No private interpretation about what? I hear that often in response to a revelation someone gets into God’s Word, or maybe if someone is fortunate enough to receive a word of knowledge from the Holy Ghost. There’s always that one person that likes to remind everyone, there’s no private interpretation into God’s Word! Or God’s Word is not subject to private interpretation!
Is that so? I’m confident that if we take a look at the only place in the Bible we can find those words together, we’ll find that many people use the “private interpretation” clause as their own way of privately interpreting the Word incorrectly. In almost all cases when this term is used incorrectly it’s when one believer disagrees with another over a meaning of a particular piece of scripture. And as usual, it’s someone’s presuppositions that cause for some to not even look into what the original context was that Peter was talking about in the first place.
So while we’re at it, let’s take a look at what Peter was talking about concerning private interpretation.
2 Peter 1:
16 For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For he received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
18 And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. 19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; where unto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:
20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
Peter is talking about prophecy that comes without the Holy Ghost!
Placing Scripture into Proper Context
If we decide to try to avoid using this piece of scripture as a weapon against things we don’t agree with, maybe we’ll be able to see clearly to figure out what Peter was talking about. Firstly, he wasn’t talking at all about someone’s interpretation of the scriptures. He wasn’t talking about anybody’s interpretation of anything about the scriptures!
He was talking about the scriptures themselves not being a private interpretation. That it is God breathed, not by the cunning of man, but the scriptures (as he points out) were spoken by holy men that were moved by the Holy Ghost. That’s what he is talking about. He wasn’t talking about anything at all concerning how we interpret anything.
That verse is not about us or anyone else, but about the origins of what we have today as the Word of God. In other words, there is nothing in scripture that was recorded without the guidance of the Holy Ghost. And he particularly points out prophecy, which consumes the majority of the entire Bible. The word “private” is as if to say “without God”.
What does Private Interpretation mean for us Today?
When you read 1 Peter 1:16-20, just keep on rolling to chapter 2, because he’s still talking about the same thing. And right off the bat, he is explaining the difference between what the Holy Ghost gives us verses what people who either adhere to, or rather create their own doctrine without anything to do with God or the Holy Ghost at all.
1 Peter 2:
1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.
There’s that word privily. A word not really used anymore, but if you looked at the context and the definition, you’d find it’s another word for privately, or in secret. There is another interesting word being used here which is ‘pernicious’.
That word is defined as the following:
pernicious: having a harmful effect, especially in a gradual or subtle way.
“the pernicious influences of the mass media”
synonyms: harmful, damaging, destructive, injurious, hurtful, detrimental, deleterious, dangerous, adverse, inimical, unhealthy, unfavorable, bad, evil, baleful, wicked, malign, malevolent, malignant, noxious, poisonous, corrupting; literary maleficent
“a pernicious influence on society”
How many different doctrines do you think fall into that category? So many it’s troubling to try to count them all. How many different religions or denominations are adhering to the doctrines of men instead of God’s Word kept preserved for us in the Bible?
It’s no accident that these verses follow the one I’ve concentrated on in this post. Peter is showing us here, that even though there were holy men speaking as the Holy Spirit gave utterance, there were also others who were speaking without the utterance of the Holy Spirit. Speaking on their own behalf, creating doctrines that had nothing to do with God, being void of the Holy Spirit.
These he deliberately describes as false prophets. So given these verses and taking them at face value, we can rightly discern what is being spoken about here in it’s proper context. We learn who those are who are guilty of private interpretation.
Those are the false prophets, and we can know them by their fruits as Peter lays out for us.
- They will privately (without God) come up with all kinds of new heresies that Peter describes as damnable.
- They in one way or another will inevitably deny the Lord who bought them, meaning denying or teaching against the divinity of Christ.
- They will lead many astray through their pernicious ways (destructive, gradually over time)
- They will cause for people to speak evil about the truth
- Their destruction will be swift
How to avoid Private Interpretation
The best way to avoid being guilty of private interpretation is quite simple. Stay in the Word of God, and adhere to what it actually says, not what you’d like for it to say. Don’t try to make the Word adhere to your desires or beliefs. Allow the Lord to work in you through his Word as it is, not how YOU think it should be.
12 There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
15 The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going.
16 A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil: but the fool rageth, and is confident.
As we’ve placed this verse into it’s intended context, can you see how foolish it is to use it as it’s most often used? As a way to attempt to stifle someone which disagrees with you, or you with them? The weapons of our warfare are spiritual not carnal. So don’t use your spiritual weapons carnally.
Nobody takes a steel sword and uses it as a tool of prayer. Neither should we use the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, as a carnal weapon against others. Especially other believers! To say to someone right off the bat that had been given a revelation, that it couldn’t be from God because God’s Word isn’t up for private interpretation, is just down right ignorant to what the Word actually says in the first place. So don’t do that.
However, there are situations where it is actually true. There are many deceivers out there that twist God’s Word for the sole intent and purposes to deceive others. But there are also those who preach doctrine that is not found anywhere in the Bible, and could simply be mistaken because of their own presuppositions which may have been handed down from someone else (parents, friends, religious leaders, etc.).
As I’ve mentioned in a couple of other posts, don’t be quick to jump on someone with the false prophet title, unless it is clear that a person is denying Christ who bought them, as Peter mentions. Someone mistaken over something Biblical might just have a really good reason to believe something that they might be clearly wrong about. That’s where as a fellow believer, it would be prudent to exercise some fruit of the Spirit that often go forgotten. I’d personally recommend temperance, peace, love and long-suffering.
Look into the matter yourself before doing anything else and make sure YOU aren’t the one who is a victim of presuppositions. And if you find the matter in the Word, and you’re right according to what it says, then just point out what it says to the person that may be adhering to a supposed biblical doctrine which isn’t. There’s no need to start using the Word as a mud slinging devise. That’s not what it’s intended to be.
To Sum it up
Peter’s intention behind this hugely misunderstood verse is actually very reassuring to us when we place it in the intended context. It is a verse among a group of scripture that lets us know the difference between what is the Word of God and what isn’t. Also who the Word of God came from, which was the Holy Ghost. None of those men did anything under their own utterance, but by that which was given to them by the Lord.
But for those who come up with their own damnable heresies, speaking on their own accord, claiming to be God’s child but having no clue who he is, what he’s done, what he’s established, what he’s said, or how he thinks, but is only a man’s work preaching from the contents of his own heart without the Holy Ghost, creating prophecy without the Spirit of Prophecy, these are they that are guilty of private interpretation.
Do your due diligence not to be counted among them, but stay fresh in the Word of God. How can anyone expect to be able to rightly discern the Word of Truth without becoming familiar with it in the first place? Knowing your bible will guide you to know God Almighty himself, and if you read it with the intentions to learn from him, you will be far better off for it. You may find some things challenging you and challenging different things you’ve been taught, but that’s okay.
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Thank you for visiting this website and reading these articles! I’d like to also personally thank all of you who have been sharing these pages with your subscribers, friends and family, and all of the plus 1’s and likes and all the things that you guys have done to help spread this site around and help it to grow! God bless you all in Christ Jesus! If you have had any question in your mind concerning the meaning behind private interpretation, I really do hope this has blessed you!