Tuesday, August 19, 2014
How Scripture is its own best interpreter
Ephesians 5:22-25 "Wives, be subject to your own husbands,as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her."
In today's post I wanted the reader to see a tried and true principle of Bible study in action - namely, that the Bible is its own best intepreter. Called by the older title: "analogy of faith", the principle essentially teaches that when reading any Biblical text, seek out other passages that speak on that same topic and which provide fuller and clearer information. A shorter way of stating this principle is: "use easier to understand scripture to shed light on harder to understand scripture."
As the student of scripture regularly applies this principle, whole worlds of understanding begin to come forth. A great example is found in two sections of scripture from two New Testament books that were written by the same author, around the same time and about the same set of topics.
The Apostle Paul had ended up under house arrest in Rome and spent the better part of two years preaching the Gospel from his rented quarters, chained to a Roman Soldier. During that time he ended up writing a total of four "prison letters" (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon). Two of those letters, Ephesians and Colossians, end in a remarkably similar manner and contain near the same wording. Such similarities are explained by the fact that Paul was the author, he was writing both roughly at the same time and was addressing identical topics at the end of each letter.
The above verses represent portions of the two sections of Ephesians and Colossians that we will be looking at in this post: Ephesians 5:22-6:18 and Colossians 3:18-4:6. The aim is to simply demonstrate to the reader how the Ephesians texts sheds light and provides commentary upon the Colossians letter. Hopefully by the end of this post, the reader will conclude that indeed, scripture is its own best interpreter by comparing scripture with scripture (again, also called the analogy of faith).
1. Colossians 3:18 Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the
Ephesians 5:22-24 Wives, be subject to your own husbands,as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
So in looking at this first section, we can see the command given to wives in Colossians 3:18. The command is simple and straight forward. However we then ask the question: in what manner is the wife to submit? Colossians 3:18 gives a boundary: "as is fitting in the Lord". So clearly to voluntarily submit would be done except in cases where the wife is expected to do something that is not honoring to Christ. However more light is needed, and that is where Ephesians 5:22-24 comes in to give specific instruction by way of analogy. Paul employs the imagery of Christ's relationship to his church. In reading through the Ephesians passage, one sees the logic of mutual submission - namely that if a husband is loving his wife as Christ loves the church, then why wouldn't any wife not want to find the security, the protection and encouragement that comes to voluntarily yielding oneself to her husband. The more husbands love their wives as Christ loved the church, the more such submission will make sense. In all reality then, the "ball of burden" is clearly in the husband's court to make sure he loves his wife!
Now as the reader can see, Ephesians 5:22-24 shed immense light on Colossians 3:18. We won't comment on the remaining parallel sections of Ephesians and Colossians like we did above. However I will simply list those parallel sections by verse reference only and then close with some final remarks.
2. Colossians 3:19 & Ephesians 2:24-33
3. Colossians 3:20 and Ephesians 6:1-3
4. Colossians 3:21 and Ephesians 6:4
5. Colossians 3:22-25 and Ephesians 6:5-8
6. Colossians 4:1 and Ephesians 6:9
7. Colossians 4:2-4 and Ephesians 6:10-18
We aimed today to demonstrate the principle of "analogy of faith" or "comparing scripture with scripture". We utilized Ephesians 5:22-6:18 and Colossians 3:18-4:6 to demonstrate the fact that scripture is its own best interpreter. When comparing scripture with other scripture, the reader needs to be sure that both passages (or additional ones) are speaking about the same subject and that the additional passage's context is considered. Such a Bible study tool can prove invaluable when attempting to understand God's Word.