The preacher should be, above everything else, a man of the Book, thoroughly versed in the contents of God’s Word. The Bible is to be his sole text-book, and from its living waters he is to drink deeply and daily. Personally, we use nothing else than the English Authorized Version and Young’s concordance, with an occasional reference to the Greek Interlinear and the American Revised Version. Commentaries we consult only alter we have made a first-hand and exhaustive study of a passage. As there is a happy mean between imagining either that the Bible is so plain and simple that anyone can understand it or so difficult and profound that it would be a waste of time for the average person to read it, so there is between being mainly dependent on the labors of others and simply echoes of their ideas and utterly disparaging that light and help which may be obtained from God’s servants of the past.
Interdependency between the Testaments
The New Testament has all its roots in the Old, so that much in the New is [practically] unintelligible apart from the Old. Not only is knowledge of the history of the patriarchs and of the institutions of Judaism indispensable for an understanding of many details in the Gospels and the Epistles, but its terms and ideas are identical. That it is entirely unwarrantable for us to suppose that the message proclaimed by the Lord Jesus was something new or radically different from the early communications of God appears from His emphatic warning: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17) – to vindicate and substantiate them, to free them from human perversions and misrepresentations, and to make good what they demanded and announced. Most certainly there was no conflict between the testimony of the apostles and that of their Master, for He had expressly enjoined them to teach their converts “to observe all things whatsoever I have [not shall!] commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). Nor did the doctrinal system of Paul differ in any wise from that enunciated in the Old Testament. At the very beginning of the first epistle bearing his name he is particular to inform us that the Gospel unto which God had separated him was none other than the one “He had promised afore by His prophets in the holy scriptures” (Rom. 1:1, 2); and when he stated that the righteousness of God was now revealed apart from the Law, he was careful to add, “being witnessed by the law and the prophets” (3:21). When he vindicated his teaching on justification by faith without the deeds of the Law, he did so by appealing to the case of Abraham and the testimony of David (Rom. 4). Etc…
New Testament Quotes the Old
Not a little help in ascertaining the right laws of interpretation may be obtained from diligently observing the manner in which and the purpose for which the Old Testament is cited in the New. There can be little room for doubt that the record which the Holy Spirit has supplied of the way in which our Lord and His apostles understood and applied the Old Testament was as much designed to throw light generally on how the Old Testament is to be used by us as it was to furnish instruction on the particular points for the sake of which passages in the Law or the prophets were more immediately appealed to. By examining closely the words quoted and the sense given to them in the New Testament, we shall not only be delivered from a slavish literalism, but be better enabled to perceive the fullness of God’s words and the varied application which may be legitimately made of them.
Analogy of Faith
Constant care must be diligently taken to conform all our interpretations to the Analogy of Faith, or, as Romans 12:6, expresses it, “let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith.” Charles Hodge, who, for doctrinal soundness is unsurpassed, states that the original and proper meaning of the word “prophet” is interpreter – one who declares the will of God, who explains His mind to others. He also says that the word rendered “proportion” may mean measure, rule, or standard. This important expression signifies that the interpreter of God’s mind must be scrupulous in seeing to it that he ever does so in accordance with the revealed standard He has given us. The exposition made of any verse in Holy Writ must be in entire agreement with that system of truth which God has made known unto His people. Since all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, there are no contradictions therein; thus it obviously follows that any explanation given of a passage which clashes with the plain teaching of other verses is manifestly erroneous. This calls for a comprehensive knowledge of the contents of the Bible. Such comprehensive knowledge can be obtained only by a systematic and constant reading of the Word itself. As Bengel said of the books of Scripture, “They indicate together one beautiful, harmonious and gloriously connected system of Truth.”
Longdon Baptist Confession of Faith, 1689, Chapter 1, Para 9
The infallible rule for the interpretation of Scripture is Scripture itself. Therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any [part of] Scripture (which is not a miscellany, but a unity) it must be understood in the light of other passages that speak more clearly.