Critical Components of Biblical Interpretation

Components of Biblical Interpretation

Biblical interpretation is a considerable part of evangelism and all round Christian living. Though written many years ago, Bible scriptures and themes highlighted remain relevant to contemporary situations. For this reason, there is a need to understand the components of its interpretation. This will be significant in ensuring the responsible use of Scripture in ministry today.

One component of biblical interpretation that can be used to determine the meaning of Scripture and ultimately ensure its responsible use is a grammatical analysis of Scripture. This is useful because the Bible was written in a human language which has structure and follows rules of grammar. Therefore, as a preacher, there is a need to first examine a Bible passage by carefully defining the words in it. In doing so, one must be careful and define the words in accordance to their original intent. This serves to ensure that the application of a given passage is in harmony with its original meaning. Further, the truth of the matter is words evolve over time, and thus, a certain word used in the Bible must have been used in the context of the original time it was written to pass a message to the original hearers.

Another critical component of biblical interpretation that results in the responsible use of Scripture in ministry today is contextual analysis. The context of a passage or a phrase in the Bible plays a significant role in its interpretation as it determines meaning. For a preacher to be able to make the correct interpretation and thus be able to correctly apply Scripture in ministry today he/she must look at all circles of the context and avoid interpreting the Scripture in isolation. This includes the near context of a sentence, paragraph, section, the book, and author who wrote it. This can be illustrated by the following verse. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20) If the verse is interpreted in isolation, it can be taken as a verse on salvation in which someone is inviting Jesus into their lives for the first time. However, the context before the verse (v. 19) is about the discipline of believers while assessing the larger paragraph reveals the passage is addressed to the church. Thus, the correct interpretation of the verse is that it is addressed to believers who are being asked to repent their sins and seek fellowship with God.

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In this sense, as a minister one is expected to understand each word in a passage in a normal, literal way. There is no need to view a word as a figure of speech unless otherwise. For example, when the literal words fail to make sense then one can view them as a figure of speech. For instance, Isaiah 55:12 is a verse which is figurative in nature as the literal meaning of its words do not make sense when taken at face value. The verse talks about how the trees of the field clap their hands. Since trees do not have any hands and thus lack the ability to clap, this verse must be figurative. Thus, in literal analysis words mean what they mean and there is no need to spiritualize them unless they fail to make any sense.

Another critical component of biblical interpretation that results in the responsible use of Scripture in ministry today is historical analysis. In this instance, as a minister, one should focus on the period of time and events that were happening when the text was first written. This can include formulating analysis questions such as, where is the author and his audience from? What situations are they facing economically, socially, and politically? What is the author’s purpose for writing the book? Thus, understanding the lives and cultural background of people who the specific book was written for will facilitate a more accurate interpretation. Therefore, in all this, ministers are cautioned against interpreting Scripture according to today’s cultural setting. For example, the verse in Ephesians 5:18 says “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the spirit”. In the current cultural perspective, this can be understood as do not be drunk with beer or whiskey. It may also be said as do not overdose on drugs. This can be taken as proper application of the verse in today’s time since the impact of beer, whiskey, and drugs are close enough to that of wine as in the time period of the verse. However, when the verse is interpreted to mean things such as do not eat a lot of junk food, then the interpretation will be going out of the original meaning of the author.

Comprehensive Plan for Spiritual Formation of Christian Disciples

As a minister, one is tasked with the responsibility of facilitating the spiritual formation of their congregation. The biblical foundation can be found in Paul’s assertion of this responsibility in Ephesians 4: 11-13 when he writes, “He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ’s followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.” This is why Paul himself undertook the task of mentoring others. For instance, he mentored Titus and Timothy by spending time with them as he developed them into spiritual leaders. Further, Jesus explains the need for spiritual formation when He asserts the importance of developing characters and qualities necessary for successful ministry. The theological reflection on spiritual formation of Christian disciples reveals the necessity of this being a way of deepening their faith and furthering their spiritual growth so that they become more Christ like. To be able to successful carryout spiritual formation of one’s church; there is a need for one to possess certain essential ministry skills and character. In the first place, there is a need for one to have a Christ-like character which is as a result of an inner life formed by the Holy Spirit.

A comprehensive plan for the spiritual formation of Christian disciples encompasses the following. Before proceeding to highlight the plan, it is imperative to note that it is made up of sections that will be implemented in stages. The first step of the plan entails assessing the spiritual needs of the disciples. This is essential as it will guide the process of identifying the best method of meeting these needs. Following identification of the spiritual needs of the disciples, it is necessary to group them according to the extent of the needs. This will serve to ensure that the most effective style of spiritual formation is applied that will help people blossom spiritually. The third step of the plan entails applying the appropriate spiritual formation technique to the appropriate group. Before doing so, it is equally important to note that the spiritual formation technique that will be applied will not only depend on the spiritual need of the disciples, but also on their characters. That is if one technique works for one disciple, it may not work for another. This should be done during the moment when a minister is separating his disciples into groups. One technique that can be used to promote spiritual formation among disciples is preaching. A minister should strive to preach sermons that are more spiritual in nature. Another way of promoting spiritual formation is developing mission teams that will go out to evangelize. This can be very effective for those disciples that are extrovert in nature. It will help them in their journey to salvation and make them feel closer to God. Other disciples can receive spiritual formation through the use of pastoral care. In this sense, a minister will hold one to one talks with a disciple and help them comprehend the Bible and also pray with them. Others can achieve spiritual formation when they are given leadership positions in key areas of spiritual growth such as in worship teams. Having identified how spiritual formation will be carried for their disciple, a minister should then implement the plan as the final step.

Acts and Equipping Saints for 21st Century Global Ministry

The 21st century global ministry encompasses many challenges. The ability of saints to guide people through a transformational faith experience has proven difficult. This is due to the misconception that many of the saints and evangelist are making by focusing on introducing people to the church instead of Jesus. Further, the ministry is about serving others in one capacity or another. It is a way of showing love which is the opening gate that pulls them towards believing. The Pentecostal/Charismatic movement has been busy equipping saints for this 21st century global ministry. This practice of equipping the saints for the 21st century global ministry involves preparing them to do the Lord’s work so they can be effective despite many challenges they will face. Regardless of the difference in time, the cultural/historical and theological nature of the Acts is still relevant to this practice of equipping the saints for the work of the Lord by the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement. This is because it can influence the practice since many of the actions taken by church leaders during this time can still be used today to overcome the hardships faced in the ministry.

The Acts depicts how the early church worked hard to overcome the challenges it faced as strived to grow and carry out its mission of serving others. Some of these challenges included opposition of its work, insufficient people and funds, government interference through bureaucracy, and internal misunderstandings. This has an impact on the Pentecostal/Charismatic practice of equipping the saints for the 21st century global ministry. In fact, these same challenges are still present today. There are many groups that have risen up to oppose Christian beliefs, the number of people willing to take up the work of the saints has reduced, and today, many are entering the ministry for their own selfish reasons ranging from fame and wealth. Thus, in the endeavor to equip saints from overcoming these challenges the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement has strived to apply what the saints in the Acts did to overcome these problems during their time.

The historical nature of the Acts affects the Pentecostal/Charismatic practice of equipping saints of the 21st century global ministry in the following ways. First, in the early days of the saints as highlighted in the Acts, the apostles were given apostolic keys and commission to take the gospel to all parts of the world. In this same way, the modern day apostles receive their power of apostleship through the line of authority of the first three apostles: Peter, John, and James. Secondly, one of the early acts of the first apostles was replacing a vacancy among the twelve, following the death of Judas after his betrayal. Choosing the replacement involved fair casting of votes and petitioning God. The process was smooth, and a replacement was chosen. This affects the Pentecostal/Charismatic practice of equipping saints of the 21st century global ministry in that it equips them with skills for choosing their leadership. The concept here being applied is not the replacement of a vacancy, but rather the process of successful choosing someone who will be accepted by all. In the activities of spreading the gospel and ministering to people about the word, there is a need for clear leadership that will efficiently guide the saints in their work.

On the other hand, the theological nature of the Acts affects the Pentecostal/Charismatic practice of equipping saints for the 21st century global ministry in the following ways. In the first place, the power the apostles received that commissioned them to spread the gospel throughout the world was from on high. It was brought about by the Holy Spirit to help them fulfill their mission. This impacts the Pentecostal/Charismatic practice of equipping saints for the 21st century global ministry in that it guides their work towards helping the saints receive the Holy Spirit which will help them throughout their work as they spread the gospel just like the ancient apostles in the Acts. For instance, the Holy Spirit can be useful in overcoming the challenge of cultural difficulty among the saints. This can be illustrated by the encounter of Philip with an Ethiopian believer. While en route to Gaza, he met an Ethiopian man who was a believer reading the word but not comprehending it. This encounter provided Philip with an opportunity to minister to the Ethiopian and explain to him what he was reading. Later, Philip baptized him, and when the Ethiopian returned to his home, he brought Christianity with him and changed his homeland. This shows that the Holy Spirit can bring together people for the sake of the word despite the differences in culture and language. Cultural diversity and language barrier is a normal obstacle that the saints will face. Thus, the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement will hasten to equip the saints with skills to overcome this barrier not only through the fill of the Holy Spirit but also by teaching them new languages and embracing the concept of globalization which will be essential in bringing together the saints and those who they minister to.

Cross-Cultural Ministry

God’s plan has always been to enfold all his people into his kingdom no matter what nation they come from, tribe they are, or language they speak. To fulfill this plan, the church which is God’s tool for missionary work is tasked with the duty of bearing witness to Christ and advancing his kingdom everywhere crossing all cultural barriers. This is what cross-cultural ministry all is about. The Apostle Paul was very instrumental in advancing cross-cultural ministry as illustrated throughout his epistles. He spread the gospel to the Jews. This can be illustrated by his synagogue address to the Jews in Acts 13: 13-52. While preaching to the Jews, Paul integrates their history and expectations and applies culturally acceptable interpretation of Scripture. He presents salvation as the realization of the Davidic promise. To the Greeks who are considered as pagans, he preaches to them in an engaging manner that establishes a shared humanity. He attempts to change the Greeks worship of many gods towards the worship of one true God by introducing him to them and ensuring he does not equate him to their many gods. In Acts 17: 16 -34, Paul spreads the gospel to the Athenians. In this respect, he applies a model of intercultural evangelistic witnessing. Once again, he tries to use a style that suits his audience. In this case, he makes his reflections using the Hellenized style which the Athenians are comfortable with.

From the Apostle Paul’s view of cross-cultural ministry, a consistent philosophy regarding cross-cultural ministry engagement can be developed. Such a philosophy should encourage building of close cross-cultural relationships among people. This will be essential in promoting the sharing of the Gospel and thus bring many people closer to God. This is because it will unite people from differing cultures to perceive each other as one people. In a similar manner, a philosophy of cross-cultural ministry engagement should enable believers to build vertical kind of bridges between God through Christ and people from their surrounding cultures. This should also include building horizontally like bridges between the church and communities they serve. In addition, a consistent philosophy regarding cross-cultural ministry engagement should encourage the development of a common ground among the varying cultures. This is in line with Apostle Paul’s efforts of traveling a sizeable distance to reach his audience and make use of the indigenous language and concepts to spread his message to the people. In the same way, evangelists and missionaries in their effort to spread the Gospel of Christ should strive to use the local language of the people they are witnessing to and try to use concepts and literary traditions that are familiar with the people. This is likely to resonate well with people, and they are more likely to appreciate the message of Christ.
The main participants of the cross-cultural ministry can be taken to be God, humanity, and the church.

Consequently, to further understand the philosophy of cross-cultural ministry engagement, there is a need to understand the nature of God, humanity, and the church as they relate to cross-cultural diversity. Firstly, God is love and, for this reason, He loves all his people equally. This love is asserted in the verse “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10)

That is, God’s love is unconditional. This relates to cross-cultural diversity in the sense God does not show any form of discrimination neither favoritism. More so, he is a God who is very passionate about being in harmony with his creation. As all people are the creation of God, He wishes them all to get close to him despite the differences in their culture and background.

Secondly, the nature of humanity as it relates to cross-cultural diversity begins with the fact that man is created in God’s image. For this reason, human beings should always view one another in equal light despite the differences in culture. Moreover, this confirms that the Gospel is meant to be shared to all people and not just to some sections of people.

Finally, the nature of the church can be explained as a place that is meant to be open to all. Therefore, the church accommodates all people no matter their differences. Thus, this nature of the church relates to cross-cultural diversity in the sense that it promotes diversity of all people. The church is also universal. Therefore, all people can belong to the church, despite their differences in culture.

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