Biblical Interpretation: A Paradise Lost?
11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.
Carl Trueman (to write two posts in a row with him) recently asked the question of whether Ephesians 5:12 is the most “neglected text in the New Testament in the current revival of interest in reformed theology…” He said this in view of the current popularity of pastors speaking frankly and publicly on matters which would be deemed explicit by many. What I most cherished about his post though was this short quote about Ephesians 5:12.
“So what does it mean? Well, it actually means exactly what it appears to mean. You really do not need a postdoctoral qualification in Second Temple Judaism to crack this one.”
If one spends much time wading around in the world of modern day biblical studies, one can perhaps be forgiven for at times feeling like a warped version of Bunyan’s Christian, who has fallen into a sort of hermeneutical Slough of Despond, wondering whether anyone really understands biblical texts rightly. Thankfully, I was reminded that some texts really do mean exactly what they seem to. In other words, the Scriptures really do possess clarity. Now, this is not to devalue the need for intensive study of, say, Second Temple Judaism, but it does remind me that, in the words of the confession:
All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.
-Westminster Confession of Faith 1.7
Thankfully, the sacred writings are still “able to make [us] wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim 3:15) And good writers like John wrote “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31) Or as it is written:
10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.