Exegesis and Enlightening
James L. Parker writes that illumination is that work of the Spirit by which He makes us “understand the revelation [of God’s written Word] already given.”30 Ultimately, only through the enlightening work of the Holy Spirit can one know and apply the truths of Scripture.31 Without His guidance, the meaning and applications of the text will evade the interpreter (1 Cor. 2:14).32 The exegete, therefore, must continually depend on the leading of the Author of the Word Himself. For the Spirit always guides through His written Word (John 14:17, 26; 16:13; 2 Tim. 3:14-17; Heb. 4:12).33
Some Christians believe that the Spirit may guide or speak apart from or independent of the Bible. They believe that He may give practical guidance today through audible voices, dreams, visions, and prophecies. Such new revelation may be fallible, and not on the level of infallible prophecy in Scripture.
However, this view fails to grasp a key historic evangelical doctrine—the completeness and finality of the Bible. The completion of God’s redemptive plan in Christ fulfills the redemptive purpose of the Bible (Heb. 1:1-2).34 God’s saving work completes God’s saving Word. Thus, God closed His record of that redemptive revelation with finality. The Bible then is God’s full and final record of His revelation. It is our complete guide to godly living (2 Tim. 3:15-17). To entertain other guidance apart from it is to erode its finality.
One risks creating a false dichotomy—with God communicating through the written Word, and the Spirit of God speaking in another medium. Yet, the Word of God is the Word of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit speaks through His Word. There can be no contradiction or inconsistency between the Word of God and the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit cannot contradict Himself.
Only the Sacred Writings are inspired of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:19-21). Since only Scripture is God-breathed, then any other “word from God” is not. (This view affirms what the Spirit has declared, not quench it.) No other guidance gives the very words of God, except Scripture. The inspiration of Scripture, and hence, its inerrancy, makes the Bible our sole authority for doctrine and spirituality (Ps. 19:7-9; 2 Tim. 3:15-17; 2 Pet. 1:3-4). Reformers called this important doctrine, “Sola Scriptura” (Scripture Alone). It means that the Bible is our only infallible and sufficient authority for faith and life.35
The sufficiency of Scripture means that Scripture teaches explicitly or implicitly all that is necessary for salvation and spiritual living (2 Tim. 3:15).36 One can get clear guidance from direct statements of Scripture, or guiding principles from it. Conversely, no other teaching outside of, in addition to, or other than what is taught in Scripture is to be believed over it (Gal. 1:8).37 No other sacred writing, new revelation, tradition, or experience is to be taken as equal to it in authority. To rely on any other guidance apart from Scripture is to erode the sufficiency of Scripture.
Further, to believe in this form of mysticism is to nullify the need for exegesis. Since one only has to sense the voice of the Spirit, he need not search the Scriptures for divine guidance. However, God has ordained the exegetical ministry (See Neh. 8:7-8; Matt. 16:36; Luke 16:29; 24:27; John 5:39; Acts 11:4; 17:11; 2 Tim. 2:15; 3:16-4:4). Only through exegesis can we derive the direction of Scripture. Apart from it, we have no way of knowing the will of God.
Such a doctrine also opens the window to various biased imaginations, erroneous prophecies, and conflicting interpretations. Only Scripture is inspired, inerrant, and infallible. Better to follow God’s perfect Word alone, rather than the imperfect words of modern-day prophecies (Ps. 19:7-9).
Finally, this notion diverts the attention of believers from the true Word of the Spirit in the Scriptures.38 It also deflects, even divorces, dependence upon Scripture. By believing in guidance apart from Scripture, one is depending on such guidance. In so doing, she risks quenching the voice of the Spirit, who is speaking in the Bible.39 Further, when people rely on a second source of authority (e.g. experience or church tradition), they tend to interpret the Bible according to that authority.40
As Sola Scriptura Christians, we do not go to experience to determine spiritual truth. Rather, we establish spiritual truth through careful exegesis of the Bible.
24 “Guidelines for Writing a New Testament Exegesis Paper.” Cited __ Online: http://home.messiah.edu/~mcosby/nt-litexeg.htm.
25 TDNT, Abridged in One Volume, s. v. “exegeomai” by F. Buchsel (ed. Gerhard Kittell and Gerhard Friedrich; trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), 303.
26 “Biblical Exegesis.” Cited __ Online: http://www.answers.com/topic/biblical-exegesis.
27 Vine, Vine’s Complete, 96.
28 Theological Dictionary, s. v. “exegeomai” by F. Buchsel.
29 Robert L. Thomas, “The Relationship Between Exegesis and Expository Preaching.” Cited __ Online: http://www.tms.net/tmsj/tmsj2i.pdf.
30 James L. Parker, ed., Bibliology: Study of the Bible (Peterstown: Faith Overseas Mission, Inc., 1999), 32.
31 W. M. H. Paterson, L. Fuerbringer, and C. O. Hoffman, “Biblical Hermeneutics or Principles of Bible Interpretation Based on Works on Hermeneutics.” Cited __ Online: http://www.wls.wels.net/library/
32 Thomas, “Exegesis.” Cited __ Online: http://www.tms.net/tmsj/tmsj2i.pdf.
33 Paterson, Fuerbringer, and Hofman, “Biblical.” Cited __ Online: http://www.wls.wels. net/library/Essays/Authors/L/LillegardHermeneutics/Lillegard-Hermeneutics.htm.
34 Bill DeJong, “Does God Speak Today Apart From the Bible?” Cited __ Online: http://www.spindleworks.com/library/dejong/revelation.htm.
35 Grover Gunn, “Sola Scriptura.” Cited __ Online: http://www.grovergunn.net/andrew/2ti0301.pdf.
36 John F. MacArthur, Jr., “The Sufficiency of the Written Word.” Cited __ Online: <http://www.mbrem.com/bible/sufficn.htm.
37 The Westminster Confession aptly states, “The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture . . . or may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the
Spirit, or traditions of men.” [Emphasis added]
38 R. Fowler White, “Does God Speak Today Apart From the Bible?” Cited __ Online: <http://www.the-highway.com/God_Speak.html#34.
39 White, “Does God Speak Today?” Cited __ Online: http://www.the-highway.com.
40 Gunn, “Sola Scriptura.” Cited __ Online: http://www.grovergunn.net/andrew/2ti0301.pdf.