The Pentecostal Way of Interpreting the Bible

        Have you noticed the way a particular scripture verse is used to establish opposing theological

positions? Whether it is about tithing or wearing ornaments, verses are often interpreted in multiple

ways. Consider the major doctrines. For instance, have you noticed that non-Pentecostals and

Pentecostals come to differing positions on the baptism of the Holy Spirit basing their theologies on the

very same biblical texts? What you are seeing is the difference in biblical interpretation. The text may

be the same, but the ultimate meaning of any text is based on the way it is interpreted.

        There are correct and wrong ways of interpreting a biblical text. You may be surprised to know that

some of the favorite theological beliefs among God-fearing Christians are based on irresponsible

interpretations of biblical texts. Preachers and teachers of the Bible must take their work of

interpretation very seriously because wrong interpretations leave to wrong doctrines, and wrong

doctrines affect people’s lives in this world and the next.

        It appears that while untrained preachers often interpret biblical texts poorly, pastors trained in

Bible Schools and seminaries sponsored by non-Pentecostal or anti-Pentecostal groups seem to

interpret the texts often in non-Pentecostal ways. Many don’t seem to understand that they are using

methods of biblical interpretation which led the founders of these schools to non-Pentecostal or anti-

Pentecostal theological positions in the first place. Preaching based on non-Pentecostal ways of

interpreting the Bible is impacting Pentecostal congregations in significant ways.

        For instance, the main aim of evangelical approaches to Bible interpretation is to find the historical

meaning of particular texts. This is, of course, a very important goal. But what the text meant to

someone in the original readership should not be the only concern of the Pentecostal interpreter. What

is the Holy Spirit saying through the same text to current believers should also be a concern for Spirit-

filled interpreters because Pentecostals believe that the Spirit of God is actively at work in the world

today, revealing God’s truth and ways to mankind, especially through His Church. Why should

Pentecostals strictly adopt a method of interpreting the Bible that has led others to the conclusion that the gifts of the Spirit have ceased operating?

        Pentecostal interpreters of the Bible are not just passive readers. They are persons who are actively

engaged in discovering the meaning of the word of God by allowing the Spirit to move within them and

interact between them and the text. The Spirit illuminates the word, giving the interpreters not only

important historical understanding, but also fresh insights and revelations! The readers and hearers of

the Bible need more than the historical meaning of biblical passages; they also need to grasp the

meaningfulness of the text “in the now.”

        Early Pentecostal interpreters and preachers were not stuck on the historical meaning of what they read in the Bible; they were looking for the meaning of the text in their own contexts. This is a valid way to

interpret the Bible. The scripture does more than inform us; it also transforms. Inspired interpretation

that is faithful to the historical context and illuminated by the Spirit is what transforms life profoundly,

not just historical meaning of texts.

        Reading the Bible should not only lead to knowing about God; it should also give an opportunity to know God and hear His word. Pentecostal teachers, preachers, and other interpreters should be mindful of

this. The Holy Spirit reveals God to us through His son Jesus Christ. Interpreters and other readers

should ask, what is the Spirit saying to us through this text now?

        Is this not too subjective? Can’t people misunderstand what the Spirit is saying? How would you

prevent false doctrines from developing from personal interpretations and claims? These are good

questions, but this is where the importance of the community of faith comes in. God has His word, His

Spirit and His community to discern and guard the truth. It is the job of the Sprit-filled community to

test the interpretation for witness and to keep the doctrines in balance. What else should we conclude

from the words of the apostle Peter, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us...” (Acts 15:28)?