Whatever our purpose, it is to be discerned in Scripture, not in the experience of particular individuals or groups, however true and valid these experiences might be.
There are three horizons of biblical interpretation:
- Textual – the meaning of a particular text
- Epochal – the place of a text in a time period
- Canonical – the meaning of all texts combined
Here’s what that means: Open your Bible to a passage. Keep a finger on the passage. That’s the textual horizon. Flip over a few pages and put another finger on its location in the Bible (i.e. the “title page” of the book/letter). That’s the epochal horizon. Finally, close your Bible, and with both hands, hold the Bible. That’s the canonical horizon.
Meaning is always contextual. It is never ever never isolated from the context.
In order to discover meaning, we have some key questions to ask: Who wrote it? Who is the audience? What is the context? What is the historical background? What other books/letters did he write? Any common themes? Is the passage in the New or Old Testament? How does it relate to its own Testament and to the other Testament?
What we see for ourselves and what we teach to others must be governed by the Scripture alone.
So let’s look at the teachings of Jesus, the writings of the apostles, and the narrative of Acts.