The young man felt sure of a couple of things. One, the Bible came from God’s revelation to His prophets. Two, He made sure that though they were using their own thoughts and ways of communicating, what they wrote was without error, was “inspired”. But what good was an inspired account of God’s revelation if everyone had a different interpretation of it? Who could say it was authoritative then? Someone had told him that if you asked the Holy Spirit for the correct interpretation, that would be the authoritative one. Could that be the answer?
He thought he had found a passage that confirmed all this. 1 Corinthians 2:10-16 said God had “revealed” to us His wisdom (v.10), that it had been spoken through His prophets “in words taught…by the Spirit (v.13), and that “the man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (v.14), but “the spiritual man makes judgments about all things” (v.15).
But as he pondered this some more, some realizations came to him. The natural man is the unbeliever. To him, the things of God are “foolishness.” It is not that he cannot understand the concept of Jesus dying for our sins and salvation being a free gift. It is that he cannot buy it as true or at least true for himself. Believers buy these truths. They understand them in the sense that they accept them as valid for themselves. This was because they have the Holy Spirit.
He had read interpreters who did not really follow Christ, but who had nevertheless made accurate interpretations of portions of the Bible. The Bible was capable, like any good written communication, of conveying the author’s intended meaning. One could understand what the author meant by paying careful attention to his words, his language, his culture and the situations of his time. It required diligence and attentiveness to correctly interpret. It required the Spirit of God to believe and act upon the interpretation.
Paul said, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Surely part of that “doing your best” was asking the Holy Spirit’s help as you studied, but it also included working hard and carefully to understand the text of Scripture. God even gave certain believers the gift of teaching to help us gain more understanding. And in regard to the basics of the Christian faith, there weren’t so many different interpretations that the truth wasn’t abundantly clear. Any interpretation that wanted to claim Biblical authority had to be able to defend itself from the Bible. It would not be enough to claim that God’s Spirit showed the interpreter what the correct interpretation was.