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Profs use tag-team approach to affirm value in proper Scripture interpretat

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–“A faith that is based on texts that are misinterpreted is a faith that has no basis,” said Gary Smith.
“It is important for our pastors to understand that they must deal with exactly what the text says,” said Stephen J. Andrews.
Recently installed professors of Old Testament studies, Stephen Andrews and Gary Smith, used a tag-team approach to emphasize the importance of accurate Scripture interpretation during Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s spring convocation Feb. 2. Each man assisted the other with visual aids in turn as they brought their messages to faculty and students at the Kansas City, Mo., campus.
Midwestern Seminary revised its curriculum last year to increase the biblical language requirements of students. Smith and Andrews gave practical illustrations of the difference such study will make in studying the Bible.
Andrews told the audience, “There is so much in God’s Word. How can a preacher get up and preach a topical message that talks about everything else but the text? Maybe it is what my friend refers to as a ‘skyscraper sermon.’ It just has one story after another. And it doesn’t really deal with Scripture,” Andrews said.
Using Proverbs 29:18 as his text, Andrews showed how taking a portion of a verse out of context could lead to misinterpretation. Smith used Micah 5:5-6 to show how a careful reading of a text can often reveal the presence of other speakers whose words may otherwise cause a passage to be misinterpreted.
According to Andrews, it is a gross misinterpretation of Proverbs 29:18 to rely only on the first half of the proverb, “Where there is no vision, the people perish,” noting the passage is often misapplied for support of building or financial campaigns. The first half of the proverb focuses on what we are not supposed to do — be without God’s guidance, he said. The second half, “But happy is he who keeps the law,” focuses on what we are supposed to do, Andrews added, with each half having a bearing on the other half.
Smith referred to Isaiah chapters 36 and 37 where the story is told of King Hezekiah and Isaiah praying to God in the temple and of God sending his angel of death to destroy 185,000 Assyrian troops. “I believe that is the event that is surrounding these prophecies” in Micah 5:5-6. We all struggle day in and day out to maintain God as our source of peace and strength. The tension is always to do something ourselves to bring about his kingdom. This text tells us that human power is not the way.”
Referring to the context of his text from Proverbs 29:18, Andrews said, “This proverb is one of the various proverbs of Solomon which were copied out by the men of Hezekiah, King of Judah. It just sits there by itself.” However, the nature of a proverb according to Andrews is to express a truth within a limited context with a definite beginning and a definite end. Andrews noted that it is necessary to consider the whole proverb in order to understand its true meaning. “It is a gross misinterpretation to focus on the first half of the proverb by itself.”
Calling on believers to remember the Israelite deliverance from Egypt, the defeat of Goliath, the diminished but victorious army of Gideon, and the death angel who aided Hezekiah by devastating the Assyrians, Smith asked, “Was it by human strength or the power of God? Our danger is constantly using our human strength or our national strength and being very proud of who we are and what we can do and what we can accomplish for God instead of depending on God for his strength and his peace.”
Andrews said, “It is not so easy to be continually studying God’s Word. Don’t just say that you are a people of the Book without studying the Book. The Word of God is to be meditated on and studied. It is to be made a central part of our worship experience, a central part of our preaching. We have to be centrally focused upon the challenge of God’s communication.”
Smith noted, “A believer’s hope must be based on the text and the context of God’s divine promises. We need to be careful as we analyze and read the Scriptures to make sure that our belief and our faith and our hope is based on what Scripture teaches, not on some false imagination of what it might be saying.”
Andrews pointed out, “When there is no solid committed truth from God’s Word, no preaching that establishes God’s absolute that sin is sin and no prophetic stance in our society, then you can expect all kinds of things to happen. The result of studying God’s Word should be a sweeter, closer walk with the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Reiterating that truth, Smith remarked, “There is a lot of American nationalism, and I believe we should be proud of our country. But our country is not going to save the world. God is the one who is going to save the world. Our country is not going to bring peace to this world; God is the only means of bringing peace to this world.”
Andrews concluded his address with, “The church must be in faithful study of God’s Word so that it can ferret out and prevent immorality. The faithful study of God’s Word prospers the individual and the church.”
“Real profound Bible study must remain a central part of our church life and our SBC life,” Andrews insisted, with an appeal for students to “study the original languages” to put into practice such a conviction.

    About the Author

  • Larry B. Elrod