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The Role of the Holy Spirit

More than simply inspiring Scripture, authors J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays remind us that He also illuminates the text as we read it (John 16:13; 1 Corinthians 2:10-13; Ephesians 1:17-18). “Since the Spirit inspired Scripture in the first place, we should not expect him to contradict himself when he illuminates it.”[1] In other words, be wary of traditions, experiences, and/or feelings that may come in conflict with what the Bible teaches, for those are not of the Spirit.

Duvall and Hays zero in on practical application in the last part of the chapter. They ask, “As a believer, what can you expect the Spirit to do for you (or enable you to do) when it comes to interpreting the Bible? There are essentially 3 ways they answer this:

  1. Having the Holy Spirit does not mean that the Spirit makes valid interpretation of the text automatic. The same God that enjoins His people to reason with Him (Isaiah 1:18) and to love Him with all our minds (Matthew 22:37) wants us to think clearly and soundly. “As our heavenly Helper, the Spirit wants to hold our hand and guide us as we learn to walk, but he will not walk for us.”[2]
  2. The Spirit does not create new meaning but gives us a deeper understanding of what is already given to us in Scripture. Isaiah said that God’s word stands forever (Isaiah 40:8) and Peter reiterates it as “the word which was preached to you” (1 Peter 1:26). This word cannot stand if its meaning continues to change. Therefore, we rely on the Spirit to grasp the meaning of Scripture and discern its theological principles.
  3. Just as the Spirit will not create new meaning, the Spirit will not “change the meaning of the Bible to correspond to our feelings.”[3] It is easy sometimes to strip a passage out of its context to apply directly to our current situations. This is not how a particular passage speaks to our situations. We must first appreciate the passage’s intended meaning in its context and then glean some kind of application for today. For more on that process, see Funsized Bible Study: The Interpretive Journey.

Check back next week for Chapter 13: Application.

We’ve barely scratched the surface with Grasping God’s Word! We highly recommend you purchase this excellent book here.

[1] J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, Grasping God’s Word, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 226.

[2] Ibid, 229.

[3] Ibid, 230.

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