verse 10) and teaches (verse
13) to those whom He indwells. This activity of the Holy Spirit is
In a perfect world, every believer would dutifully study the Bible
(2 Timothy 2:15) in prayerful dependence upon the Holy Spirit’s
illumination. As can be clearly seen, this is not a perfect world. Not
everyone who possesses the Holy Spirit actually listens to the Holy
Spirit. There are Christians who grieve Him (Ephesians 4:30). Ask
any educator—even the best classroom teacher has his share of
wayward students who seem to resist learning, no matter what the
teacher does. So, one reason different people have different
interpretations of the Bible is simply that some do not listen to the
Teacher—the Holy Spirit. Following are some other reasons for the
wide divergence of beliefs among those who teach the Bible.
1. Unbelief. The fact is that many who claim to be Christians have
never been born again. They wear the label of “Christian,” but there
has been no true change of heart. Many who do not even believe
the Bible to be true presume to teach it. They claim to speak for
God yet live in a state of unbelief. Most false interpretations of
Scripture come from such sources.
It is impossible for an unbeliever to correctly interpret Scripture.
“The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come
from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he
cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1
Corinthians 2:14). An unsaved man cannot understand the truth of
the Bible. He has no illumination. Further, even being a pastor or
theologian does not guarantee one’s salvation.
An example of the chaos created by unbelief is found in John 12:28-
29. Jesus prays to the Father, saying, “Father, glorify your name.”
The Father responds with an audible voice from heaven, which
everyone nearby hears. Notice, however, the difference in
interpretation: “The crowd that was there and heard it said it had
thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.” Everyone heard
the same thing—an intelligible statement from heaven—yet
everyone heard what he wanted to hear.
2. Lack of training. The apostle Peter warns against those who
misinterpret the Scriptures. He attributes their spurious teachings in
part to the fact that they are “ignorant” (2 Peter 3:16). Timothy is
told to “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a
workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly
handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). There is no shortcut
to proper biblical interpretation; we are constrained to study.
3. Poor hermeneutics. Much error has been promoted because of
a simple failure to apply good hermeneutics (the science of
interpreting Scripture). Taking a verse out of its immediate context
can do great damage to the intent of the verse. Ignoring the wider
context of the chapter and book, or failing to understand the
historical/cultural context will also lead to problems.
4. Ignorance of the whole Word of God. Apollos was a powerful
and eloquent preacher, but he only knew the baptism of John. He
was ignorant of Jesus and His provision of salvation, so his message
was incomplete. Aquila and Priscilla took him aside and “explained
to him the way of God more adequately” (Acts 18:24-28). After
that, Apollos preached Jesus Christ. Some groups and individuals
today have an incomplete message because they concentrate on
certain passages to the exclusion of others. They fail to compare
Scripture with Scripture.
5. Selfishness and pride. Sad to say, many interpretations of the
Bible are based on an individual’s own personal biases and pet
doctrines. Some people see an opportunity for personal
advancement by promoting a “new perspective” on Scripture. (See
the description of false teachers in Jude’s epistle.)
6. Failure to mature. When Christians are not maturing as they
should, their handling of the Word of God is affected. “I gave you
milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you
are still not ready. You are still worldly” (1 Corinthians 3:2-3). An
immature Christian is not ready for the “meat” of God’s Word. Note
that the proof of the Corinthians’ carnality is a division in their
church (verse 4).
7. Undue emphasis on tradition. Some churches claim to believe
the Bible, but their interpretation is always filtered through the
established traditions of their church. Where tradition and the
teaching of the Bible are in conflict, tradition is given precedence.
This effectively negates the authority of the Word and grants
supremacy to the church leadership.
On the essentials, the Bible is abundantly clear. There is nothing
ambiguous about the deity of Christ, the reality of heaven and hell,
and salvation by grace through faith. On some issues of less
importance, however, the teaching of Scripture is less clear, and this
naturally leads to different interpretations. For example, we have no
direct biblical command governing the frequency of communion or
the style of music to use. Honest, sincere Christians can have
differing interpretations of the passages concerning these peripheral
The important thing is to be dogmatic where Scripture is and to
avoid being dogmatic where Scripture is not. Churches should
strive to follow the model of the early church in Jerusalem: “They
devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship,
to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). There was unity
in the early church because they were steadfast in the apostles’
doctrine. There will be unity in the church again when we get back
to the apostles’ doctrine and forego the other doctrines, fads, and
gimmicks that have crept into the church.
Written by staff writers at Got Questions.org
Lord help us seek the Holy Spirit’s illumination and direction as we
study your word.