The primary goal of this blog is to rightly divide the Word of God – meaning to rightly interpret the Word based on the writers context, audience and social/cultural setting. (Hermeneutics) There are an estimated 22,000 – 33,000+ Christian denominations throughout the world right now, some of which share the vision of God’s Grace but practice in slightly different ways – others whom see themselves as the only right heirs of Christ, and set up for themselves mini-kingdoms among the earth and shun all other Christians.
Having graduated from a satellite branch of Texas Bible College with a three year degree in studies and having spent the past 15 years studying and teaching for countless number of hours, I can guiltily associate with what I’m about to say – seminaries teach ‘their version’. The reason there are so many denominations and debates is because we often cherry pick the Word, finding those suitable verses that fit our predetermined mold and run with it. This is defined by the two terms of course study, exegesis and eisegesis.
While exegesis is the process of drawing out the meaning from a text in accordance with the context and discoverable meaning of its author, eisegesis occurs when a reader imposes his or her interpretation into and onto the text.
For example, and what created the desire for this study, is my previous belief in the Apostolic Pentecostal view of Salvation, which falls more inline with the Wesleyan Second Works of Grace model, whereby salvation is initially gained by following certain steps, but is in imminent danger of loss if second works do not begin immediately. The Plan of Salvation is defined by a single scripture according to the Apostolic Pentecostal movement:
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. – Acts 2:37,38 KJV
This scripture is the bedrock of the movement and it is this + other works of Holiness and separation that catapults someone into God’s Grace. This is the example of eisegesis interpretation. In preaching, verse 37 is spoke and applied as:
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what must we do to be saved?
The misappropriation of this Scripture can only be completed by holding the following two beliefs and causing people to trust in them:
- All other references to salvation, such as Acts 16:30 point back to Acts 2:37,38. When ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved’ is spoken, the word believe is reinvented to mean ‘look at Acts 2:37.38 and follow those steps’. Believing is doing, and doing is Acts 2:38.
- All other references to salvation in the New Testament (Post Acts 2) is being taught to already saved Jews and Gentiles, thus Acts 2:38 is the only saving message in Scripture. It’s this or nothing. This falls to pieces time and time again in Scripture, nonetheless it is taught this way.
Thus, this long lesson is born, and I hope you’ll stay with me to the end. When I first started seeing what I’m about to teach in Scripture I argued, I threw it away, then I saw it again, and again I threw it away, until finally I forced myself to write out the timeline of the Book of Acts and highlight the shift between Jew and Gentile. All Christians know this (or should), that the Gospel message was first to the Jew (Romans 2:10) and then transitioned to the Gentiles, but many of us (me specifically!) failed to see the transition in the Gospel message that Paul delivered once and for all to the saints. Jude 1:3
What I think is lost on so many New Testament believers is that the initial Acts of the Apostles was focused on Jews, and therefore some of those ‘acts’ were based on Jewish culture, tradition and understanding. By reading further and in to the beginning of Paul’s missionary journeys, it is clear to see that Paul stood alone from the original thirteen (yes I said thirteen – Judas hung himself and was replaced by Matthias, being the 13th Apostle).
In Bible College, a dear brother, who has now gone on to the be with the Lord once said, controversially, “If Jesus said A, and Paul said B, I’m going with Paul’s B.” None of us in the class understood this, and we questioned that! Who wouldn’t right? Jesus is GOD, if GOD says it we do it! But this study proves the validity of that saying. Jesus came for the Jews, Paul was sent to the Gentiles by Jesus, and their messages were different!
This is a shaker I know, but let me wrap up this introductory post by using the words of Jesus to prove this point:
These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. – Matthew 10:5-7, KJV
Jesus explicitly commanded the original 12 disciples (Apostles) to ignore the Gentiles and Samaritans. Their mission, HIS mission was to the Jews. Romans 2:10. Further examination of the Gospels and the book of Acts highlight that all that was done, taught, and said was to the Jews until the transition to the Gentiles. They taught in the synagogues, John came to baptize in water which was a Jewish tradition long before the coming of Christianity (See the Mikveh), but he spoke of the transition from flesh to Spirit, Jesus spoke to Jewish leaders about Tithing (see my article on New Testament Tithing) in Old Testament Law and yet he started questioning the law when the adulteress women was brought to him for punishment. Again, the Gospel will transition from flesh to Spirit.
Jesus was attempting to get a stiff necked people of the Law to see his Love and Grace, and Mercy, but they rejected him, ultimately handing the Church to the Gentiles. Through this study we will see these moments play out and hopefully, as I did, you will have that ‘Aha!’ moment.
See you in Part 2!