WCF 1.9 — Pastoral Comments

Posted on Nov 29, 2017 by admin

1.9 The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.1
1 2 Pet 1:2021; Acts 15:15-16.


Every passage written by a person to communicate with another has at least one meaning intended by the author. The art and science of discovering the intended meaning is called interpretation or exegesis. The opposite of exegesis is eisegesis in which the reader reads his own subjective presuppositions, agendas, or biases into the text.  Sometimes all it takes to interpret a text is to read it and understand what it is saying by processing its vocabulary, grammar and syntax. This is what a child is asked to do when given a comprehension passage in school. At other times, to interpret the text we need to bear in mind the writers background, the historical context at the time he wrote the passage, the setting of the content of the passage, his intentions, etc. This is what a lawyer is called to do when he interprets a testimony or will.

Now, the Scripture is Gods Word to man. Therefore, we can expect that every passage in Scripture has a meaning intended by God. This meaning must likewise be derived by the process of interpretation. However, seeing that the Scripture is absolutely unique in many ways, there are some principles that must be applied if we are to interpret it correctly. Our Confession highlights perhaps the most important principle. What is this principle? It is that Scripture must be interpreted by Scripture or as stated in our Confession, the infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself. In other words, the rule or objective basis for determining the meaning of a passage of Scripture can be found nowhere else but in the Scripture. It is an infallible rule in that it never fails and is always right. This contrasts with fallible man or commentaries or lexicons (dictionaries) which are often wrong. This principle, also known as analogy of faith, is right because God is ultimately the Author of the Scripture. Therefore, whatever He says elsewhere in the Scripture concerning a subject brought up in any passage must be true. Because God is perfect, there is absolutely no error, mistake or contradiction in the Scripture at all.
Therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.” It is interesting how our Confession speaks of the meaning of a passage as the true and full sense and how this sense is not manifold, but one. The reason is because many parts of the Scripture seem to lend themselves to interpretation(s) that go beyond the surface reading. And some seem to demand multiple interpretations. But the reality is that God has designed many of these passages to have a true and full sense, which are revealed later, often in the New Testament. But never does He intend for each passage more than one full sense. Think of the prophecy in Genesis 3:15. Who will crush the head of the serpent? The answer is the seed of the woman and the New Testament confirms that He is none other than Christ (Gal 4:4; cf. Isa 7:14; Mt 1:24-25). Why then does Paul say it is the church that will crush the head of the Serpent (Rom 16:20). Is it a contradiction or are there multiple senses? No, the fact is that the Church is the body of Christ and Christ is the head of the Church. Though Christ has crushed the head of the serpent, He has left for the Church to end the earthly misery of the writhing serpent.

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Westminster Confession of Faith — With Brief Pastoral Comments
© 2017 by Pilgrim Covenant Church