Q: When someone says, ‘Everyone—theologians included—interprets the Bible differently,’ and he means by this that no one is able to determine what is right or wrong, what should we say?”
A: In our ecumenical times the line of reasoning that you cite is commonplace. But the logic does not follow. It is true, of course, that there are a number of different interpretations proposed by people that espouse the belief systems of various religious groups. The differences in interpretation at times may even seem miniscule, as far as the untrained observer is concerned. However, just because it is true that different interpretations exist, does not mean that one can never be certain as to which, if any, interpretations are correct.
As a matter of fact, we know that there really is only one Spirit-intended meaning for each passage in Scripture. God is never the author of confusion. When he speaks to us in his verbally inspired Word, he is using human language to convey a specific message of truth for our lives. The person who does the interpreting of Bible verses must then be very careful to “let Scripture interpret Scripture,” so that God’s truth is not perverted. This is the admonition Peter gives in his First Epistle: “If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.” Thus, even Scripture itself does not allow for multiple meanings pertaining to various doctrines. L. Berkhoff, one who has made a study of the principles of how one interprets Scripture says: “It must be maintained that Scripture, no matter how many significations separate words may have, has but one proper sense.”
How can one be sure of the proper meaning? It is only by more and more study of God’s Word, as the Berean people were commended for in Acts 17. But as one studies Scripture, a sincere effort needs to be made in keeping outside influences and prior presuppositions from bearing on the Spirit-intended meaning of the passages.
Remember that our Lord Jesus said: “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31). After one has thoroughly studied the teachings in Scripture, then one should be confident of what the truth is, just as Jesus says. It is pure malarky for anyone to suggest that we today cannot know the truth, and therefore have to be uncertain about how boldly we confess our doctrine. A stand finally needs to be taken. But our consciences must be convinced, as Luther’s was, that our stand is resting on God’s Word alone and not human opinion.
Those who suggest that it is impossible to ascertain the truth from the Bible today, either are giving evidence of their laziness (in not wanting to do the necessary study of the Word), or else they are caving in to the unionistic pressure of not wanting to take a firm stand (for fear that “bold confessions” are divisive) .
It is not necessary for a person to have to know Hebrew and Greek before he can be assured of the truth. The whole Christian doctrine is revealed in passages that, when translated, are clear enough to both the learned and the unlearned alike. What is taught as Christian doctrine is never based on obscure verses, nor is it substantiated by only one verse alone.