The Role of the Holy Spirit in biblical interpretation

What do you think the role of the Holy Spirit is in interpretation?

The Holy Spirit has revealed God’s wisdom which was previously unknown. In particular the Spirit has revealed the glorious things that God has provided for believers through Christ (1 Cor. 2:10, 12). This wisdom, which was previously hidden, is now recorded in the N.T. Scriptures. These things were “spoken” (now recorded) with the Spirit’s guidance (2:13). As a result of Scripture coming from the Holy Spirit unsaved people do not accept it (2:14).

Here are the things that Scripture teaches that the Holy Spirit does for the believer in the process of biblical interpretation:

  1. The Spirit enables believers to accept the teaching of God’s Word (1 Cor. 2:12, 15-16).

The indwelling Holy Spirit desires the Word of God and gives believers the ability to accept the teaching of Scripture into his life. This reception of Scripture is only made possible through the supernatural influence of the indwelling Spirit. An unregenerate person rejects Scripture because he does not have the desire to accept it apart from the indwelling Holy Spirit (2:14). The believer accepts God’s Word as authoritative in his life as a result of the Spirit’s presence in his life.

One thing bears mentioning. Paul states that he is able to share this spiritual wisdom with the spiritually mature (2:6; 3:1). Therefore, as a believer matures spiritually the influence of the Spirit becomes greater in his life. This would result in the believer more readily accepting God’s Word in his life. Spiritual immaturity causes believer to be slow to accept God’s Word.

  1. The Spirit enables believers to recognize Scripture as truth (1 Jn. 2:20, 27).

John tells the recipients of his letter that they as believers have an “anointing” from God (2:20a). Believers have received the indwelling Holy Spirit. John’s audience had already been taught biblical truth, to which they were to adhere (2:20b-24). John states that false teachers were attempting to lead them astray from the biblical teaching that they had received and believed (2:22-23, 26). John tells them to adhere to the biblical teaching that they had already received and believed (2:24). He also tells them that the Holy Spirit (the “anointing” from God) will enable them to recognize the difference between the truth of Scripture and the lie of false teaching (2:27). The Holy Spirit will enable believers to recognize Scripture as true.

One thing that bears mentioning. The believers had already been discipled to an extent. They had received, not just the gospel but, further biblical teaching. This further biblical teaching was to help them progress in spiritual maturity. Application for today would be that believers need to increase in their knowledge of Scripture so that the Spirit will be able to help them to more clearly recognize truth, error, and the difference between the two.

  1. The Spirit enables believers to apply the teaching of Scripture to their lives (1 Cor. 2:12-16).

This aspect of the Holy Spirit’s involvement results first from careful exegesis of the biblical text. As a believer carefully exegetes a biblical text and discovers the author’s intent, the Holy Spirit then works supernaturally to enable the believer to respond to the biblical teaching. The Spirit acts upon the believer to enable him to apply the teaching of the biblical text to his life, if appropriate. This role of the Spirit in biblical interpretation grows out of the Spirit’s role in accepting Scripture.

Before a believer can apply the teaching of Scripture to his life he must first accept the teaching of Scripture as God’s Word. Before a believer can apply the teaching of Scripture to his life he must practice careful exegesis to discover the author’s intent.

The role of the Holy Spirit in the process of biblical interpretation was challenging. In working through the biblical text it was difficult not to affix the traditional view of illumination to the biblical text in view. The result of that would have been eisegesis, instead of exegesis. In the study I found the following three aspects to the role of the Holy Spirit in biblical interpretation:

      1. The Spirit enables believers to accept the teaching of Scripture as God’s Word.

      2. The Spirit enables believers to recognize the teaching of Scripture as truth.

      3. The Spirit enables believers to apply the teaching of Scripture to their lives (when appropriate).

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