In the course I’m taking, one assignment was to write a response to someone who interpreted a verse out of context in order to ‘prove’ a personal viewpoint. This happens often, but it wasn’t the only issue. This imaginary person also came from a tradition that does not believe God inspired Scripture, but that the Bible is only the words of the authors. If this were true, how can anyone know anything about God? All of us would flounder with our own pet ideas.
In the assignment, I tried to address the second problem by appealing to what hopefully would be an open mind that would reconsider the verse in question from a different perspective. Today’s passage should have been included in my response . . .
“And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:19–21)
This short passage points to several important elements when it comes to figuring out what any passage of the Bible is saying, but there is one that is “first of all” — no one wrote it and no one can figure it out apart from the activity of the Holy Spirit. God is the co-author and the co-interpreter.
This has to be the way it works because those who are without a relationship with God say things like, “The Bible makes no sense to me.” If they try to understand it using their own reasoning, they come up with ideas and doctrine that is foreign to what the church of Christ has understood for centuries.
Yet it isn’t just being without a relationship with God that blocks understanding; sin blocks illumination from the Holy Spirit too. We need to be walking in the light of Christ, not the darkness of sin. If Christians have sin in our lives, we don’t get it either.
There is another barricade, that of human finiteness. God is God and His mind is out of my reach. These reasons are why the Scriptures say, “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:6–9)
God knows our thoughts. The New Testament many times says of Jesus that He, “knew their thoughts” but clearly points out that “no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:11) and “Who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” (1 Corinthians 2:16)
However, and this is so amazing that I tremble in the writing of it, the rest of 1 Corinthians 2:16 says, “But we have the mind of Christ.”
Because of God’s grace through faith, Jesus gives us His life. Yes He gave it on the cross to die for our sins, but also yes He gives it in a saving relationship. In entering into those who believe, He makes us new creatures, people who can actually think the thoughts of God.
We are not perfect at it, and many times need those thoughts clarified by His written expression of them, but this explains the ‘how’ of interpreting the Bible. As our human mind figures out the words of the text, considers the culture and the context and so forth, the Holy Spirit uses the mind of Christ to illuminate God’s meaning to our hearts and minds. He even helps us apply it, again by the aid of the Holy Spirit.
This astonishing truth puts me on my knees in tears. My ideas can be so crappy, so dense, so illiterate and without shape or form, but the mind of Christ? Especially at times when I need it the most, the pure, clear and omniscient Son of God actually gives me His thoughts.