Interpreting Difficult Verses

1 July 2018 AM – Mark 16:16-20 – Mr17 – Scott Childs

Introduction: Dr. B. Myron Cedarholm often told us in Bible College that “There is one interpretation of the Bible but many applications.” When we find a difficult verse, we must carefully seek the right interpretation.

Transition: Today we are going to examine three difficult verses and then deal two false teachings that have resulted from their misinterpretation.

The first false teaching is that …

1.        Baptism is required for salvation (v.16)
a.         The first half of the verse appears to teach this
1)         Any time we interpret a Bible verse there are two important rules we must not ignore.
a)         The golden rule is – “Interpret Scripture with Scripture” (2 Peter 1:20). We must use other Bible verses as a commentary for our text.
b)         The silver rule is – “Always let clear Scriptures interpret the unclear Scriptures”. Many Scriptures teach the opposite to what our text seems to teach. Therefore, we must use the clear verses to interpret this difficult verse.
2)         When you find a difficult verse in the Bible be sure you understand the terms that are used.
a)         Saved is a word that describes being delivered or rescued. In this context, it is being rescued from eternal hell by Christ’s payment on the cross.  Jesus died to save sinners.
b)         Believing is placing one’s faith in Christ alone for salvation. It is more than believing in the head that Christ lived, died and rose again. It is trusting Christ alone to forgive your sin, rescue you from hell, and give you eternal life in heaven. It is placing your full reliance on Christ to save you.
c)         Baptism is immersion or dunking under water after salvation as a public testimony of one’s faith.
d)         Damned is a word that is usually translated “condemned” in the KJV Bible. It describes coming judgment. When connected with salvation, it refers to eternal judgment in hell. The word damned carries the same meaning as “perish” in (John 3:16) “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
3)         Next, you must examine how God used the terms in other Bible verses.
a)         Verses that use “saved” in similar context include: (Acts 16:31) “And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” (Romans 10:9) “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Salvation is by grace, not by doing any work like being baptised.
b)         The verses we just read also connect believing with being saved. Believing on Christ is not depending AT ALL on anything you can do. (Ephesians 2:8-9) “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
c)         Baptism is a testimony of one’s salvation after he is already saved. Philip made it clear that baptism was after salvation. (Acts 8:36-37) “And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”
d)         Our text verse seems to state that both believing and baptism save a person. However, scores of verses say that believing saves without any mention of baptism. For example, (John 3:15) “That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:36) “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” (John 20:31) “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”
e)         Our text is the only verse in the Bible that uses this word “damned” [G2632] with saved, believe, or baptism.
4)         Some churches, use this verse to insist that baptism is a necessary part of salvation. That belief is also called “Baptismal Regeneration”. However, that is NOT what this verse is teaching!
b.         The second half of the verse makes this clear
1)         What does it say? “He that believeth not is damned.” The one who will be damned is the one who does not believe. There is no mention of baptism.
2)         Lack of believing on Christ or faith in Christ condemns the soul. Lack of baptism does not. The apostle Paul, one of the most used preachers of all time said that God did not send him to baptise. (1 Corinthians 1:17) “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.” If baptism were necessary to save your soul, why would Paul say such a thing?
O  The Bible evidence is clear. Baptism does not save. It has nothing to do with salvation. It is ONLY a testimony of one’s faith in Christ.

The second false teaching is that …

2.        All Christians should do sign miracles (v.17-18)
a.         Examine what Mark wrote
1)         He wrote, “And these signs shall follow them that believe.”
a)         In my name shall they cast out devils;
b)         They shall speak with new tongues;
c)         They shall take up serpents;
d)         If they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them;
e)         They shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
2)         Mark did not say that every Christian would do these things. In fact, we have no Bible record of anyone drinking poison and not being hurt.
3)         God called these supernatural events “signs”. God used them to authenticate the Gospel during the transition from Judaism to Christianity (v.20). That history is primarily recorded in the book of Acts.
b.         Examine other Scriptures on the subject
1)         After Paul’s last shipwreck, a viper bit him but he felt no harm (Ac 28:3). God used this as a witnessing tool.
2)         Paul wrote the Corinthian church about speaking in tongues (1Co 12-14), but that is the only example of people speaking in tongues outside the book of Acts. (1 Corinthians 14:22) “Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.”
3)         Just before his death, Paul wrote, (2 Timothy 4:20) “Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick.” Why did not Paul heal him?
4)         The use of these authenticating signs seems to have greatly diminished even later in Paul’s ministry.
O  These closing verses describe events that would happen during the Apostolic Age. Once they fulfilled their task of authenticating the Gospel, the ceased. They are not promises to us today.

Conclusion: Remember, “There is one interpretation of the Bible but many applications.” When you find a Bible verse that is confusing, remember the gold and silver rules for interpretation (Let Scripture explain Scripture and clear verses explain unclear verses). Baptism is not required for salvation and sign miracles are not for today. If such things have confused you, I would be happy to talk to you more about it.

If you have not yet been saved by Christ alone, that is your greatest need. I urge you to trust Him today.

Song: Jesus Loves Even Me – 492