|Phillip the evangelist - Rembrandt, The Baptism of the Eunuch, |
1626, Museum Catharijne convent, Utrecht - Wikipedia
By T.M. Moore - Posted at The Fellowship of Ailbe:
We all need a little help from our friends.
Reading God’s Word (6)
So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him. Acts 8.30, 31
Interpretation gone mad
The doctrine of the priesthood of all believers is one of the more glorious aspects of the legacy of the Protestant Reformation. It is also one of the more dismal.
This doctrine teaches that all believers, having direct access to God through faith and the Holy Spirit, are able to understand the teaching of Scripture and gain the benefit God intends. This should encourage us in right reading of the Word of God. We can understand the Bible; we can learn the mind of God; we can be transformed by the living Word and the indwelling Spirit of Christ into the image of Jesus Himself (2 Cor. 3.12-18).
It is a mistake to think, however, that we can do this alone.
Just because we can all read and understand the Bible does not mean that Biblical interpretation should become the hermeneutical free-for-all it has sometimes been within the ranks of evangelical Christians. The Bible is not our personal spiritual palette, for us to use in painting out the life of faith however we choose. We are part of a community and Body of believers, extending through many ages, cultures, and traditions, and the Spirit of God works through the Body, and not just individual members, to bring to light the truth of God’s Word.
There is, in other words, what J. I. Packer has referred to as a “Magisterium of the Holy Spirit” – a long, venerable, and consistent tradition of Biblical understanding, which has come down to us from the earliest days of the Church to guide us, like Philip with the Ethiopian courtier, in right reading of God’s Word.