“Yea, hath God said....?”
Four simple little words, but oh, how they can cause damage. These are the first four words that Satan spoke to Eve. And because she agreed that God did not mean exactly what He said, we now suffer the consequences of that terrible decision, namely sin. Christ had to die to undo that terrible mistake. Yet still today, Satan finds that these four words are his best weapon against Christians, for if there is one thing that causes a great deal of dispute, it is the subject of what God's Word – His literal words - says.
I cannot count the number of times I have read something like this, “I know what the text says, but that doesn't mean you have to interpret it that way.” In fact, I read those very words just yesterday. Today I read another comment by someone and they said basically the same thing. “You say it can't get much clearer than that! [the text] all sounds so cut and dry, I admit that....but...” Now here are two people that both admit that the text says something that is clearly understood in its straightforward reading, yet both of them argue that God does not mean what He said. In other words, Satan has managed to convince them, just as he convinced Eve that God does not actually mean what He has said.
Now my question is, if that were really the case, how on earth is God supposed to communicate something to us, if we constantly argue with Him that He cannot possibly mean what He has said? How many times when our children have misbehaved and deliberately done something that we have clearly and unmistakeably told them not to do, have they said that they did not understand us to have actually meant what we said? They choose to “interpret” what we have said in order to disobey us. I am sure every parent has had this happen at least once in their child-rearing years.
I cannot begin to count the number of people who have told me that God's Word is not to be understood in a straightforward manner, but that we are to “interpret” it in a symbolic or spiritualized way. Many well-known preachers even preach that we are to do this. The problem becomes, we have been told by God, through Peter, that we are not to try to put a personal or private interpretation upon His Word, especially prophecy. We are told it is not our place to “interpret” it, 2 Peter 1:20 “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of private interpretation.” Now considering that the vast majority of the Bible is prophecy, (not only all the major and minor prophets and Revelation, but also much of the gospels, epistles, Psalms, and Torah. And I am fairly sure that there are verses here and there in the few books not mentioned as well. That means that most of the Bible is not up for private interpretation. Therefore God actually means what He says, and He wants us to understand Him exactly as He has said it. So to say that, well, yes, you know that what is said makes sense as written, but you choose not to believe it is simply rebellion against God. Just as Eve rebelled against God.
Now I know that some read this will argue that there is more behind God's words than what is simply written - that there is symbolism as well, such as Abraham offering Isaac being a picture of God offering His Son. I will not deny that this is true. And naturally God's Word includes metaphors, anthropomorphisms, and similar grammatical devices, which we should intelligently be able to separate out. There are also visions, which God always interprets for us, so we need not try to interpret them ourselves. BUT, and this is a big BUT, besides those few things, we must always first and foremost accept what is written at the face value level and understand God's Word at that level before looking for any other meaning. THEN and ONLY then can we move on to look for the deeper meaning that may be symbolic. And this second or even third level of understanding will NEVER contradict the face value meaning at the first level. If we skip over the first level and try to “interpret” God's Word without a foundational understanding, we turn it into nonsense, for with no foundational truth underneath our interpretation, it will not stand up, but collapse under its own weight. Any theories derived without a foundational truth underneath it will only be a false interpretation and will lead one from the truth, not to it. This is why we find so many doctrines throughout the churches in Christendom. Instead of staying with a straightforward understanding, a great many of the “great scholars” or “giant Christian leaders” through the centuries have propagated their own private interpretation, which then became doctrine and then dogma. The very thing we were told not to do, was done by the very leaders of the church in defiance of God's command, and look where it has led us. People do not study their Bibles, our pastors do not study their Bibles, everyone studies their churches dogmas and doctrines and then defends them to the hilt, by using their privately derived interpretations of the Word of God, skewing His Word in whatever way is necessary for them to validate their beliefs. This is not what we were supposed to do.
So the question again becomes, “Yea, hath God said?” And our answer to that question posed by Satan to this day should be, “Yes, He most certainly has.”