Guidelines for Biblical Interpretation – with Dr. Roy Collins

This week on the Theology for the People Podcast, I sat down with Dr. Roy Collins, a recently retired professor of theology at Colorado Christian University (CCU).

Roy attends White Fields, the church I pastor, and he leads an adult Sunday School class which is studying through the Gospel of Mark on Sunday mornings at 8:00 AM.

Prior to his retirement, Dr. Collins served as a pastor, consultant, and most recently as a professor at CCU, where he primarily taught Biblical Interpretation.

In this discussion, Roy gives some helpful book recommendations and a 5-step process for correctly handling a Biblical text in order to make accurate interpretation and correct application.

Two books Roy recommends in the episode are:

You can listened to the episode by clicking this link, or by listening in the embedded player below:

Biblical Interpretation with Dr. Roy Collins: Guidelines for Correctly Understanding & Faithfully Applying God's Word Theology for the People

Dr. Roy Collins (DMin) has served as a pastor, consultant, and professor of theology at Colorado Christian University, where he taught Biblical Interpretation. In this episode, Dr. Roy shares with us the key to unlocking the meaning of any given passage of the Bible, as well as a 5-step system of guidelines for how to exegete a given passage. The books recommended in this episode by Dr. Collins are:  Grasping God's Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible, by Duvall & Hays The Gospel and Kingdom, by Graeme Goldsworthy Dr. Collins leads a Bible study through the Gospel of Mark on Sunday mornings at 8:00 AM (Mountain Time) at White Fields Community Church in Longmont, Colorado. Check out the Theology for the People blog site, and please leave a review on your podcast app if you've benefited from this content.

Will Suicide Send You to Hell?

1 Corinthians 3:16-17 says:

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

This text has been used, particularly by the Roman Catholic Church to say that if a person commits suicide, they go directly to Hell – no passing Go, no collecting $200.

“Mortal Sins” and “Venial Sins”

Using these verses as justification, the Roman Catholic Church labels suicide a “mortal sin,” for which no atonement can be made, as opposed to “venial sins” which a person may be cleansed of through paying for them via suffering in purgatory.

First of all, the entire idea of mortal and venial sins goes contrary to the clear teaching of Scripture, which states that there is only one unforgivable sin, which is the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (click here for an explanation of the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit). Furthermore, it is only Jesus who atones for our sins, we cannot atone for any of our sins, and to claim that we can “pay” for our own sins through our sufferings is to negate and minimize the work of Jesus on the cross, and say that Jesus suffered and died in vain.

The key passage used by the Roman Catholic Church to justify this belief in mortal vs. venial sins is 1 John 5:16-17. I have written about those verses and what they mean here: What is the “Sin Unto Death,” and Why Should We Not Pray for It?

“You” and “Y’all”

In 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, Paul uses the plural form of “you” – in other words, he is saying: “All y’all (together) are the temple of God.”

What’s important to remember about this passage, is that Paul the Apostle is writing to the Corinthian church about their church. Some in the church were harming and tearing apart the church with their divisive attitudes and actions, and Paul is giving them a stern warning that if anyone destroys the temple of God (the Church which He loves), God will take that personally and not let is slide.

Later in 1 Corinthians, in chapter 6, Paul once again speaks of the Temple of God in relation to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, but there he does so in regard to the individual believer. This passage in 1 Corinthians 3, however, is not written to or about the individual believer, but to the church about the church. So the point of the passage is not about suicide at all, but it is a warning to those who would harm and tear apart the church with their words and actions.

When Christians Were Killing Themselves

Until the Edict of Milan, AKA the Edict of Tolleration was issued in 313 AD, Christianity’s status in the Roman Empire was that of religio illicita, an “illicit” or illegal religion (as opposed to Judaism, which held the status of religio licita)During this time, Christians throughout the Roman Empire experienced waves of persecution, usually dependent on the attitudes of local authorities, although there were times when persecution was the official policy of the entire empire – such as during the reigns of Nero and Diocletian. Christians also faced persecution outside the Roman Empire.

During this period, many Christians were martyred, and martyrs were highly regarded and respected as those who had been willing to pay the ultimate price for their faith. In fact, martyrdom was so highly regarded, that people began to seek it out and desire it, as a way of expressing their devotion to Jesus. Ignatius of Antioch, for example, wrote about his desire to die as a martyr.

But some people took it even further. Jerome writes about a young woman named Belsilla who flagellated herself so much that she died from her self-imposed injuries. Another woman, Agathonike, upon witnessing the execution of a bishop by burning, also threw herself onto the fire, declaring “this is the meal that has been prepared for me.” She died in the flames, even though she had not been arrested nor charged. There are other accounts of Christians volunteering to be martyred even though they were not even being sought by the authorities. [1]

The Donatists, who considered themselves particularly hard core and dedicated (and looked down on those they considered less-committed, even to the point of questioning their salvation), greatly desired to show their devotion by being martyred. Some Donatists even went to the point of simply killing themselves to show how spiritual they were, i.e. how much they were not attached to this life and how much they desired to depart this world and be with Christ.

The Response of the Church

Seeking martyrdom and committing suicide became such a big issue with the Donatists in particular that it threatened the credibility, and even the existence of the church in their area of North Africa.

Judaism had always considered suicide to be sinful, whereas in pagan Roman culture it was considered an acceptable way to exit this life, and was practiced mostly by the wealthy, in part because slaves were not allowed to commit suicide since their lives did not belong to them, but rather to their masters.

It was Augustine of Hippo, a native of North Africa himself, who took up the challenge of addressing this issue and clarifying Christian thinking on this subject. In his book ‘The City of God’, Augustine considered what the Bible has to say about suicide and weighed various arguments for and against suicide. His conclusion was that suicide is always wrong as it is a violation of the sixth commandment (“Thou shall not murder”), and is never justified even in extreme circumstances. This became the official position of the church. [2]

And yet…

Just because 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 isn’t talking about suicide, it must be noted that suicide is clearly a sin and is never the answer.

Help is available for those who are struggling. You can contact me directly here, or call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Hotline if you need someone to talk to immediately: 1-800-273-8255.

Video

In this week’s Sermon Extra, Mike and I discussed this topic, as it came up in our current series: 1 Corinthians: Grace & Truth at White Fields Church.

Hermeneutics: How Do We Correctly Interpret What the Bible Says?

This week’s episode of the Theology for the People podcast is a discussion I had with pastors Benjamin Morrison and Craig Babcock on the topic of hermeneutics and Biblical interpretation.

Hermeneutics is the method by which we interpret communication, particularly texts. Legal hermeneutics, for example, is the study of how laws, or the constitution for example, are to be understood and put into practice.

Biblical hermeneutics is all about how to correctly interpret the Bible, so that we can be doers of the Word, not hearers only.

The reason hermeneutics is worth considering is because different people, reading the same Bible, can come to differing conclusions about what it means. The reason that happens is an issue of theological method (see: Theological Method: Sources of Theology and Why People Arrive at Different Conclusions About Matters of Faith & the Bible) and hermeneutics.

It must be said that not all hermeneutics are equally valid. Some hermeneutics are better than others. Sometimes we even intentionally use a hermeneutics in order to properly interpret something, as we do with “Christ-centered hermeneutics” – in which we intentionally read all of Scripture as pointing to Jesus, which we do because Jesus himself told us that this was the proper way to read and interpret the Old Testament Scriptures (see Luke 24:44-48).

Other examples of good hermeneutics would be “biblical hermeneutics,” in which read the Bible understanding all of the Bible to be the inspired Word of God, meaning that each individual part of the Bible should be understood in light of what the rest of the Bible says. We might intentionally choose to read the gospels through a Jewish lens, seeking to put ourselves sin their shoes in order to understand the things that happened or were said.

Oftentimes, however, our hermeneutics are not intentional, and we may not be aware of them, and they do impact how we interpret and understand what the Bible says. How then can we become aware of the hermeneutics we’re unintentionally using so that we can determine if they are good or not?

In this episode we discuss this and other questions surrounding the topic of hermeneutics. You can listen here or in the embedded player below.

Hermeneutics: How Do We Correctly Interpret What the Bible Says? – with Benjamin Morrison & Craig Babcock Theology for the People

In this episode Nick Cady and special co-host Craig Babcock speak with Benjamin Morrison, lead pastor of Calvary Chapel Svitlovodsk, Ukraine and coordinator for City to City Ukraine, about the topic of hermeneutics: the interpretation of texts, particularly the Bible. Hermeneutics and biblical interpretation is the focus of Ben's masters studies at London School of Theology, Nick's alma mater.  What is hermeneutics, and why is it important? Can't we just read the Bible without having to worry about interpretation? As Ben shows us, everyone who reads the Bible has a hermeneutics and we are all interpreters, the question is: are you a good and faithful interpreter of the biblical text? If, as Ben points out, not all hermeneutics are equally good, then how can we determine which ones are better than others and how do we identify our own hermeneutics in order to examine whether they are good or not? We discuss these questions in this episode.

The Theology of Glory vs. the Theology of the Cross

In our current series at White Fields called Grace & Truth, we are studying through the book of 1 Corinthians.

This past Sunday, we studied the second half of chapter 1, in which Paul talks about “the message of the cross.” In doing so, Paul makes clear between 1:17 and 1:18 that the message of the cross is the gospel, and the gospel is the message of the cross. This message is “the power of God” for all who believe; precisely the same thing Paul says about the gospel in Romans 1:16. In other words, the gospel (the central message of Christianity) is the message of the cross.

Martin Luther wrote about the difference between a “theology of glory” and the “theology of the cross.” In this week’s Sermon Extra, I explain some of this historical context for Luther’s differentiation between the theology of glory and the theology of the cross, as well as how we can recognize theologies of glory in our modern times.

You can also listen to the podcast of this episode here:

Sermon Extra: Is the Theology of the Cross at Odds with the Theology of Glory? White Fields Community Church | A Christian Church in Longmont, Colorado

In this week's sermon extra, Pastors Nick Cady and Michael Payne discuss Martin Luther's description of Theology of Glory vs the Theology of the Cross and how it works out in modern thinking, as well as the way to be happy.  — Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/whitefieldschurch/support

You can watch the entire message from this past Sunday, “The Message of the Cross & the Power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:17-31), here:

Theological Method: Sources of Theology and Why People Arrive at Different Conclusions About Matters of Faith & the Bible

In the latest episode of the Theology for the People podcast, Mike and I discuss the topic of “theological method,” which was a big part of my Masters study in Integrative Theology.

Integrative theology weaves together historical, biblical, systematic, and other approaches to doing theology in order to take a holistic approach, and the result is an integrated theological method.

Here’s the thing: everyone uses a method for doing theology, whether they recognize it or not. Furthermore, the reason why different people and groups arrive at different conclusions is because they are using different theological methods.

In this episode, I explain the 5 commonly recognized “sources of theology,” and answer the question of how to examine your own theological method.

Listen in the embedded player below, or by clicking this link: Theological Method: Sources of Theology and Why People Arrive at Different Conclusions About Matters of Faith and the Bible

Theological Method: Sources of Theology and Why People Arrive at Different Conclusions About Matters of Faith and the Bible Theology for the People

In this episode, Nick and Mike discuss the topic of "theological method", which involves the study of how people arrive at theological conclusions based on how they use the "sources of theology" in relation to each other. We discuss the 5 commonly recognized sources of theology, explain different theological methods that exist, and how they relate to interpreting the Bible in light of our ever-changing world. Check out the Theology for the People blog site at nickcady.org

Will God Remove the Holy Spirit from a Person Because of Disobedience?

Click this image to listen to the podcast version of this article

Recently at White Fields, we did a 5-week study on the person and work of the Holy Spirit, called “The Spirit Filled Life” (click here to view that series).

One of the questions that is sometimes asked about the Holy Spirit, is whether God will ever remove the Holy Spirit from a person because of disobedience or sinful actions.

Certainly there are verses which talk about God removing the Holy Spirit from people, such as Psalm 51:11, where King David prays, “Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.” David prayed this in the wake of his sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11), so that brings up the question: Are there times when God removes the Holy Spirit from someone if they do something really bad?

Furthermore, in 1 Samuel 16, is says that the Spirit of the Lord departed from King Saul, and in the Book of Judges, it says that the Spirit of the Lord departed from Samson.

So, does this mean that God will REMOVE his Spirit from YOU, if you live in a bad way? If so, that would be a pretty big problem, because Romans 8:9 says “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.”

Understanding the Three Relationships the Holy Spirit has with different groups of people

In order to answer this question and understand what it meant for David, Saul, and Samson – and what it means for us today, we have to first understand the 3 different relationships that the Bible tells us the Holy Spirit has with different groups of people.

Relationship 1: “WITH” All People

In John 14:17, Jesus told his disciples that the Holy Spirit had been with them up until that point.

Jesus then he told them that the work of the Spirit in the world is that He brings about conviction in people’s hearts and minds about 3 things: Sin, Righteousness, and Judgment (John 16:8)

In other words, the Holy Spirit is at work in the world in every country, with all people, and he is whispering in their ears and speaking to their hearts about the fact that 1) They are sinners (they have fallen short of God’s perfect standard), and 2) God is righteous, so therefore 3) There is coming a day of judgment when they will have to stand before that righteous God and give account for their lives.

The purpose of this conviction is not to just make people feel bad about themselves; the purpose is to draw them to Jesus by bringing them to a realization of why they need a savior, so they will embrace Jesus and what He has done in order to save them.

Relationship 2: “IN” those who have been redeemed by Jesus

Jesus told his disciples in John 14:17The Holy Spirit has been WITH YOU up until this point — but soon, the Holy Spirit will also be IN YOU.

This indwelling of the Holy Spirit is something that was prophesied by the Old Testament prophets Ezekiel and Jeremiah, that one day God was going to put His Spirit within His people (Ezekiel 36:27), in order to transform them from the inside out.  

For people in the Old Testament, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit was always a future event, but after Jesus had died and resurrected, we read in John 20:22 that Jesus met with his disciples and he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” It was at this moment, that the disciples received the Holy Spirit within them, and it was at this moment that they were “born again.” (See also: “What does it mean to be “Born Again”?)

What it comes down to is this: Only those who have put their faith in Jesus have the Holy Spirit within them, and every person who has put their faith in Jesus has the Holy Spirit dwelling with them.

The Bible tells us that when you put your faith in Jesus, God puts his seal on you and gives you His Spirit in as a guarantee (2 Corinthians 1:23). Furthermore, the regenerating and indwelling Spirit is called “the Spirit of Adoption” (Romans 8:15) It’s His guarantee that you belong to Him, and you are His.

The indwelling Spirit sanctifies, leads, guides, strengthens, and transforms from within.   

Relationship 3: “UPON” Some people at different times, to empower them to do what God has called them to do

Remember how in John 20 Jesus breathed on his disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit”? Well, right after that, Jesus told his disciples to stay in Jerusalem and wait until the Holy Spirit came upon them. (Luke 24 & Acts 1:4)

But… if they just RECEIVED the Holy Spirit, then why did Jesus tell them to wait for the Holy Spirit?

Because: this is speaking about two different relationships with the Holy Spirit!

When Jesus breathed upon them, they received the Spirit IN them (and they were born again) — but then they were to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to come UPON them:  to EMPOWER THEM to carry out the mission Jesus had given them.

That’s why Jesus His disciples in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come UPON you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 

Throughout the Old Testament, before people could have the Holy Spirit WITHIN them — we read that the Holy Spirit would come UPON people, to empower them to do things God had called them to do. For example, it says that the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon! (Judges 6:34 NKJV) We’re also told that the Holy Spirit came UPON Samson, and UPON David, and UPON Elisha, and others — to EMPOWER them to do what God had called them to do.

So, Jesus was promising his disciples (and us) — that the Holy Spirit will also come upon us, to empower us to carry out the callings He has placed upon our lives.

Un-Adopting? Un-Sealing?

Remember: in the Old Testament, the Spirit was WITH people (to bring conviction) and the Holy Spirit was UPON people (to empower them), but at that point that Spirit was not yet WITHIN people. So when we read in the Old Testament about God “removing” his Spirit, it’s not in the sense of a person who had the Holy Spirit dwelling within them, rather it’s in the sense of God removing the empowering work of the Holy Spirit from those people.

But for a person who has been sealed by the Holy Spirit indwelling them, we never read of God removing His Spirit from someone in that sense. The indwelling Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Adoption. God does not un-adopt us when we make mistakes and mess up, rather: he disciplines us like a loving Father (see Hebrews 12).

If He has SEALED you, as a guarantee of your salvation, that’s exactly what it is: He has placed his Spirit within you as a guarantee that He will see you through and bring to completion the good work that He has begun in you.

If you are His child, He won’t give up on you – and that’s really good news!

Further Study

For more on the 3 Relationships with the Holy Spirit, see this study: The Promised Helper

For more on the question of God removing His Spirit, see this study: The Work of the Holy Spirit in the Life of a Believer

Charismatic Christianity & the Bible: A Discussion with Wayne Taylor

In this week’s episode of the Theology for the People Podcast, I sat down with Pastor Wayne Taylor from Calvary Fellowship in Seattle, Washington.

Wayne has a long history as a leader in the Calvary Chapel movement. He founded Calvary Fellowship in Seattle and served there as lead pastor for 42 years. Under Wayne’s leadership, 55 churches were planted, both in the Pacific Northwest and abroad.

Wayne recently spoke at White Fields Church. That message, in which he reads a limerick he wrote about me(!), can be found here: Ephesians 2:10 – God’s Poem’s at Work.

In this episode, Pastor Wayne and I discuss Charismatic Christianity: where the word “charismatic” comes from, what it means, arguments for and against charismatic practices, as well as John MacArthur, theological method, Calvary Chapel, and our own personal experiences and biases.

You can listen to the episode in the embedded player below, or by clicking this link: Wayne Taylor: Charismatic Christianity & the Bible

Wayne Taylor: Charismatic Christianity & the Bible Theology for the People

Pastor Wayne Taylor has a long history as a leader in the Calvary Chapel movement; he founded Calvary Fellowship in Seattle, Washington, where he served as lead pastor for 42 years. Under his leadership, 55 churches were planted out of Calvary Fellowship, both in the Pacific Northwest and abroad. Wayne now serves on the executive leadership team of Calvary Global Network. In this week's episode, Wayne and I discuss what it means to be "charismatic." We discuss the origin of the word, arguments for and against charismatic practices, as well as John MacArthur, theological method, Calvary Chapel, and our own personal experiences and biases. Follow Pastor Wayne on Facebook, and check out the Theology for the People blog. The sermon series from White Fields Church on the Holy Spirit can be found here: The Spirit-Filled Life.

What is the “Perspicuity” of Scripture, and Why Does It Matter?

When I was a missionary in Hungary, we used to visit a refugee camp populated with thousands of people from muslim-majority countries, with whom we didn’t have a common language. Everyone in the camp got by with a mix of English, Russian, and sometimes German words that formed a special form of refugee pidgin. But this was insufficient for deeper conversations, such as those about God, Jesus, and salvation.

So, with the help of the International Bible Society, we were able to get New Testaments in Urdu, Dari, Farsi, and other languages, and we handed these out along with humanitarian aid, telling those we met to read them, and then we would follow up. For many of them, this was their first time ever having access to the New Testament in their own language, and by God’s grace, we did see many of them become followers of Jesus.

But this approach to ministry was based on an underlying assumption: that anyone with average reading comprehension skills can sufficiently understand the meaning of the Bible when it comes to what it says about who Jesus is and how salvation is possible through Him.

This assumption is known as belief in the “perspicuity,” or clarity of Scripture.

Not everyone embraces the idea that Scripture is perspicuous, notably the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox churches – as well as fringe groups including the Mormons (AKA Latter Day Saints) and the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

It was after a friend of mine converted to Roman Catholicism based on claims he had heard about Scripture not being perspicuous that I was intrigued by this topic and wanted to research it further. I ended up writing my Masters dissertation on the topic – specifically looking at the question of whether the concept of the perspicuity of Scripture was novel to the Reformation, or if it is also found in the writings of the early Church Fathers – which would mean that the insistence on the perspicuity of Scripture in the Reformation period was actually a return to the way the early Christians understood and viewed Scripture.

In this week’s episode of the Theology for People Podcast, Mike asks me questions about the perspicuity of Scripture; what it is and why it matters, and what is at stake when it comes to this issue.

You can listen to the episode in the embedded player below, or by clicking this link: The Perspicuity of Scripture: Is the Bible Clear? Can Everyone Understand It?

The Perspicuity of Scripture: Is the Bible Clear? Can Everyone Understand It? Theology for the People

Can anyone pick up the Bible, read it and understand it? Is Scripture "clear," and if it is: about what and for whom is it clear? I wrote my Masters dissertation on the topic of the perspicuity, or clarity, of Scripture. This is an important topic, because whether or not we view Scripture as clear affects how we handle and use the Bible and how we relate to church traditions, and how we view the world in the midst of a culture in which many long-held beliefs and assumptions are being challenged. In this episode, Nick and Mike discuss the concept of the perspicuity of Scripture, looking at the history of this concept and what is at stake in this debate.  For more articles and content, make sure to check out the Theology for the People website.

Discussion with Gino Geraci about the Perspicuity of Scripture

Last week I had the honor of being a guest on Gino Geraci’s radio show: Crosswalk with Gino Geraci, on 94.7 FM KRKS which airs in the Denver metro area and online.

We discussed the topic of the “perspicuity” or “clarity” of Scripture, which was the subject of my MA dissertation.

The discussion certainly wasn’t exhaustive, and there is more I would like to share about meaning and implications of the perspicuity of Scripture via this blog and my podcast – such as the difference between the external and internal aspects of perspicuity, but this was a great introduction to the topic.

Gino is well-read and understands the subject well, and it was fun to talk with someone who enjoys discussing these things and helping other people understand them.

What is perhaps most interesting about our discussion is that we spent time talking about how the perspicuity of Scripture speaks to the current trend of postmodern thinking and epistemology, in which even many professing Christians are taking up views which are contrary to the clear reading of Scripture because of pressure from the culture.

You can listen to the two hours we spent discussing this topic on the radio here:

The Formation of the New Testament Canon: Part 2 – Recognition, Disputes & the Gospel of Thomas

In Part 2 of this two-part series, Mike and I discuss the process through which the New Testament was recognized as Holy Scripture.

At what point were the books of the New Testament recognized as Scripture? Who was involved in that process, or who made that determination? What about the disputed books, and why was the Gospel of Thomas kept out of the Bible?

We answer these questions and more in this episode. (Click here to listen to Part 1.)

Click this link to listen this week’s episode, or listen in the embedded player below: The Formation of the New Testament Canon: Part 2 – Recognition, Disputes & the Gospel of Thomas

The Formation of the New Testament Canon: Part 2 – Recognition, Disputes & the Gospel of Thomas Theology for the People

In Part 2 of this two-part series, Nick and Mike discuss the process through which the New Testament was recognized as Holy Scripture. At what point were the books of the New Testament recognized as Scripture? Who was involved in that process, or who made that determination? What about the disputed books, and why was the Gospel of Thomas kept out of the Bible? We answer these questions and more in this episode. Make sure to check out the Theology for the People blog as well.