Delving into the Word

The principles and practice of preaching.

By B. P. HOFFMAN, Professor of Biblical Exegesis, S.D.A. Theological Seminary

By B. G. WILKINSON, President, Washington Missionary College

Principles of Prophetic Interpretation

By B. P. HOFFMAN, Professor of Biblical Exegesis, S.D.A. Theological Seminary

The prophecies of Scripture, and their ful­fillment, have long been used by Christian proponents as among the strongest of evidences for the inspiration of the Bible, and many have been won to faith in the Christian religion through this appeal. And the part contributed by the study of the prophecies in the inception and development of the advent movement of these latter times, can hardly be overempha­sized.

But, rightly understood, prophecy is much larger than mere prediction of events or of future developments in history. The most con­vincing proofs of its divine authorship come not from the search for isolated incidents or dates to match predictive statements, but from seeing prophecy as a living, growing, progres­sive unfolding of "the mystery which hath been kept in silence through times eternal, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, is made known unto all the nations unto obedience of faith." Horn. 16:25, 26, A.R.V. The "secret" of Amos 3:7 which God was mak­ing known through His servants the prophets is none other than this "mystery." (Compare Revelation 10:7.) Apropos of this larger aspect of prophecy, we read:

"The central theme of the Bible, the theme about which every other in the whole book clusters, is the redemption plan, the restoration in the human soul of the image of God. From the first intimation of hope in the sentence pronounced in Eden to that last glorious promise of the Revelation, "They shall see His face ; and His name shall be in their foreheads.' the burden of every book and every passage of the Bible is the unfolding of this wondrous theme.—man's uplifting,—the power of God, 'which givetb us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.' He who grasps this thought has before him an infinite field for study. He has the key that will unlock to him the whole treasure house of God's Word."----"Education," pp. 125, 126.

"To man the first intimation of redemption was communicated in the sentence pronounced upon Satan in the garden. The Lord declared, 'I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed ; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.' This sentence, uttered in the hear­ing of our first parents, was to them a promise.

While it foretold war between man and Satan, it de­clared that the power of the great adversary would finally be broken."—"Patriarchs and Prophets," pp. 65, 66.

All subsequent prophecy will be seen to be but the further unfolding and application of this original prophecy. All the manifold promises that were made to the fathers, and that are on record for the encouragement of God's children are but the further revealing of the provisions made by the Eternal One when He made this first promise; and the realization of them all is made possible to those who accept Christ, the One who was promised.

"For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us . .. was not yea and nay, but in Him is yea. For how many soever be the promises of God, in Him is the yea: wherefore also through Him is the Amen, unto the glory of God through us." 2 Cor. 1:19, 20, A.R.V. Again we read:

"In every page, whether history, or precept, or prophecy, the Old Testament Scriptures are irradiated with the glory of the Son of God. So far as it was of divine institution, the entire system of Judaism was a compacted prophecy of the gospel. To Christ 'give all the prophets witness.' From the promise given to Adam, down through the patriarchal line and the legal economy, heaven's glorious light made plain the footsteps of the Redeemer. Seers beheld the Star of Bethlehem. the Shiloh to come, as future things swept before them in mysterious procession. In every sacrifice. Christ's death was shown. In every cloud of incense His righteousness ascended. By every jubilee trumpet His name was sounded. In the awful mystery of the holy of holies His glory dwelt"—"The Desire of Ages," pp. 211, 212.

It is this organic unity of the scheme of prophetic revelation that provides a sound basis for correct interpretation of the individual ut­terances of the prophets. This is recognized by thoughtful students. Thus:

"The 'argument from prophecy' must be based upon the broadest possible foundation. Appeal must be made to the whole of the Old Testament as the record of the preparation for Christ's coming. For us it has well been said, the Old Testament does not merely contain prophecies. but is in itself throughout a prophecy, and in dealing with those parts of the Old Testament which contain the teaching of the prophets, appeal must be made not to the predictive elements of prophecy only, but to the work of the Prophets as a whole. That work must be regarded in its entirety as one great factor in God's revelation of Himself to Israel, preparing the way for the fuller revelation to come, not less than as the foreannouncement of His purpose to make that revelation. and of the mode in which it was to be made. We shall claim to find in Christ. not the fulfillment of the predictions of the prophets only, but the consummation and realization of the whole of their teaching."—"The Doctrine of the Prophets," A. F. Kirkpatrick, pp. 10. 11.

Thus, as all prophecy is seen as the unfolding "precept upon precept, . . . line upon line, . . . here a little, there a little," of the original prophecy, using this as a starting point, so also the tracing of the manifold applications of the prophecy down through the periods of the his­tory of God's dealings with mankind discloses the fact that all of these prophecies again con­verge upon the coming of the One who is the central figure of them all, and upon the culmination of all history in the completion of His work of redemption and the appearance of His eternal kingdom. "He who grasps this thought . . . has the key that will unlock to him the whole treasure house of God's Word."

If, in the study of any of these prophecies, it be remembered that they are not to be taken as separate predictions by themselves, but as parts (portions, see Heb. 1:1) of one great "compacted prophecy," and if they be studied in their relation to the whole revela­tion, the student would be saved from the mis­takes of overemphasizing certain relatively smaller details, or of making interpretations or applications that are not consistent with the whole, or that are out of due proportion. If "the central theme of the Bible" is "the redemp­tion plan, the restoration in the human soul of the image of God," then that should also be central in the interpretation of prophecy. And any system of study that obscures that great central theme—by an array of historical events, or by making an experience in that subject sec­ondary to an acquaintance with historical data or materials on which there is much dispute even among recognized authorities—must be said to have missed the mark. There is still much to be done in the study that was enjoined upon the church years ago, "to gather up the scattered jewels of God's Word into one perfect chain of truth."—"Fundamentals of Christian Education," p. 188. This is a fruitful field for research and for the exercise of the highest type of scholarship, It is open to all, even to those who may not be experts in history or in the use of the Biblical languages.

Some very basic rules for such have been given by the Spirit of prophecy, in the following of which there is safety. Note them: "We should make the Bible its own expositor."—"Testimonies to Ministers," p. 106. "We should day by day study the Bible diligently, weighing every thought, and comparing scripture with scripture."—"The Great Controversy," p. 598. "The language of the Bible should be explained according to its obvious meaning, unless a sym­bol or figure is employed."—Id., p. 599. There is definite warning to those "who have an ac­tive imagination, seize upon the figures and symbols of Holy Writ, interpret them to suit their fancy, with little regard to the testimony of Scripture as its own interpreter, and then . . . present their vagaries as the teachings of the Bible."—Id., p. 521.

"We should exert all the powers of the mind in the study of the Scriptures, and should task the understanding to comprehend, as far as mortals can, the deep things of God; yet we must not forget that the docility and submis­sion of a child is the true spirit of the learner." —Id., p. 599.

The secret of making Christ the center of our preaching and teaching of the prophecies lies in the experience of making Him the center of the life. If He has a small place in our daily thoughts and living, He will not be the dominant figure in our teaching.

"It is necessary to know God and His Christ in order to know the Bible. The Scriptures cannot be understood from the outside by grammar. logic, rhet­oric, and history alone. . . . The Bible is to be understood from its centerits heart—its Christ. . . . Through the avenues of the Scriptures we go to find Christ—in their center we find our Saviour. It is this personal relation of the author of the entire Scripture to the interpreter that enables him truly to understand the divine things of the Scripture."—"Biblical Study," by Charles A. Briggs, p. 364.

water, we come bearing Christ's name. We must not take it in vain. Baptism is virtually saying good-by to this world. We are not to love the world, neither the things that are in the world. The apostle declares that "the whole world lieth in wickedness," and that Christ came to deliver us from this present evil world. He takes the love of the world out of our hearts, and our affections are transferred to things above, so that it is not a hard, irk­some task to walk in the path of God's choos­ing, but delightful and pleasant, for His "ways are ways of pleasantness," and all His "paths are peace." Having permitted Him to ac­complish this change in our hearts, we are ready for the ordinance of baptism.

Wherever the rite is performed, either by the riverside or in the baptistry of a church, perfect order and dignity should prevail. If it is in the church, while the candidates are preparing, the one presiding at the organ or piano may play softly, "Just as I Am" or "The Waters Are Troubled." The minister, neatly robed, steps solemnly down into the water. One at a time, the candidates, assisted by the deacons or deaconesses, are placed in his care. He leads them into the pool facing the con­gregation. The candidate's hands are folded as in death; the eyes are closed, and the body is held rigid. The minister, taking the can­didate's folded hands in his left hand, raises his right hand, saying, "On profession of your faith in the Lord Jesus, I now baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." He then takes a firm hold of the candidate's robe, between the shoulders, and lowers him gently into the pool. As there will be a tendency to let go of the breath, the minister should whisper, just as the candidate is being lowered into the water, "Now hold your breath." If this method is followed, there will seldom be any strangling. After immers­ing him, and bringing him up to a standing position, the minister may say, "You rise to walk in newness of life."

At the conclusion of the service, the minister asks the congregation to rise, and while still standing in the water, pronounces the benedic­tion.

Speaking Evil of Rulers

By B. G. WILKINSON, President, Washington Missionary College

In this hour when the whole world is rushing into unprecedented confusion and danger, we need great wisdom. As I travel about among our churches and camp meetings, and when I listen to the conversation of our students, I feel great concern lest our people place them­selves in unnecessary danger by failing to heed the Bible instruction with reference to our attitude toward rulers.

In America we have long been accustomed to hold any opinion we desire and to speak freely concerning individuals, parties, politics, organizations, or anything else. Grave dangers are ahead of us because there are many who do not realize that changed conditions likewise demand change in us. Types of government are changing. Many in the United States are speaking of the coming of a new social order. It seems almost certain that there will also be a change in the political order. And if the change is not to the liking of some, they may unwisely express their opinions. "Presump­tuous are they, self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities." 2 Peter 2:10.

We of America have been so accustomed to a democratic form of government that the very thought of centralized power is disturbing.. Nevertheless, such governments have some­times been according to God's divine providence, and in the past He has used them. The mon­arch Nebuchadnezzar was used by Him in pun­ishing the children of Israel. The Lord called this heathen, absolute despot, "My servant." Jer. 25:9. We learn from this experience that organized despotic government is better than anarchy; and although we may prefer a demo­cracy to a dictatorship, nevertheless a dictator­ship is to be preferred to unorganized rule.

One great writer has said: "What is de­mocracy? Democracy is character." If the American people lose the ability to rule them­selves, they must be ruled. Abraham Lincoln devoutly yearned for the United States to be a "government of the people, by the people, and for the people." But when we see the enormous sums of money amounting to billions of dollars spent on whisky, tobacco, gambling, movies, crime, and drugs, we wonder if the American people are not losing the ability to rule them­selves. If they are, a dictatorship may even­tuate.

In that hour, however, let us recognize that we should be as wise as serpents and as harm­less as doves. Would it not be much better to make rulers our friends rather than to make them our enemies by unwise, critical statements and actions? God has promised that no matter what may be the form of government, no mat­ter in what difficult political or economic situa­tion we may be, He will raise up men to help His people. In these changing times, it is our duty to depend upon God, not upon some par­ticular form of government or some prejudiced like or dislike for a certain political party.

To me it seems lack of wisdom for Seventh-day Adventists in private, and most surely in public, to try to lay the blame for all changed conditions on any one particular ruler. We are not sitting in the seat of power. We do not see what revolutionary commotions are going on in the financial, political„and indus­trial worlds. Perhaps if we knew all that our rulers knew, we would do exactly as they do. We would of necessity see that what they are doing is the only thing that can be done in order to preserve order and carry on.

Let us remember that, according to the Bible quotation, "The powers that be are or­dained of God." Rom. 13:1, 2. May the Lord help us all not to be rash or self-opinionated, but to remember that the role of the church is not politics; it is preaching the gospel for the salvation of souls.

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By B. P. HOFFMAN, Professor of Biblical Exegesis, S.D.A. Theological Seminary

By B. G. WILKINSON, President, Washington Missionary College

November 1937

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