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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Five Principles of Bible Interpretation # 2

Our measure of understanding of the Bible will be just in accordance with the measure of our spiritual life. This is why the Lord takes us through experiences in order to bring us to understanding. The measure of our death to the natural mind will be the measure of our understanding of the things of the Spirit. Please remember that in these days which are before us. Something has got to happen IN us before we understand the Scripture. We cannot understand the Word of God by just deciding that we are going to have a training course, that we are going to have some classes for Bible teaching. No, that is not the way in which we come to understanding of the Word of God. We shall only understand according to the measure of our spiritual life. That is the principle of Biblical interpretation. Now we come to the fourth.

The Final Mention

The final mention of any particular matter in the Bible is usually a key to all its meaning. That is something that we must think about. We find certain things mentioned again and again in the Bible; but when we come to the final occasion where that thing is mentioned, we usually find the key to all that has been said about that matter before. If you take a particular matter, where it is mentioned for the last time, and then note the setting and the context and the relationship, you will get the full meaning of all that has been said about that before.

Now that is a statement that I have made, and you will need to think and to work on that, but I will help you by taking just one illustration. In the last chapter of the Bible, Revelation twenty-two and verse two, we have the last reference to "the tree of life." Now when we go right back to the beginning of the Bible, we have "the tree of life" mentioned, but we are told nothing about it - it is just referred to as something that exists. We have no explanation, we are not told what that tree is, or what it means; it is just referred to as "the tree of life." We have to go to the end of the Bible for the explanation, and when we come to this last chapter of the Bible, by the context and relationship, we have a very large explanation.

Let us look at the passage. Revelation twenty-two: "And He showed me a river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb," - note the context, "the throne of God and of the Lamb." You have got to read the whole book of Revelation to understand that. There is a tremendous amount in the early chapters of this book about "the throne of God and of the Lamb." And you need to understand what the throne of God is and what is the significance of the throne of the Lamb, - "For the Lamb is in the midst of the throne."

Now in relation to "the throne of God and of the Lamb," there is "a river of water of life, ... in the midst of the street thereof. And on either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve manner (kinds) of fruit, yielding its fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for healing of the nations. And there shall be no curse any more: and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be therein: and His bondservants shall serve Him." There is "the tree of life." It bears immortal fruit. There is no place for death here. Its fruit is born every month: this is fruit immortal, or fruit without death. The leaves of this tree are for the health of the nations. I am sorry that in most versions the word "healing" is wrongly translated. I do not know what the word is in your translation, but the original is not for "the healing of the nations," but for "the health of the nations." You may ask, "What is the difference?" Well, one is the "removal" of disease, and the other is the "prevention" of disease!

In Revelation twenty-two, we have come to the time when the spiritual diseases of the nations have been healed, but the health of the nations needs to be preserved. It is a state that is to be maintained. Thus, the leaves are not for healing, they are for preservation. And so it says: "And there shall be no curse any more."

You see, you have got the whole history of the Bible in those words. You have got all that came on the nations through Adam's sin. You have corruption and death - moral disease - the result of a curse. All that is now cleared up, and "the tree of life" represents Victory of Life over all that, Life Triumphant, and Life Abundant. Here the full meaning of "the tree of life" is revealed. And it is like that with all other matters. When you come to the last mention, you have the key to the whole subject. That is a principle of the interpretation of the Bible.

The Only Real Value is the Spiritual

Now I come to the last principle for the present, number five: the only real value is the spiritual. We must remember this when we are reading and studying the Bible, and we must keep this in mind in these times in which we are together. We must not come here just with a thirst for more information or a craving for more knowledge. There are people who just want to get more and more knowledge and education. Now that constitutes a danger. That is exactly how Adam was caught. You see, satan said: "If you take of this tree, you will know"; it was "the tree of knowledge." And there is always a danger in eating of that tree. It might just lead us into death and not into life. So, I repeat this principle of Biblical interpretation: the only real value is the spiritual. And spiritual value is just how something affects our life with God. I do wish that Adam had recognized that. When satan tempted him to take of "the tree of knowledge," if only Adam had said, "How will this affect my life with God?" He, and we, should have been saved all the trouble.

So, let me say this again, spiritual value is just how something affects our life with God. Shall I put that in another way - spiritual value is just how much something increased the measure of Christ. If Christ is the interpretation of the Bible, then the spiritual knowledge of the Bible results in an increase of Christ. If our days together do not result in an increase of the measure of Christ, we have missed the Way. If we do not go away more Christ-like men and women, with a larger measure of the Lord Jesus, this training course has failed. So I beg of you to pray all the way through that this time together may mean spiritual increase, spiritual knowledge, and not intellectual enlargement.

Everything has got to be judged by how much it contributes to the Ultimate Purpose of God! We have to ask, "Where does this lead us? Is it leading us anywhere? What is it leading us to?" All spiritual knowledge leads to an increase of Christ; it contributes to the ultimate purpose of God. The question always is "How much of Life is there in it?" It is not a matter of interest; it is not a matter of fascination with Bible truth; it is not a matter of making us more important people (by enlarging of our natural stature), but it is just a matter of the measure of Christ. This is the real spiritual value!

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(the end)

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