Contrary to popular belief, the Bible is not open to just any interpretation. Who would believe it does? The person who commented over at Jonathan Merritt’s post on the misuse of Philippians 4:13, for one (or actually for two since another commenter there voiced agreement to this):
The whole Bible is open for any interpretation which sounds right to any particular person. That is why none of it really matters.
Of course, if the Bible means only what any particular person decides it means then so do any other written or spoken words. And, as the commenter said, that would mean that “none of it really matters.”
But why stop at words? Let’s look at actions.
Here’s an example I use to instruct juries on circumstantial evidence. Imagine you’re in your living room at night with the curtains closed. You hear what sounds like rain beating against the window and you hear what sounds like thunder rumbling. You see what look like lightning flashes through the drapes and you look toward the front door and see wet foot prints leading into the house. It’s not hard to draw the conclusion it’s raining outside. Someone with a different interpretation better have stronger evidence than you have.
Let’s try another. Suppose a car stopped on the road. Why did it do that? Perhaps it’s out of gas. OK, we’ll go with running out of gas, or a mechanical failure of some kind. Wait a moment … it just started moving again. See the stop sign at the intersection? In context, you come to realize the driver was merely obeying a rule of the road: stop at stop signs.
Let’s do one more. You’re at the airport waiting to pick someone up and you see a large group of people all holding signs and balloons, every eye fixed on the escalator leading down from the arriving flights. Soon one of them points and then they all cheer a man in combat fatigues who in turn is doing his best to wipe away the tears streaming down his face. As he reaches the bottom he’s wrapped up in one hug after another. It’s a good bet this man has not merely returned from a longish weekend away from home.
If we can interpret these events when there are no words to guide us, why should we not be able to come to a decent understanding of the meaning of the Bible?
The problem is found in the spiritual aspect of Scripture.
This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:13-14.)
Essentially, there is so much more riding on a right interpretation of Scripture – matters of eternal consequence – that it takes the Holy Spirit to get it right.
Without the Spirit, Bible understanding looks like this:
They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. (Romans 1:25.)
With the Spirit it looks like this:
We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God … . (Colossians 1:9.)
So you still think the Bible is subject to interpretation? Perhaps so, if what you mean is that there is one interpretation that counts. That’s the one the Spirit provides. After all that’s where Scripture came from in the first place.
Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:20-21.)
All Scripture is God-breathed … . (2 Timothy 3:16.)
There’s meaning to Scripture all right, and it’s found in God.