The Scriptures opened, expounded and understood

HEARERS – actively engage your understanding

Although, when considered in the context of the scripture, the three activities of ‘expounding’, ‘opening’ and ‘understanding’ sometimes occur simultaneously, this is not always so, and perhaps, sadly, not often the case. This is because two parties are involved, the first expounding and opening and the other exercising understanding. So when, as referenced above, the Lord Jesus expounded and opened the scriptures to those disciples, it was necessary for them to be enabled to understand the full import of what He was saying. In just the same way, when spiritual gifts of ministry or teaching are exercised today, it remains necessary for believers to be able to understand what is being said before they can meaningfully respond. Both sides of the equation need to be in place.

TEACHERS – take great care to be understood

‘He expounded unto them in all the scriptures, the things concerning himself’, v. 27. The verb translated here as ‘expound’ is more usually given in the KJV as ‘interpret’, having the idea of making fully understandable. Paul uses the same word when explaining that even if a person was exercising a real spiritual gift when speaking in tongues, unless either the speaker himself or someone else present was able to interpret, no benefits would accrue to the hearers, see 1 Cor. 14. 1; 13. 27. In the absence of an interpreter, the wouldbe speaker was to ‘keep silence in the church’, although this need in no way hinder his private and personal communion with God, see v. 28.

Whilst this exact problem is very unlikely to occur today, a common problem now is when an individual while ministering or teaching, uses words, terms, illustrations or quotations which are quite beyond the ability of some at least of his hearers to fully understand. Paul puts it in the context of public taking part as to when tongues were used but not interpreted, he sates, ‘Thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified’, 1 Cor. 14. 17.

That was the kind of situation faced up to by Ezra and his co-workers when ‘all the people spoke unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses which the Lord had commanded to Israel’, Neh. 8. 1. They realized that just reading by itself was not sufficient, so they, ‘caused the people to understand the law … they read in the book in the law of God distinctly’ – and that in itself is a great help – ‘and caused them to understand the reading’, Neh. 8. 7, 8. That was true exposition and it is that kind which is required just as much today.

TEACHERS – teach with simplicity and power

In the time that the Lord Jesus was here on earth there were plenty of scribes and religious teachers in Israel who knew the minutiae of the Old Testament scriptures. They could very readily tell Herod precisely where the expected Messiah was to be born and even quote the exact prophecy, see Matt. 2, 4, 6. But their knowledge, and knowledge is quite different from understanding, was at best academic and quite often just legalistic rote. The immediate impression made by the teaching of the Lord Jesus was that ‘he taught as one having authority and not as the scribes’, Matt. 7. 29. As we read of His teaching at Capernaum, ‘they were astonished at his doctrine, for his word was with power’, Luke 4. 32. Of his own teaching at Corinth, Paul claims that it ‘was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power’, 1 Cor. 2. 4, and of that to the Thessalonians that, ‘our gospel came not unto you in word only but also in power and in the Holy Ghost and in much assurance’, 1 Thess. 1. 5. That might have been expected of Paul, a well educated, ‘Hebrew of the Hebrews, as touching the law a Pharisee’, Phil. 3. 5, but how about common fishermen like Peter and John, considered by their social betters as being just ‘unlearned and ignorant men’? Well, the high priest and his entourage, ‘when they saw the boldness of Peter and John marvelled and took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus’, Acts 4. 13, and any teaching or ministry will be that much more effective and meaningful if that is apparent to its hearers.

Real exposition of the scriptures then, includes ensuring that any such presentation, whether called preaching, 2 Tim. 4. 2; teaching, Acts 18. 11, or ministry of the word, Acts 6. 4, is made in such a way as to make the meaning clearly understandable, so making it possible for those listening to make a genuine heart response, see 1 Cor. 14. 8, 9.

To be continued.