Why Are There Different Interpretations?

“Why are there so many different Christian interpretations? If all Christians have the same Bible, and the same Holy Spirit, should not Christians be able to agree?”

In a perfect world, every believer would dutifully study the Bible (2 Tim 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 (Eph 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.
Scripture says there is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” Eph 4:5. This passage emphasises the unity that should exist in the body of Christ as we are indwelt by “one Spirit” (v4). 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 (v11), which He reveals (v10) and teaches (v13) to those whom He indwells. This activity of the Holy Spirit is called illumination.Scripture says there is “one Lord, one Faith, one baptism” Eph 4:5. This passage emphasises the unity that should exist in the Body of Christ as we are indwelt by “one Spirit” (v4). 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 (v11), which He reveals (v10) and teaches (v13) to those whom He indwells. This activity of the Holy Spirit is called illumination.

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 Cor 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 some people heard only what they wanted to hear.

2. Ignorance
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.

3. Selfishness And Pride
Sadly, 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.
“But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them – bringing swift destruction on themselves.” 2 Peter 2:1.

4. 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.

5. 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 Tim 2:15. There is no shortcut to proper Biblical interpretation; we are constrained to study.

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 Cor 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 division in their church (v4).

7. Overemphasis 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 issues.

Devoted to unity
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. 
COMPELLINGTRUTH is an outreach of www.gotquestions.org. The purpose statement of CompellingTruth.org is: “Presenting the truth of the Christian faith in a compelling, relevant, and practical way.” For more info: www.compellingtruth.org

Jenny- May Hudson, Free From The Shackles Of Abuse

Perched on her living room chair, with a cup of coffee in hand as the winds roar outside, Jenny-May is at peace with herself. She is a woman who radiates the beauty of Christ, and though she bears the scars from years of childhood abuse at the hand of her father, Jenny-May is the epitome of hope, grace and forgiveness.
Jen resides in Perth with her loving husband Elmore, their three children (Zane, 22, Dean 20, and Ashleigh, 16) and their two chihuahuas, but she is still a South African girl at heart and regularly ministers over here.

Jen you have a dramatic story of redemption. Tell us more…
A. In the green leafy city of Pretoria, my father beat my mother even before they were married. After the birth of four children, it was only a matter of time until he directed his anger toward us. He would play mind games, manipulate emotions and use violence to subdue us. The fear I felt for my father was overwhelming. His physical abuse was not the worst though; a family friend (sensing I was looking for fatherly love) began grooming me for sexual molestation.
It started out innocently enough with treats,  pet names (I was his “special” Jenny-May) and trips to the shops…then one night I woke to find Uncle Etienne in my bed. My sobs scared him off, but the shame and fear I felt stayed with me. Dedda continued to beat Mamma, who told me to keep quiet about it all. Threats of violence escalated until one evening neighbours intervened when Dedda threatened to kill us all (he was a police reservist, so guns were always around).

Your father ended up being shot and left paraplegic. How did that affect the rest of your childhood?
A. My father lived by the sword, and one evening he met his match when a night-time altercation ended up with him being shot. I witnessed this trauma at the age of fifteen and was called to testify in court. Because of his new limitations, my father abused prescription drugs and alcohol. He forever altered our lives five years later on New Years Eve – when he intentionally wanted to ruin a celebratory day for all of us.

You were born-again at age nine. How did you relate to God the Father, when your own father was such a negative example?
A. The transformation of my character, and the healing of my many wounds, took years. It is a work in progress. But through it all, I did not blame God. As a child, I directed the reasons for the abuse back to myself: I believed that I was the cause and that I deserved the punishment that came my way. I loved my father, I prayed for him. Through the years, I have experienced God as a loving Father, which supersedes the image I grew up with.

How long did it take for you to reach a place of being “whole” ?
A. Similar to our bodies bearing scars, I do not believe there is such a thing as complete emotional healing; I do believe there is something called total awareness. Layers of awakening that continue unfolding on a daily basis, until we depart from this world. Although scars do not hurt, they remain to be seen, and fade in our hearts and minds when we use the battle through which we acquired them, to help others. Jesus is hope, love and restoration.

What helped you in this process?
I try to focus on how Christ sees me. He sees me as perfect, whole and free. He has never changed His mind about me. The trials I experienced taught me skills such as compassion, understanding, strength, love, self-control and so forth.
Every experience offered me an opportunity to qualify in that area to empathise with others. The process of being whole had more to do with being set free from the lies I believed about myself than healing from the experiences. I took responsibility, aligned myself with the right people, prayed continuously, and changed my attitude.

You have a blessed marriage. What advice can you offer to men whose wives struggle with their past?
A. Love your wife. Love is so powerful.
Elmore loved me unconditionally, and respected my journey. While I messed up horribly at times, he never rejected me. He stuck by me, and is a part of the reason that I am functioning today.
Seek pastoral help, intervention or counselling if your wife needs it. Do not sweep the abuse under the carpet. It can manifest in many negative forms. Your wife cannot just “get over it” My husband did not give my abuse “life”, but he helped me focus on the positives. Seeking help is not a weakness, but in our culture we have almost been conditioned to think that it is, which is extremely sad.

If I suspect a friend is being abused, what should I do?
A. Evil thrives in silence. Prayer is powerful, but one cannot always pray a situation away without doing what is practically needed to bring change. If I keep driving down the same highway, I will keep getting to the same town. To get to a different outcome, I need to take a different route.
My father was only successful in abusing us because he relied on us being too fearful to speak out. It is tricky, because people who are abused often do not believe they deserve better or have been led to believe that they will pay the price if they dare to seek help.
You are a motivational speaker and author; tell us about your ministry.
A. There is nothing better than to see a connection take place with an audience and the liberating truth of Jesus setting people free. I wrote my autobiography truthfully, and speak candidly on stage. I’d like to give a special mention to Angus Buchan for his hand in my book ‘Monsters, Mice and Mercy’. This book would not be without his help.
We frustrate the enemy each time we take the very thing he intended to harm us with, and use it to enlighten and free through Christ, those who have travelled through the same valleys. As I speaker, I love young and old, men and women and I have a wide variety of topics which I speak on. I am regularly in South Africa to speak at ladies days and conferences. I love sharing my story and helping other women live victoriously despite their circumstances. 
Interview by Jackie Georgiou
To book Jenny-May as a speaker, please see her website www.jennymayministries.com. To buy her book, go to Amazon.com or get it from CUM Books. Like her facebook page: Jenny-May Ministries

The Lukewarm Christian

Lukewarm people attend church fairly regularly. It is what is expected of them, what they believe “good Christians” do, so they go. “Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near Me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour Me, but have removed their heart far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the precept of men.” Isaiah 29:13
Lukewarm people give money to charity and to the church as long as it doesn’t impinge on their standard of living. If they have a little extra and it is easy and safe to give, they do so, After all, God loves a cheerful giver, right? 1 Chronicles 21:24, Luke 21:1-4.
Lukewarm people tend to choose what is popular over what is right when they are in conflict. They desire to fit in both at church and outside of church; they care more about what people think of their actions (like church attendance and giving) than what God thinks of their hearts and lives. Luke 6:26, Revelation 3:1, Matthew 23:5-7 4.
Lukewarm people don’t really want to be saved from their sin; they want only to be saved from the penalty of their sin. They don’t genuinely hate sin and aren’t truly sorry for it; they’re merely sorry because God is going to punish them. Lukewarm people don’t really believe that this new life Jesus offers is better than the old sinful one. John 10:10, Romans 6:1-2.
Lukewarm people are moved by stories of people who do radical things for Christ, yet they do not act. They assume such action is for “extreme” Christians, not average ones. Lukewarm people call “radical” what Jesus expected of all His followers. James 1:22, James 4:17, Matthew 21:28-31.
Lukewarm people rarely share their faith with their neighbours, co-workers, or friends. They do not want to be rejected, nor do they want to make people uncomfortable by talking about private issues like religion. Matthew 10:32-33.
Lukewarm people gauge their morality or “goodness” by comparing themselves to the secular world. They feel satisfied that while they aren’t as hard-core for Jesus as so-and-so, they are nowhere as horrible as the guy down the street. Luke 18:11-12.
Lukewarm people say they love Jesus, and He is, indeed, a part of their lives, their money, and their thoughts, but He isn’t allowed to control their lives. Luke 9:57-62.
Lukewarm people love God, but they do not love Him all their heart, soul, and strength. They would be quick to assure you they try to love God that much, but that sort of total devotion isn’t really possible for the average person; its only for pastors and missionaries and radicals. Matthew 22:37-38
Lukewarm people love others but do not seek to love others as much as they love themselves. Their love for others is typically focused on those who love them in return, like family, friends, and other people they know and connect with. There is a little love left over for those who cannot love them back, much less for those who intentionally slight them, who kids are better athletes than theirs, or with whom conversations are awkward or uncomfortable. Their love is highly conditional and very selective, and generally comes with strings attached. Matthew 5:43-47, Luke 14:12-14
Lukewarm people will serve God and others, but there are limits to how far they will go or how much time, money, and energy they are willing to give. Luke 18:21-252.
Lukewarm people think about life on earth much more often than eternity in Heaven. Daily life is mostly focused on today’s to-do list, this week’s schedule, and next months’ vacation. Rarely, if ever do they intently consider the life to come. Philippians 3:18-20
Lukewarm people are thankful for their luxuries and comforts, and rarely consider trying to give as much as possible to the poor. Matthew 25:34, 40, Isaiah 58:6-7
Lukewarm people do whatever is necessary to keep themselves from feeling too guilty. They want to do the bare minimum, to be “good enough” without requiring too much of them. 1 Chronicles 29:14, Matthew 13:44-46
Lukewarm people are continually concerned with playing it safe; they are slaves to the god of control. This focus on safe living keeps them sacrificing and risking for God. Matthew 10:28
Lukewarm people feel secure because they attend church, made a profession of faith at age twelve, were baptized and come from a Christian family or background.
Luke warm people do not live by faith; their lives are structured so they never have to. They don’t have to trust God if something unexpected happens-they have their savings account. They don’t need God to help them – they have their retirement plan in place. They don’t genuinely seek out what life God would have them live—they have life figured and mapped out. They don’t depend on God on a daily basis-their refrigerators are full and, for the most part, they are in good health. The truth is, their lives wouldn’t look much different if they suddenly stopped believing in God. Luke 12:16-21
Lukewarm people probably drink and swear less than average, but besides that, they really aren’t very different from your typical unbeliever. They equate their partially sanitised lives with holiness, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Matthew 23:25-28, Luke 14:34-35

FRANCIS CHAN is an American preacher. This article is an extract from his book ‘Crazy Love’. For more info: www.crazylove.org

Ten Men Christian Women Should Never Marry

My wife and I raised four daughters – without shotguns in the house! – and three of them have already married. We love our sons-in-law, and it’s obvious God handpicked each of them to match our daughters’ temperaments and personality.

I have always believed God is in the matchmaking business. If He can do it for my daughters, He can do it for you.

Today I have several single female friends who would very much like to find the right guy. Some tell me the pickings are slim at their church, so they have ventured into the world of online dating. Others have thrown up their hands in despair, wondering if there are any decent Christian guys left anywhere. They’ve begun to wonder if they should lower their standards in order to find a mate.

My advice stands: Don’t settle for less than God’s best. Too many Christian women today have ended up with an Ishmael because impatience pushed them into an unhappy marriage. Please take my fatherly advice: You are much better off single than with the wrong guy!

Speaking of “wrong guys,” here are the top ten men you should avoid when looking for a husband:

The unbeliever. Please write 2 Corinthians 6:14 on a post-it note and stick it on your computer at work. It says, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” This is not an outdated religious rule. It is the Word of God for you today. Don’t allow a man’s charm, looks or financial success (or his willingness to go to church with you) push you to compromise what you know is right. “Missionary dating” is never a wise strategy. If the guy is not a born-again Christian, scratch him off your list. He’s not right for you. I’ve yet to meet a Christian woman who didn’t regret marrying an unbeliever.
The liar. If you discover that the man you are dating has lied to you about his past or that he’s always covering his tracks to hide his secrets from you, run for the nearest exit. Marriage must be built on a foundation of trust. If he can’t be truthful, break up now before he bamboozles you with an even bigger deception.
The playboy. I wish I could say that if you meet a nice guy at church, you can assume he’s living in sexual purity. But that’s not the case today. I’ve heard horror stories about single guys who serve on the worship team on Sunday but act like Casanovas during the week. If you marry a guy who was sleeping around before your wedding, you can be sure he will be sleeping around after your wedding.
The deadbeat. There are many solid Christian men who experienced marital failure years ago. Since their divorce, they have experienced the Holy Spirit’s restoration, and now they want to remarry. Second marriages can be very happy. But if you find out that the man you are dating hasn’t been caring for his children from a previous marriage, you have just exposed a fatal flaw. Any man who will not pay for his past mistakes or support children from a previous marriage is not going to treat you responsibly.
The addict. Churchgoing men who have addictions to alcohol or drugs have learned to hide their problems – but you don’t want to wait until your honeymoon to find out that he’s a boozer. Never marry a man who refuses to get help for his addiction. Insist that he get professional help and walk away. And don’t get into a co-dependent relationship in which he claims he needs you to stay sober. You can’t fix him.
The bum. I have a female friend who realised after she married her boyfriend that he had no plans to find steady work. He had devised a great strategy: He stayed home all day and played video games while his professional wife worked and paid all the bills. The apostle Paul told the Thessalonians, “If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either” 2 Thess 3:10. The same rule applies here: If a man is not willing to work, he doesn’t deserve to marry you.

The narcissist. I sincerely hope you can find a guy who is handsome. But be careful: If your boyfriend spends six hours a day at the gym and regularly posts close-ups of his biceps on Facebook, you have a problem. Do not fall for a self-absorbed guy. He might be cute, but a man who is infatuated with his appearance and his own needs will never be able to love you sacrificially, like Christ loves the Church (Eph 5:25). The man who is always looking at himself in the mirror will never notice you.
The abuser. Men with abusive tendencies can’t control their anger when it boils over. If the guy you are dating has a tendency to fly off the handle, either at you or others, don’t be tempted to rationalise his behaviour. He has a problem, and if you marry him you will have to navigate his minefield every day to avoid triggering another outburst. Angry men hurt women – verbally and sometimes physically. Find a man who is gentle.

The man-child. Call me old-fashioned, but I’m suspicious of a guy who still lives with his parents at age 35. If his mother is still doing his cooking, cleaning and ironing at that age, you can be sure he’s stuck in an emotional time warp. You are asking for trouble if you think you can be a wife to a guy who hasn’t grown up. Back away and, as a friend, encourage him to find a mentor who can help him mature.
The control freak. Some Christian guys today believe marriage is about male superiority. They may quote Scripture and sound super-spiritual, but behind the façade of husbandly authority is deep insecurity and pride that can morph into spiritual abuse. First Peter 3:7 commands husbands to treat their wives as equals. If the man you are dating talks down to you, makes demeaning comments about women or seems to squelch your spiritual gifts, back away now. He is on a power trip. Women who marry religious control freaks often end up in a nightmare of depression.

If you are a woman of God, don’t sell your spiritual birth right by marrying a guy who doesn’t deserve you. Your smartest decision in life is to wait for a man who is sold out to Jesus.

J. Lee Grady is the former editor of Charisma and the director of the Mordecai Project (themordecaiproject.org). You can follow him on Twitter at @leegrady. He is the author of 10 Lies Men Believe and other books.