Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Friday, December 10, 2010

That's Just Your Interpretation!

Pastor’s Window for December 2010
That’s Just Your Interpretation!

Our culture would have us believe that whenever we Christians speak about doctrine or morality on the basis of the Holy Scriptures, that’s “just your interpretation.” The implication is that any and every other interpretation of the Scriptures is equally valid, even an interpretation that denies the Scriptures altogether. This Advent-tide, as we approach the celebration of the mystery of the incarnation, God in human flesh, television and newsstands will be filled with so-called “theologians” offering their “interpretation” of the Christmas story and the meaning of Jesus’ birth. On the plus side, this will offer believing Christians an opportunity to confess the Savior to a worldwide audience. Dr. Paul Maier from Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, who also currently serves as our Synod’s 3rd Vice President, is in demand on these programs as a go-to scholar and spokesman for orthodox Christianity. But the down side is that equal time, if not the greater amount of time, is given to “Christian” and other scholars who admittedly do not believe the Scriptures to be the inspired Word of God, and in many cases do not believe that Jesus is God in human flesh.

And so we must be careful, diligent, and discerning when we watch these programs and read these articles. It should not be surprising that unbelievers pose as Christian scholars only to tear down the Christian faith, for Satan himself parades as “an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14). We dare not fall prey to the demonic deception that these unbelieving scholars, as smart as they may be, offer another “valid interpretation.” For in truth, the chief qualification for one who would interpret Scripture is that they believe in Jesus Christ, and in His Word in the Holy Scriptures.

All of this is simply to say that not everything or everyone that claims to be “Christian” should be regarded as such. Jesus tells us to “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matt. 7:15; ESV). These are false teachers, who appear to be Christians outwardly, but in subtle ways that sound good to our itching ears, they teach us false doctrine and so poison our faith. Believe it or not, much of what is sold in Christian bookstores is precisely this kind of false teaching. The same is true for much of what passes for Christian radio and television. We have to be on our guard. And it won’t do to defend false teachers on the basis of their sincerity: “But he’s so sincere! He’s so genuine! His heart is in the right place.” Beloved in the Lord, false teachers may very well be sincere in their false teaching. They are sincerely wrong.

So how do we know the difference between true and false teaching? We should always be comparing the doctrine we hear and read with the Word of God in Holy Scripture. We should even compare the doctrine taught by those we know to be Christians with the Word of God. When Paul and Silas came preaching Jesus Christ to the Jews in Berea, “they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). This is what we should do. We should test the doctrine being taught. St. John writes, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). We should not believe everyone who comes along claiming to be a teacher of the Scriptures or claiming to speak for God. We should put them to the test. Are they believers in Christ? Are they faithful to His Word? For John continues: “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God” (vv. 2-3). That makes it pretty easy to discern who we should and should not listen to when we watch the Christmas specials and read the secular articles about Jesus’ birth. Only those who clearly confess that the man, Christ Jesus, is God in the flesh, are Christians. All the others, no matter how loudly they protest, are unbelievers.

And of course, to be discerning, to recognize true and false doctrine for what it is, you should know the Scriptures yourself. That means attending the Divine Service regularly, to hear the Word read and explained during the sermon, and making sure to be in Bible class, to take an in-depth look at what God says in His Word. It also includes making use of trustworthy study materials and devotional books at home. For we should be occupied each day with God’s Word, daily examining the Scriptures as the Bereans did.

For finally, all interpretations are not equal. Not every interpretation is valid. Only the interpretation that is consistent with the rest of the Word of God is the right interpretation. There is such a thing as truth. There is such a thing as true doctrine. God’s Word is truth. And that doctrine is true that comes from the Word of God. And here is the most precious truth: The Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14)!

Pastor Krenz

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