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That’s Just Your Interpretation (Part 1)

by Thor Ramsey

Maybe you’ve had a discussion with someone about the exclusivity of Jesus regarding salvation and during the discussion you happen to quote John 14:6 (or some other such verse). Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Immediately you’re met with, “That’s just your interpretation,” which often ends the discussion.

There are two characteristics of the Bible that answer this objection and they are sufficiency and clarity. Sufficiency simply means the Scriptures contain everything we need to know about how to be saved and live a life that pleases God. We don’t need any new revelation from heaven. Clarity means just that — the saving message of Jesus Christ is plainly taught in the Scriptures and can be understood by all who have ears to hear it.

So, the proper response to the objection, “That’s just your interpretation,” is, “Actually, it’s not.” In light of sufficiency and clarity, there are several reasons for saying so.

1. The theological history of the church — for the last 2,000 years theologians have all understood John 14:6 as teaching the exclusivity of Christ. This is not really a controversial point, unless you just don’t want to believe it. And it’s not a point that’s been debated for hundreds of years. There has been a great consensus regarding what John 14:6 has meant since it was first uttered.

Now someone may object, “But there are things you Christians don’t agree on.”

There certainly are, but even the very great debates that have gone on for hundreds of years, such as the debate between Arminianism and Calvinism, as important as that particular debate is, it does not alter the nature of the gospel. Neither position changes the message of the gospel concerning the deity of Christ, the necessity of repentance and faith, nor any other essential issue concerning the gospel.

Even when you interview leaders from different denominations who believe the Bible, you will find that on the essential issues of the faith, such as who is Christ and how are we saved by His life, death and resurrection, that Methodists and Lutherans and Baptists and Assemblies of God and Freewill Baptists and the Presbyterian Church of America and Southern Baptists and Calvary Chapels and the twenty-two other variations of Baptists are all in agreement concerning these essential things.

Let’s not confuse diversity with disagreement.

So, the first reason, “That’s just your interpretation,” doesn’t hold up is that it’s not just my interpretation. There’s an entire body of interpretative history behind us.

2. The second reason the claim, “That’s just your interpretation,” doesn’t hold up is because I understand what you mean by, “That’s just your interpretation.” You mean that’s how I happen to explain it, but someone else might explain it differently. So, my explanation is no more valid than his or hers. You see? I understand what you meant. I made a correct interpretation. If I understood you, maybe we can understand what Jesus meant when He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

3. The third reason the claim, “That’s just your interpretation,” doesn’t hold up is that the Bible itself is clear.

Psalm 119:105

Your word is a lamp to my feet

and a light to my path.

That’s a statement of clarity. It speaks of directions that you can understand and follow.

Mark 7:14

And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand:

This verse alone shows us that Jesus taught that people could understand what He said.

Matthew 9:13

Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

You can actually go and learn. You can actually understand the Scriptures as you familiarize yourself with them.

Now, I love this little exchange.

Matthew 22:23-29

23 The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, 24 saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’ 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. 26 So too the second and third, down to the seventh. 27 After them all, the woman died. 28 In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.” 29 But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.

These religious leaders quote a Bible verse and then give Jesus a hypothetical situation. Ever have one of those discussions? But Jesus is pretty plain here. Their interpretation is off-based because they do not know the Scriptures as they should and because they do not know the Scripture as they should they do not know God as they should.

In this exchange, Jesus taught that there are wrong interpretations, but this means there are also correct interpretations. This is not to deny that some parts of Scripture are harder to understand than others. Even the Apostle Peter wrote that there “are some things” in the Apostle Paul’s letters “that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.” (2 Peter 3:15-16)

The simple truth is that sometimes we don’t want to understand the Bible, because we’re threatened by what it says. We’re threatened by what it says, because we understand it.

Maybe you’re familiar with the famous saying of Mark Twain, “It’s not the things in the Bible that I don’t understand that bother me. It’s the things I do understand.”

In short, we have enough information from the world beyond to be held accountable, because the Bible is both sufficient and clear in its communication. That’s why “that’s just your interpretation” doesn’t hold up as a legitimate objection.

It’s an excuse that’s opacity is zero percent. It is seen through. If you’ve been hiding behind that one, come out into reality. It’s a much wider and brighter world. You can know Christ, you can understand Christ, you can place your faith in Christ and you can follow Christ.

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