To exposit the Word of God, one must practice drawing out the meaning of the text. We believe that the Author’s original intent is the primary meaning of the Scriptures, and that this one intended meaning is found by using a Literal, Historical, Grammatical method of interpretation. The Scriptures must be handled this way because we are commanded to accurately handle the Word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15), and by doing this work the Man of God is adequately equipped for every good deed (2 Timothy 3:17) and is prepared for everything pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). It is through the faithful exposition of the Word of God that His people are saved (1 Peter 1:23) and are sanctified (John 17:17). The Literal, Historical, Grammatical method of interpretation was practiced by Jesus Christ (Matthew 4:1-10) and is a proper response to objective revelation from God Himself. The Word of God is authoritative because it comes directly from God (2 Timothy 3:16), therefore we exposit the Word of God in order to make His authoritative message known to all mankind. Since every church in America would admit to expositing or teaching the Scriptures, we look for marked evidence of the proclamation of God’s Word.
A Church’s Life and Practices Reveal its View of the Word of God
If you want to know what regard a church has for the Word of God, listen to the man in the pulpit. Does he make clear declarative statements that are drawn from the Scriptures? If the pastor’s confidence is in the transforming power of the Word of God, he will spend his time carefully teaching his people the implications of the whole counsel of God, and he will preach in a manner that demands a response from the hearts of his hearers.
A church’s regard for God’s Word is also revealed by its prevailing attitudes toward how the Scriptures speak to their sin and the circumstances of their lives. Is there mere external commitment to obedience to Christ, and is the frailty of the flesh used as an excuse for sin? Or do they lovingly encourage one another to obedience and to flee from temptations (1 Corinthians 10:13)? Is there a selfish and immature belief that no one could possibly understand their plight and therefore that no one has the right to counsel them as to how they should respond and what they should do? Or do they recognize that the Scripture pierces through to our innermost thoughts and attitudes and speaks to all men in every condition and circumstance of life (Hebrews 4:12-13)?
You can also watch how a church applies the Word of God when difficulties and trials inevitably come. Is it marked by a lack of confidence in God’s Word, and over-reliance on human wisdom such as psychology, personal intuition, business practices, or the whims of popular culture? Where there is only a superficial confidence in God’s Word, the wisdom of the world prevails. Is it marked by hypocrisy and a lack of desire to know and embrace the Word of God? Where there is lack of desire for the knowledge of God, spiritual immaturity flourishes (1 Peter 2:1-3).
A Church’s Leaders Reveal its View of the Word of God
If you want to know what regard a church has for the Word of God, look at its foundation for leadership. Leadership in the local church is sometimes founded on personalities, academic credentials, business experience, or even dominated by a particularly influential family or families. In contrast, a church that is reliant on the Word of God founds its leadership on godly character evidenced in a plurality of men. Its leaders are to exemplify it. In the list of qualifications for leadership in the church in 1 Timothy 3:1-8, the only talent mentioned is the ability to teach; the rest all have to do with godly character. Why is the character of a leader more important than his talents or credentials? Because God is the only one who can produce godly character (Galatians 5:19-25), and character gives evidence of a life that is submitted to the revealed will of Christ in His Word.
A Church’s Source of Revelation Reveals its View of the Word of God
If you want to know what regard a church has for the Word of God, observe where it goes for wisdom and knowledge. A church may declare its devotion to the Word of God, yet impose its own pre-supposed views on the Scripture, or even seek extra-biblical revelation instead of letting the Scripture speak for itself. The only trustworthy source for specific knowledge and direction from God is in the sixty-six books of the Bible. This is how God has chosen to reveal Himself most fully, and this is why a church that is reliant on the Word of God will trust completely in its power to transform (2 Timothy 3:16-17), will demand that its preachers and teachers work diligently to accurately handle the Word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15), and will understand that the real evidence of discipleship is continuing in Christ’s Word (John 8:31-32).
Because we understand that the Scriptures are the means through which God transforms our hearts, we believe that it is best to handle the Word of God exegetically, meaning that we are to draw God’s intended meaning out of the text rather than reading our own ideas and presuppositions into the text. This is why we hold to a Literal, Grammatical, Historical interpretation of Scripture. We believe that it is meant to be understood literally where the plain meaning is understandable; grammatically, in that we translate from the original languages and their unique grammatical constructions when seeking to resolve any seeming lack of clarity; and historically, in that we seek to know the pertinent historical background and original recipients of the letter to help us more fully grasp the meaning and implications to that original audience. Our goal with this method of interpretation is to reveal the mind of God, and it is our method to teach verse-by-verse through the Scripture in order to expose our minds to the whole counsel of God.
We understand that Satan tries to twist the Scriptures to misrepresent the truth (Luke 4:10-11). Therefore to expose this satanic work we believe that all Scripture is inspired by God and must be rightly interpreted in its context. We believe that if this is done faithfully, there will be no contradictions and the result will be perfect harmony in the full counsel of God. For this reason we believe that the doctrine of the Harmony of Scriptures teaches a checking principle, not an interpreting principle. That is, we do not use Paul’s instruction on faith (Rom 4:1-5) to tell James (James 2:14-26) what he means by faith or vice versa. Instead we seek to understand each passage in its context and then compare the meaning. When we do this, we find that Paul speaks of faith in relationship to salvation while James speaks of faith in relationship to sanctification. Thus the apparent contradiction is explained by a clearer understanding of faith as the Scriptures reveal it.
To sum it up simply: we do not have the right to tell the Bible what it means, but rather we are held accountable by God to rightly divide it.