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The Necessity of the Spirit

The clarity of Scripture depends on the second principle of biblical interpretation, which is the necessity of the Spirit. Scripture attests that the Spirit is required to understand the things of God: "And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. 2:13-14 ESV). Yet, one author has lamented, "when it comes to scholarly methods of interpreting the Bible, the Holy Spirit may as well be dead."82 This ought to provide caution in receiving the scholarly consensus as the proper interpretation of the word of God.

While the Spirit's work should never justify laziness (He in fact commands diligence in 2 Tim. 2:15), human cleverness or ingenuity cannot command the Spirit's instruction. The Spirit empowers a person to obey God; obedience thus is a more important mark of a person's ability to interpret the Scriptures than education or skill with languages.

Study of the Bible should therefore never be divorced from prayer, fasting, obedience, worship, and humility. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, with its blessings pronounced on the poor, meek, and persecuted, naturally implies that such persons, being blessed of God, would be the most suited to understand God's revelation through Scripture. This mantle was claimed by the persecuted churches throughout history, including the early Anabaptists: "Anabaptists saw themselves as the true heirs of the persecuted early churches and believed this gave them insights hidden from state theologians who were comfortable, had vested interests, and were persecutors rather than the persecuted. Menno, for example, identified sufferings as one of the marks of a true church. This suffering brought the believer into deep fellowship with Christ and this fellowship was a key to understanding Scripture."83

When looking for truth, one ought to search out the persons and groups most radically committed to follow the Lord, despite the consequences. Tragically, most people select churches based on the aesthetics of the worship, the beauty of a building, the charisma of the preacher, the intelligence of the ministry, or the demographics of the membership. Holy living typically weighs little in this selection. The interrogation of the Anabaptist Claes de Praet by the Dean of Ronse brings out Claes' concerns for faithful obedience in contrast with his interrogator who values education and official status:

Dean: "You think you have the faith, but you have departed from it. And that you people are so bold and of good cheer even unto death, is all owing to the devil, who can transform himself into an angel of light. Hence, when you read the Scriptures, you were instructed by some poor, simple tradesman, who taught you the same according to his reason; therefore you are now deceived. You should have let those teach you, who have received the true doctrine, the ministers of the holy church, that is, the pastors."

Claes: "Are they the ones that have received the true doctrine?"

Dean: "Yes."

Claes: "Why, then, do they live the life of devils; as may be seen?"

Dean: "What does that concern you? It is written, Matt. 23: `Do after their commandments, but not after their works.' "

Claes: "Are you, then, the scribes and Pharisees, of whom Matthew has written?"

Dean: "Yes."

Claes: "Then all the woes come upon you, that follow further on, in said chapter."

Dean: "No, they do not."84

Claes would be burned at the stake in 1556.

The person not bearing the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control—is unlikely to hold true interpretations from the Spirit. Reprobate people will almost of necessity twist the Scriptures to fit their designs. In contrast, the obedient follower of Jesus would be granted the Spirit of understanding. "Pneumatic exegesis" thus involves "a reciprocal experience of understanding and obedience, obedience and understanding."85

Kuruvilla, Finny. King Jesus Claims His Church: A Kingdom Vision for the People of God (Kindle Locations 1243-1278). Anchor-Cross Publishing. Kindle Edition.