We hear allegorical methods of bible interpretations every day. Only an example comes to mind right now; – The five stones David picked to fight Goliath represent the letters J-E-S-U-S
You probably have better examples than this one. The point is, many Christians tend to see everything in the bible as a symbol of something deeper. However, the right approach is this: “When the plain, obvious sense of Scripture makes common sense we are to seek no other sense”.
Texts are to be taken literal except, upon applying systematic guidelines, we find them to be figurative. Some helpful guidelines are as follows;
1. See texts as figurative ‘when’ you are told to;
There are severally instances where we are clearly told to apply allegorical method of interpretation.
- we are told that the two children of Abraham, Isaac and Ishmael were an allegory of the two covenants (see Galatians 4:22-25).
- We are told that the Sabbath of the Old Testament pre-figured the rest that the redemptive work of Christ brings (Colossians 2: 16-17).
You see, we need not be ingenuous. There are already clear, true and good allegorical examples to use if we study properly.
2. See texts as figurative when it is obviously figurative;
When the Lord Jesus says: “I am the door…” (John 10:9), he couldn’t have meant that He is wooden now, could he? The key word there is ‘access’. Paul says this referring to Jews and Gentiles: “For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Ephesians 2:18. Don’t start a sermon on upholstery! Door means ‘access’.
3. See texts as figurative when literal meaning goes contrary to the context;
When Paul speaks of seed sowing in Galatians 6:7-8 and 2 Corinthians 9: 6, it was not a literal lecture on agriculture. Nevertheless, the figure was drawn from agriculture to teach something else.
I must warn however that figures may have different meanings in different contexts.
For instance, when the bible says that Isaac ‘sowed’ in the land and reaped a hundred fold (Gen 26:12), in that context, sowing means ‘sowing’…agriculture. You will be more honest to use that example when teaching on diligence to work not giving per se. There are several other texts that teach on generosity.
Let’s divide rightly. ‘Water’ may represent the Spirit (John 3:5) or the cleansing power of the word (Ephesians 5:26). In several other instances, it simply means water!
Besides all these, remember: “when the plain, obvious sense of Scripture makes common sense we are to seek no other sense”. tweet
It’s a blessed day!
Pastor Emmanuel Iren
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Pastor Iren Emmanuel is the lead pastor of Celebration Church International, a church which envisions a people whose lives are in Christ, for Christ with Joy. The church presently has 3 branches; Silverbird Cinema, Ikeja. Temperance hall, Bells University, Ota and Benin City. Reach him on Facebook: Iren Emmanuel