Studying the Word of God
The following is a list of principles and understandings one should embrace in the study of the Word of God (Scripture). Several have been taken from Arlen L. Chitwood’s book, The Study of Scripture, a work that is often referred to in this document and a work all students of the Word should read, digest, and use when studying (as opposed to casual reading) the Word of God.
It must also be noted that the study of God’s Word is a commission intended strictly for Christians, i.e., those who have placed their faith solely in Jesus Christ for their eternal salvation, for the Word must be spiritually discerned, a process that only Christians may exercise.
These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man [non-Christian] does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they [the things of the Spirit of God] are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:13, 14)
Additionally, Scripture is provided specifically for Christians for their learning, to provide them with instruction in proper conduct for and throughout their earthly sojourn:
For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. (Romans 15:4)
Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition [instruction], upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
(1 Corinthians 10:11)
The Word of God consists of 66 books, 39 (Genesis through Malachi) in the Old Testament and 27 (Matthew through Revelation) in the New Testament. And the version of choice, which will primarily be used throughout this document when Scripture is quoted, is the New King James Version (NKJV). This writer believes it to be the most accurate translation of the original languages from which both Testaments are derived; although, he finds no fault in the use or study of any other version.
Furthermore, the following paragraphs taken from the book, The Study of Scripture, previously mentioned, are particularly noteworthy:
When studying the Scriptures — whether the Old Testament or the New Testament — one is studying about Jesus the Christ, whom God has “appointed Heir of all things” (Luke 24:25-27; Hebrews 1:2). There is nothing in the New Testament that is not seen after some fashion in the Old. The New Testament is simply a revealing, an unveiling, of God’s Son, as previously introduced in the Old Testament Scriptures.
“Jesus” is the Word made “flesh,” referring, in an inseparable sense, to both the Old Testament Scriptures and to God becoming “flesh” in the person of His Son. “Jesus” is not only God manifested in the flesh but the Old Testament Scriptures manifested in the flesh as well.
The whole of Scripture is about Jesus the Christ. And the whole of Scripture moves toward a seventh day, a seventh 1,000-year period, when God’s firstborn Son, God’s Christ, will come into possession of His inheritance, and, with Israel [presently God’s firstborn son (Exodus 4:22, 23)] and the Church [to be revealed as God’s firstborn son in that coming day, following the adoption (Romans 8:14-23; Hebrews 12:22, 23)] will realize that which is seen in the opening chapter of Genesis at the time of man’s creation — “. . . let them have dominion [Hebrew: radah, ‘rule’; ‘. . . let them rule’]” (Genesis 1:26, 28).
There are no shortcuts to the study of Scripture. Coming into a knowledge of the Word of God takes time and effort; and it is a continuous, lifelong process that one never completes.
A person progressively comes into a knowledge of the Word over time as he applies himself to study. The Word of God is received into his saved human spirit; and, within this process, the Holy Spirit takes the Word and leads that individual “into all truth,” “comparing spiritual things with spiritual” — comparing Scripture with Scripture (John 16:12-15; 1 Corinthians 2:9-13) — leading him from immaturity to maturity.
Principles & Understandings
Death to Self with Complete Dependence Upon the Sufficiency of the Word and the Holy Spirit as the Primary Teacher of the Word
The primary principle, the one that overshadows and underlies all others, is a confidence, the strong conviction, that God alone is the Author of His Word and is therefore the primary Teacher of His Word.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God [God-breathed], and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16, 17)
(The words, “given by inspiration of God,” are a translation of the one word in the Greek text, theopneustos, meaning “God-breathed.” This is a compound word comprised of Theos [“God”] and pneuma [“breath” in this particular usage and also the word used for “Spirit” in the New Testament — the Holy Spirit, man’s spirit, and the use of spirit in general; also “wind” in John 3:8])
Arlen Chitwood in his book, The Study of Scripture, states the following:
which is meant by and the implications of Scripture being
God-breathed are given in a somewhat simple manner in Scripture, but
one has to look at and compare related parts of both Testaments
before he can really begin to see and understand that which is
involved. A person has to reference passages in both Testaments,
studying passages from one in the light of passages from the other.
He has to compare Scripture with Scripture,
he has to compare “spiritual things with spiritual.”
For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword. . . .
Now, the question: Why is the Word of God “living,”
“powerful,” and “sharper than any two-edged sword”?
The answer: Because of its origin. The Word is “theopneustos”;
the Word is “God-breathed.”
This principle has to do with unchangeableness, and it
centers on an unchangeable structure of the Word given by the
unchangeable God. Because of the inherent nature of the Word,
the first time a subject is mentioned in Scripture, a pattern,
a mold is established at that point that remains unchanged
throughout the remainder of Scripture.
Then there is the inseparable connection between the Spirit (the Pneuma) and the Word:
For prophecy [referring to written revelation (v. 20)] never came by the will of man, but holy [set apart] men of God spoke as they were moved [borne along] by the Holy Spirit.
(2 Peter 1:21)
The Word is “God-breathed,” and thus “living,”
because of the Spirit’s inseparable connection with the
Word. He is the One who gave the Word to man through man,
and He is the One presently in the world to guide man “into all
truth” through the use of this Word (John 16:13).
That’s why pastor-teachers have been exhorted to “Preach the Word,”
and that’s why Christians have been exhorted to “study” this same
Word (2 Timothy 2:15; 4:2). A person’s
ability to function in the spiritual realm is inseparably connected
with that person’s knowledge of and ability to use the Word
To come to a place of complete dependence upon God the Holy Spirit, one must die to self, a requirement that is expressed by Christ to His disciples in the following:
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross [symbol of death], and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:24, 25)
This principle applies to every aspect of the Christian life; and, frankly, because it is directly associated with spiritual maturity, it seldom comes to (or is applied by) each Christian. This being the case, it is often overlooked when one studies Scripture. Essentially it means one must believe that to live a life pleasing to Christ, which includes the comprehension of His Word, one cannot depend on (trust, have faith in) himself, but must totally trust God to lead him in all matters throughout his life.
Regarding the study of Scripture, infallible information that is the sole product of God (2 Timothy 3:16), Christ made it quite clear that the Holy Spirit is its ultimate Tutor, as follows:
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. (John 14:26)
However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. (John 16:13, 14; cf. 1 Corinthians 2:13 [quoted above]; 2 Peter 1:20, 21)
It should be noted that the implementation of this principle in the study of Scripture is not to disparage or eliminate instruction given by and through human instructors (ministers, professors, academics, etc.) and their recorded material (commentaries, concordances, dictionaries, etc.) within Christendom, for God does indeed utilize such to carry out His will.
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers [lit. pastor-teachers], for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ — from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16)
Nevertheless, it is the distinct responsibility of the Christian, as he reads and listens to others pertaining to the interpretation of Scripture passages, to place his trust (faith) solely in God the Holy Spirit to bring him to ultimate truth.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:5, 6)
All Scripture, both Testaments, is Primarily about One Person — Jesus the Christ
The entire Word of God is predominantly about one Person, God the Son — Jesus the Christ (the Anointed One, i.e., the Messiah) — as He is related to the creation of all aspects of earth, in the creation of man, and with the redemption of both.
Then He [Jesus Christ] said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. (Luke 24:25-27)
Jesus Christ, God’s “only begotten Son,” is not only uniquely the Creator and Restorer of “the heavens and the earth,” but He also sustains it.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 3:1-3, 14)
To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 3:8, 9)
For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. (Colossians 1:16, 17)
God . . . has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. (Hebrews 1:1a-3)
Both the Old and New Testament Constitute One Continuous, Complete Revelation from God
The New Testament and the Old Testament, a unified revelation given by God to man over a period of about 1,500 years by means of some forty different Jewish writers, must be studied together, for they are interlinked with each other — the Old Testament leads into the New after an inseparable fashion. Both reveal His plans and purposes in relation to the human race, the earth, and the universe at large.
Arlen L. Chitwood, in his book, The Study of Scripture, states the following:
In this respect, one Testament (Old or New) must be understood in
the light of the other (Old or New), apart from precedence given
to either. It is no more or no less valid to interpret the Old
Testament in the light of the New as it is to interpret the New
Testament in the light of the Old. One is to be interpreted both in
the light of itself (other parts of the same Testament) and in the
light of the other (the New in the light of the Old, or the Old in
the light of the New).
. . . not in words that man’s wisdom teaches but that the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. (1 Corinthians 2:13b)
One part of the Word (at any point in the Old or New Testaments) is compared with another part of the Word (at any point in the Old or New Testaments) under the leadership of the indwelling Spirit.
Then, again, many of the distinctions that Christians often view
between the Old and New Testaments simply do not exist. A basis for
calling the two parts of Scripture by these names could be derived
from verses such as 2 Corinthians 3:6, 14; but to see
one Testament as Jewish and the other as Christian, as is often
done, is about as far removed from biblical reality as one can get.
Revelation surrounding the shedding of blood for the remission of
sins begins in
chapter three, immediately following man’s fall; and the
entire Old Testament sacrificial system that followed pointed toward
the One — of whom the prophets spoke (cf. Isaiah 53:12;
Zechariah 12:10; 13:6) — who would one day come and take
away “the sin of the world” by the sacrifice of Himself (John
To Properly Understand Scripture One Must Start at Its Beginning
God has established His comprehensive revelation to mankind, i.e., Scripture, in accordance with the structural formation of every process known to man. Whether it be the erection of a building, the writing of a book, the establishment of a business, or the cognitive conceptualizing of a procedure, i.e., there must be a beginning leading into a framework. And it should go without saying that to build without a foundation is futile.
In all aspects of life, a foundation must always precede that which follows, that is, if any sense will be made of “that which follows.” That is exactly how God has structured His Word. Over time He has not only established His Word through various Spirit-led human authors, but has also utilized man to arrange it in a specific order, an order that has a beginning, a foundation, which leads into a framework that can only be properly understood if one understands its foundation.
This is to say that under the influence of the Holy Spirit, God’s Word is arranged with a “beginning,” (the book of Genesis), which leads into its framework (from Exodus through Revelation). And unless the student of the Word understands the opening passages in Genesis, he will never fully understand that which follows. For the superstructure must rest on the foundation, lest it collapse.
Arlen L. Chitwood in his book, The Study of Scripture, puts it this way:
So, the question: Where and how does one begin a study of the Word of God?
The question, in connection with the background material, is really self-answering. Where and how did God begin when He revealed His Word to man?
God began, at the outset of His Word, by setting forth a skeletal framework of the whole panorama of that which He was about to reveal; and His subsequent revelation would be the sinews, flesh, and skin to cover the bones forming the skeletal framework.
Or, to state the matter another way, God began, at the outset of His Word, by laying a foundational structure, upon which the whole framework of His revelation to man would subsequently be built.
Now, back to the question, Where and how does one begin a study of the Word of God?
There’s only one place and one way to begin. A person must begin at the beginning. A person must begin where the foundation has been laid. A person must begin where the skeletal framework has been given.
In short, a person must begin where God began. If one begins elsewhere, he will have nothing upon which to build the structure; he will have nothing upon which to attach the sinews, flesh, and skin.
And herein lies the very reason for the vast confusion that presently exists in theological circles today. Christians have failed to begin with the foundational structure. They do not know and understand the structure of the Word, set forth at the beginning. And, as a consequence, they have no bones upon which to place the sinews, flesh, and skin; they have no foundation upon which to build. . . .
The beginning point was given through Moses. The foundational outline, the skeletal framework, was set forth at the very beginning, in the opening section of Genesis. And it is here that one must begin if he is to begin correctly.
He must understand the foundational beginning of the matter first if he is to properly understand that which is subsequently built upon the foundation.
The Beginning of Scripture Establishes the Basis—Its Septenary Arrangement — that Affects the Understanding of All that Follows
The beginning, i.e., the foundation, of Scripture is established in the opening verses of chapters one and two in the book of Genesis (vss. 1:1-2:2), the historical account of God restoring a ruined creation in six days, followed by a day of rest. Understanding this seven day period of time, i.e., this septenary (consisting of or containing “seven”) arrangement, as it relates to God’s plan and purpose relative to mankind is fundamental in the study of Scripture.
Arlen L. Chitwood in his book, The Study of Scripture, states the following:
Scripture begins in Genesis with:
The creation of all that exists (1:1).
The ruin of one part of that creation (1:2a).
The restoration of that one part (1:2b-25).
The creation of man to rule the restored domain (1:26-31).
God then rested “from all His work” that he had “created and made” (2:1-3).
These opening verses of Genesis provide not only one complete section of Scripture but also the foundational structure upon which the whole of all subsequent Scripture is built and must be understood. There is a creation, a ruin of one part of that creation, a restoration of the ruined portion occurring over time covering six days, and then God rests on a seventh day.
And to illustrate how these verses establish the foundation for the whole of Scripture, note events surrounding man’s creation, his ruin, the time that God takes to restore man, and that which will occur following man’s restoration.
It has all been set forth at the very beginning.
God took six days to restore the ruined material creation (ruined because of the sin of the incumbent ruler, Satan [Isaiah 14:12-17; Ezekiel 28:14-19]); and God, in accord with the pattern that He Himself established at the very beginning, is presently taking six days to restore two subsequent ruined creations — man, and the material creation once again (both ruined because of the sin of the one created to take the scepter, ruined because of man’s sin [Genesis 3:1-7, 17, 18; Romans 8:20]). And then, in accord with the pattern established at the beginning, God’s restoration will be followed by a seventh day, which will be a day of rest (Genesis 2:1-3; Hebrews 4:4, 9).
Each day in the former restoration and rest was twenty-four hours in length, as seen by the expression “the evening and the morning” on each day (1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31; 2:2, 3); but each day in the latter restoration and rest (foreshadowed by the former) is one thousand years in length (Genesis 1:14-19; Matthew 17:1-5; 2 Peter 1:15-18; 3:5-8). Just as God restored the ruined creation at the very beginning in six days comprised of twenty-four hours each, He is going to restore the two subsequent ruined creations in six days comprised of one thousand years each. Then, just as God rested for one twenty-four-hour day at the completion of his restoration work in Genesis, He is going to rest for a one-thousand-year day at the completion of His subsequent restoration work.
Accordingly, the whole of the latter restoration and rest is set forth in foundational form at the very beginning. The six days of work and one day of rest foreshadow six thousand years of work and one thousand years of rest. And this covers the whole of God’s revelation to man (save for several brief instances of events either preceding or following the 7,000 years, given so man can properly understand and place events occurring during the 7,000 years within their proper perspective).
Thus it is easy to see and understand how all Scripture following Genesis 1:1-2:3 must relate to this opening section of Scripture, which forms the foundation. The whole of Scripture, as this opening section, covers events relating to restoration and rest during six and seven days (six and seven thousand years). The latter is patterned after the former; and to properly understand the latter, one must have a proper understanding of the former.
A solid foundation must first be laid (Genesis 1:1-2:3) before a stable superstructure can be built (Genesis 2:4ff). And note that any stable structure must always rest on its foundation.
God didn’t place Genesis 1:1-2:3 at the very beginning of His revelation to man, structuring the material in these verses after a certain fashion for man to ignore; nor would God expect man to begin his study of Scripture elsewhere. Rather, the opposite is true.
God structured the opening section of His revelation to man after a particular fashion, for a reason; and man is to begin where God began and follow the structure that God established.
There remains therefore a rest [Sabbath rest] for the people of God (Hebrews 4:9).
Hebrews 4:1-11 deals with a rest that will be realized by “the people of God” during the seventh millennium dating from the restoration of the earth and the creation of man in the first chapter of Genesis.
Teachings surrounding this rest, textually and contextually, viewed from the standpoint of the way matters are outlined in the book of Hebrews, are based on three portions of Old Testament Scripture:
1. The experiences of the Israelites under Moses, and later under Joshua (Hebrews 3:2-19).
2. Reference back to God’s work and subsequent rest during the seven days of Genesis chapters one and two (Hebrews 4:4).
3. The Sabbath given to Israel that the nation was to keep week after week following six days of work (Hebrews 4:9).
The experiences of the Israelites under Moses, and later Joshua, during a past dispensation form the type; and the experiences of Christians under Christ during the present dispensation, leading into the coming dispensation, form the antitype.
Then teachings surrounding a rest lying before both the Israelites in the type and Christians in the antitype are drawn from the rest that God entered into following six days of work in Genesis chapters one and two.
And the Sabbath was given to the Jewish people to keep, ever
before them, throughout their generations, that
foreshadowed by events in the opening two chapters of Genesis
(cf. Exodus 20:8-11; 31:13-17).
To Arrive at a Correct Interpretation of Scripture One Must Understand the Use of Types and Antitypes Throughout Scripture
The use of types and antitypes throughout Scripture is immense, which is one reason why Scripture may only be properly understood and interpreted by Christians under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit, who indwells every believer.
The initial portion of Chapter 8 in Arlen L. Chitwood’s book, The Study of Scripture, states this principle of Bible in a most adequate fashion, as follows:
Then He said to them, “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken:
Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?”
And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. (Luke 24:25-27)
Now these things were our examples [Now these things happened as types for us], to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted . . . .
Now all these things happened to them for examples [Now all these things happened to them for types]: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world [the ages] are come. (1 Corinthians 10:6, 11)
Three things above all else must be adhered to in the study of Scripture:
1) A person must recognize that all Scripture is God-breathed.
2) A person must begin where God began.
3) A person must study Scripture after the fashion in which it was written.
God gave His Word to man through man in a particular manner:
. . . holy men of God spoke as they were moved [borne along] by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:21b)
The manner in which God revealed Himself, His plans, and His purposes in His Word (a God-breathed revelation, penned as the Spirit moved men to write) is what makes Scripture different from all other writings. Scripture stands in a category solely by itself, completely alone; and all other writings stand in a completely separate category (ref. Chapter 1 in this book).
Then, in the process of giving to man, through man, the God-breathed Word, at the very outset God set forth a skeletal structure covering the whole panorama of revelation that was to follow, along with foundational building material. And if a person would understand Scripture correctly, he must begin where God began and follow that which God has set forth, after the manner in which He Himself structured and established the matter.
The person must follow the skeletal structure and build upon this structure after the manner in which God Himself began and subsequently set matters forth, establishing them in a particular manner throughout. At any point in the whole of Scripture, any teaching must have a connection with and be in complete agreement with the God-established skeletal structure and subsequent foundational material set forth at the beginning (ref. Chapters 2-4 in this book).
Then, it must be recognized that God structured His revelation to man after a particular fashion, alluded to in Luke 24:25-27, 44 and stated in so many words in 1 Corinthians 10:6, 11. Scripture not only deals with a completely accurate history of certain events surrounding God’s dealings with the earth, angels, and man, but biblical history has been recorded after such a fashion that it is highly typical as well. God has established His primary means of teaching, not through history per se, but through inherent types seen in history, pointing to antitypes seen in later history and/or prophecy.
The manner in which God revealed Himself to man is as stated in 1 Corinthians 10:11a,
Now all these things happened to them as examples [Greek, tupos, types; “Now all these things happened to them for types”] . . . .
The reference is to events during Moses’ day, drawing from the wilderness journey of the Israelites. But the reference would, of necessity, have to go far beyond simply the specific events listed in verses one through ten, preceding the statement in verse eleven. In the light of other Scripture, as becomes increasingly evident when one views the whole of Scripture, the reference would have to be enlarged to encompass not only all biblical history during Moses’ day but all biblical history beginning with Genesis 1:1.
That would be to say, God has structured His revelation to man after a fashion in which not only true, correct history is presented but this history is presented in such a manner that it is highly typical in nature. And Scripture, within this highly typical structure, is jam-packed with spiritual significance and meaning.
God, within His sovereign control of all things, brought matters to pass after such a fashion (within the history of the earth, angels, and man) that He could, at a later time, have these events to draw upon in order to teach His people the deep things surrounding Himself, His plans, and His purposes. And this would be accomplished mainly through types and corresponding antitypes.
Thus, God draws not so much from history per se as He does from the spiritual content set forth in the historic accounts — the great spiritual lessons, taught mainly from types pointing to corresponding antitypes.
Anyone can understand facts within revealed biblical history (saved or unsaved man). This would pertain more to the letter of the matter. But only saved man can go beyond the letter to the spirit of the matter (2 Corinthians 3:6-16). Only the saved can understand the spiritual lessons drawn from history. Only the saved can look within biblical history and see spiritual content (1 Corinthians 2:12-16).
For the unsaved, things beyond the simple, historical facts are completely meaningless. They can neither see these things nor know them. Spiritually, they are dead; and these things are “spiritually discerned.” They can view Scripture only from a “natural [‘soulical’]” standpoint (1 Corinthians 2:14).
But for the saved, the matter is entirely different. They, by/through believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, have been made spiritually alive. The Spirit has breathed life into the one having no life; they have “passed from death to life.”
And they have this same Spirit — the One who gave the Word to man through man — indwelling them to lead them “into all truth” (John 16:13-15; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19, 20; 1 John 3:24). Accordingly, the saved possess the ability to see beyond the facts of history and view the spiritual lessons inherent therein.
This is what is meant by “comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” It is within this facet of Scripture that man can see the things that “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard . . . .” It is within this facet of Scripture that “God has revealed them to us by his Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:9-13).
And it is within this complete, overall thought, as previously stated, that one finds the whole of biblical history forming types that are fraught with spiritual significance and meaning. This is the manner in which God has structured His Word. It has been given to man after this fashion, and if man would properly understand that which God has revealed in His Word, he must study it after the fashion in which it was given and recorded. . . .
Viewing Scripture after the preceding fashion, a complete word picture is presented of the central Person of Scripture — the Lord Jesus Christ. This word picture begins in the opening chapter of Genesis and continues uninterrupted until the Living Word Himself appears on the scene 4,000 years later. In this respect, the Old Testament forms a complete introduction to and revelation of the One who would appear on the earth, intervening in the affairs of man, 4,000 and 6,000 years beyond the creation of man in the opening chapter of Genesis.
This is really the underlying thought behind Christ’s rebuke of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, following His resurrection. They didn’t know the spiritual content of their own Old Testament Scriptures, though they undoubtedly would have been familiar with the letter of the matter, the historical facts. Had they known the spiritual content of the historical facts, they would, in turn, not only have known the exact identity of the person standing in their midst but they would also have known exactly what had occurred, was occurring, and would yet occur.
To Arrive at a Correct Interpretation of Scripture One Must Understand the Use of Figurative Language and Parables Within Scripture
The use of figurative language and parables within Scripture is yet another reason why Scripture may only be properly understood and interpreted by Christians under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit, who indwells every believer.
Frankly, to adequately understand the use of figurative language and parables within Scripture, this writer strongly recommends that the reader access Arlen L. Chitwood’s book, The Study of Scripture, at www.bibleone.net, and read Chapter 9 (for that matter, all chapters should be read).
Nevertheless, the following from that chapter is presented, as follows:
Parables and figurative language (metaphors and other types of figurative expressions) are often thought of somewhat together, for parables usually employ a number of figurative expressions. But, whether appearing together or not, neither ever appears alone, apart from related Scripture.
Parables reflect on previous Scripture. They are given to explain, add further light to previously revealed truth. And the figurative expressions employed in parables or elsewhere in Scripture are always used after such a fashion that either the context renders them self-explanatory or they are explained in other portions of Scripture.
Individuals in the Western world do not normally think or express themselves in parabolic or figurative fashions nearly as much as individuals in the Eastern world. It is quite common for those in the East to speak somewhat in parabolic senses or use figurative language extensively, but less common for individuals in the West. In this respect, it sometimes becomes more difficult for those in the West to grasp certain things in Scripture when it comes to parables and figurative language than those in the East, who tend to automatically think along these lines. . . .
Parables and the use of figurative expressions — as the use of types in Scripture — form different methods of the way God gave His revelation to man. Parables and figurative expressions form necessary parts of this revelation and are given after particular God ordained fashions, in order to form the complete canon of Scripture, exactly as God would have it exist. They form integral parts of Scripture — parts of the whole — apart from which other portions of Scripture cannot be properly understood.
Then, putting it all together, one can, so to speak, run all the checks and balances he wants to run through “comparing spiritual things with spiritual” — whether parables, figurative language, types, etc. — and he will always end up with the same uniformity and consistency throughout. He must, for he is dealing with a divine revelation which, in actuality, has only one Author; and this revelation emanated from an infinite, omniscient mind wherein nonuniformity and inconsistency cannot exist.
And that will speak volumes when it comes to the interpretation of parables, figurative language, and types. These simply form different methods that God used to communicate His Word to man; and the inexhaustible nature of that which is dealt with in the Word of God is no different in parables, figurative language, or types as it is in any other part of the Word.
Any part of the Word forms just as much a part of the Word as any other part. Parables, figurative language, and types must be looked upon after this fashion, for the whole of Scripture forms one complete, divine revelation — given “in various ways [in many ways] . . . in time past” (Hebrews 1:1) — which can only be perfect, to the minutest detail, in every respect.
This writer believes there may be other cogent principles and understandings, which a person should adopt as he studies God’s Word; for instance, Arlen L. Chitwood’s book, The Study of Scripture, contains the following three chapters that could well qualify in this respect:
Chapter 5 Ages and Dispensations
Chapter 6 Jew, Gentile, Christian
Chapter 7 Heavenly and Earthly
Nevertheless, the above will suffice for this writing. Yet this writer would be remiss not to include the following remarks by Arlen L. Chitwood near the end of book, The Study of Scripture:
Because of the vast difference that separates the thoughts and ways of the infinite God in the heavens far beyond our solar system from those of finite, fallen man on the earth, man’s thoughts and ways have been left completely out of the equation when it comes to making God’s will and purpose known. Man’s commission in this respect is very simple.
Man has been commanded, “Preach the Word . . . .” (2 Timothy 4:2). He has been commanded to proclaim that which God has stated about the matter, not that which he thinks or might like to state about the matter. He has been commanded to proclaim that which has forever been “settled in heaven” and given to man, which has emanated from an infinite, omniscient mind. He has been commanded to proclaim that which is immeasurably “higher” than anything man could possibly come up with in an eternity of time, separated to the extent of God’s separation of the heavens from the earth (Psalm 12:6; 119:89; 138:2).
Thus, this restricts the content of preaching solely to that which God has revealed in His Word. Man is simply to proclaim that which God has given to man through man.
And what man may think about the matter — either about that which God has revealed, or about proclaiming that which God has revealed — is of no moment whatsoever. We are dealing with the Creator on the one hand and the creature on the other, with the infinite and with the finite, with the One who can’t fall and with the one who has fallen.
The Word has been given, and the instructions concerning this Word are very clear. It is this Word and this Word alone which is to be proclaimed.
Finally, this writer strongly recommends that each reader carefully read Chapter 11 (“The Goal”) of Arlen L. Chitwood’s book, The Study of Scripture, to bring the whole matter together, to fully understand God’s purpose and plan for mankind.