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Metaphor and Meaning May 13, 2012

Posted by regan222 in Books, Educational Ranting, General Ranting, Religion.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

    God gave me an idea for a sermon:

Sermon 4 – Metaphors and Meaning


  1. A figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable.
  2. A thing regarded as representative or symbolic of something else, esp. something abstract.

Hermeneutics:  The study and practice of interpretation, particularly of written text.

Key Verses:

John 10:9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.

John 10: 14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.

John 6:35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

John 15:1 I am the true vine and my father is the husbandman.

John 8:12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

John 8:58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am

A metaphor is an implied comparison.  In John’s Gospel Jesus regularly used metaphor to describe himself and his role in the world.  Metaphor is an excellent way to teach because it takes an unknown concept and applies a familiar example to explain it.  Successful teachers frequently use metaphor in the classroom.  The human mind craves order and it is programmed to seek patterns.  If we can find a familiar pattern then we can usually grasp whatever new concept that we are presented with by using comparison and contrast to see how it is similar and different from things we know.

Great care must be taken, however, in applying and interpreting metaphor, or any other literary device.  It is possible to take something intended to be merely descriptive and force some other deeper (and false) meaning upon it.  In this way the scripture can be twisted to mean just about anything we want.

2 Peter 3:16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

The word “wrest” comes from the Anglo Saxon “wrestan” and means simply to twist or distort.  The same root provides us the word “wrestling” or “wrestle”.  Peter is telling us that some unlearned people twist the scriptures to suit their own purposes.  Peter also tells us what the outcome of faulty interpretation is…destruction.

So how can we determine what to interpret and what to read at face value?  In most cases Context is the key.  We should never try to read a single verse as stand alone.  The Bible was not originally divided into verses and chapters.  The divisions are NOT inspired.  They are convenient but also potentially problematic because we tend to see verses as little building blocks that can stand on their own.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The scripture was given as a whole unit and should be interpreted as such.  Both Luther and Calvin held the view that “scriptura sui ipsius interpres” or “the scriptures are their own interpreters”.  This means that if we read enough before and after the verse in question, then the further reading that we do will help us make the correct interpretation.  Context is the most important tool.

Peter was correct when he described those who “wrest” the scriptures.  He called them “unlearned”.  One of the most important things we can do to insure that our interpretations are correct is to be very familiar with God’s Word.  It has been said (by R. C. Sproul among others) that “A text without a context is a pretext, that is, the meaning of a text is determined by its context.  The context may be the entire Bible.”  If we are not familiar with the scripture as a whole, it is much easier to make a mistake in determining the meaning of a single verse.

Enough history.  Here are some things that you can do to read your Bible correctly and get the full and true meaning from every word.

1.  Spend enough time reading it.  Familiarity is the only way to truly get the context.  Three times a week during church is not enough.  If you aren’t reading your Bible at home you are suffering from malnutrition.

2. Read extended passages.  Don’t “lucky dip” or just randomly open to a page and run your finger down to a random verse.  Remember, CONTEXT is the key.


  1. The circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed.
  2. The parts of something written or spoken that immediately precede and follow a word or passage and clarify its meaning.

If you plan to understand what you read then you need to get the context or the overall sense of the passage, not just one little verse.

3.  Have an organized, systematic approach.  There are many hundreds of daily Bible readings or devotional plans available today.  They can be purchased at book stores, found online, or your local minister can likely provide a good system.  A good one will have daily readings long enough to give you the context of what you are reading and be short enough to keep you from being late to work because you overslept.  The goal is to read the entire Bible.  Most will have it completed in a calendar year.  Reading daily is not just a good study habit.  It is a discipline for the mind and spirit.  We all need it.

4.  Have an attitude of prayer as you read.  Ask God to enlighten you and show you His will.

Matthew 7:8  For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

5.  Be careful of the interpretations of others.  While we can gain insight from wise teachers and pastors, it is vital that we feed ourselves on the Word of God.  It is much better to read the Gospel of John, for example, than to read 20 other people’s interpretation of John.  Before you trust someone else to tell you what to think about a scripture, you should find out for yourself what it says.  Supplemental materials do not replace the word.

6.  In order to rightly divide the word you must be born again.  The Bible is a supernatural book.  It is not intended as a great work of philosophy although it is.  It is not meant to be a moral guide post although it is the greatest one ever written.  The Bible is the Word of the Everlasting God, and as such, there is a supernatural element involved that cannot be gotten around.

1 Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

No matter what amount of study or education you receive, you cannot fully appreciate or even perceive the full measure of truth in the Bible until you are a believer.  <Invitation>



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