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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: David Hocking :: History & Authenticity of the Bible

David Hocking :: Interpretation of the Bible — Part Two

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Okay. Let's get on to interpretation of the Bible. And we started last week with prayer, faith, dependency on the Lord, and boy is that crucial!

So let's pray.

Father, thank You so much for Your wonderful love. Lord, I thank You for the joy of being a part of that. May all of us do what we can where we are to introduce people to the real reason for the season. Thank You, Lord. Bless our class. May we again understand, Lord, that there are principles revealed in Your word as to how to study and interpret Your word. So Lord, keep us on track and loyal to You. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Okay, take your Bibles please and turn to Proverbs 28. When we come to the interpretation of the Bible, we are talking about one of the most serious subjects as it relates to our Bibles. The authenticity of the Bible-I've often said-is revealed in or manifested in the field of hermeneutics, which means interpretation.

Principles of Interpretation

I see the glory of the word in the guidelines for the interpretation of the word. And one of those guidelines, of course, was faith. But a second guideline is holiness. It's interesting to me that God reveals more to those who walk with Him than those who don't. And we're going to show you some things that, well, it might be an eye opener.

We see first of all, in Proverbs 28:9, that "He that turneth his ear from hearing the law, even his prayers shall be an abomination." So if you're not walking according to God's word, then it affects principle number one. See how interestingly they are intertwined.

Down in verse 13, "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy."

Now Psalm 66:18 says, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will [what?] not hear me."” At the end of our last session we talked about wonderful verses, many of them in the 119th Psalm that are prayers. "Open mine eyes that I may behold wondrous [difficult] things out of Thy law." But here I learn that if I'm entertaining sin in my heart, or if I'm coveting, there's something I'm trying to hide, the Bible says the Lord will not hear me. So you see the desire to know God's word and to interpret it correctly is affected by the way I'm walking with the Lord. That's why even though it's not in anybody's hermeneutics books that I've ever found, I find it's in the Bible.

Some guy says to me, "I just can't seem to understand the Bible. He doesn't want to hear from me." Well, it may be because you are not walking with the Lord. I mean, that's a negative start and I don't know the guy, so I'll be talking to him about other principles, context and so forth. But isn't it interesting that you can have all the best studies you've ever had in hermeneutics and really got it down as to how to interpret the Bible; but if you in fact are not walking with the Lord, God's shutting it off right there. It's a closed door. Boy how we need to hear this! Like Hebrews 12:14, "…without holiness no man will see the Lord." Boy, that's powerful!

But I'd like you to go to 1 Corinthians 2:9. I want you to see something in 1 Corinthians 2 to prove the point I'm making that if you're not walking with the Lord, you don't actually have the ability to understand the word. You may think you do, but you may not see where God wants you to see simply because of it. 1 Corinthians 2:9 is an interesting passage as it relates to the Bible itself. Verse nine tells us that by human comprehension, it's impossible to understand the things God's prepared for us. Your eye can't see it. Your ear can't hear it. And your heart can't receive it without God's help.

And so basically, what we are told in verses 10-13 is that the Holy Spirit who knows all the things of God that's been given to us. He can show us those things, can't He? He can reveal them to us. So we need to trust the Holy Spirit. We read in verse 13, "Which things also we speak not in the word which man's wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Ghost teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual." The Holy Spirit, who of course is another key to interpretation!

But what I want you to see here is 1 Corinthians 2:14. Look at this: "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." Look at 1 Corinthians 3:1. Remember there are no chapter divisions in the text./p>

And I brethren, could not speak unto you as to spiritual but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with meat. Because you are not able to bear it, neither are yet now are you able. For you are yet carnal. There is envying, strife, divisions. Are you not carnal and walk as men?

But there's no chapter division. If you're following this and he's talking to that church, then the ones who are the natural man are not unbelievers but they are carnal believers-the opposite of being spiritual and understanding all things.

Now, when I look at the "natural man" in 1 Corinthians 2:14, everybody interprets that as an unbeliever. But I notice it's a Greek word psychikos-psychiko man-in contrast to the pneuma, the spiritual man. Now an unbeliever has a soul and so do we (Christians), but his spirit is dead. When you come to Christ your spirit is active; but in fact, you can quench and resist. And the Holy Spirit of God (the fire in our bosom) can, as it were, have water thrown on Him by our own sin. We grieve the Spirit of God and our spirits get all messed up so we can't discern and understand the things of God because of sin in our life, which grieves the Spirit. Well, the unbeliever, I expect him not to understand the word. But there are many believers that don't understand the word and have never been confronted that the problem is carnality, not lack of schooling. Is everybody following me?

Carnality is a bigger hindrance than the lack of education, by far. You can have all the education in the world, but if you're not walking with God, you are not going to understand the word. You see when you take that tactic on verse 14 seeing it in its context that the Corinthians are being called carnal, not spiritual. It's the spiritual man that understands and discerns. That's why they didn't discern the body of Christ at the bread and the cup and had drunkenness at the communion table. Why they did not discern God's holy, righteous standards of morality and tolerated a guy who had committed incest in their membership and hadn't repented and hadn't been confronted. You know, all kinds of things happen. Carnal things happen in a church that claims to know the Lord but doesn't walk in the Spirit. So you see when we talk about holiness and clean life, pure motives, that is fundamental. "Create in me a clean heart, O God; Renew a right spirit within me," said David in Psalm 51.

Now, these are very much tied together. Look at them again: faith, holiness, obedience. It's hard for me to separate obedience from holiness. Some call holiness, the state of being right with God. Well, I'll tell you, you can confess your sins in one moment and the next moment be sinning either by mind or motive. It's easy, isn't it? One moment you say, "As far as I know I'm all confessed up." And then the next moment lie to somebody. So it is a struggle as we try to deal with this. I see them as all relating together. Obedience to specify, to me is just simply doing what God commands and pleases Him. That's what it means.

Now, we have clear‐cut teaching in the Bible that tells us that is a key to learning. I like John 7:17 where Jesus said, "He who wills to do His will, will know of the doctrine whether I speak of Myself or of God." So, apparently doing what God wants you to do is the key to understanding what Jesus is teaching you. So faith, prayer, calling upon the Lord, holiness, where we're not entertaining sin in our hearts, and obedience, doing what God tells us to do. They're all related, and related to number four, the Holy Spirit. He not only is the One who inspired the word, but He's the One that illuminates our minds. "He will guide us into all the truth," says John 16:13, which He did to those apostles that heard Him. All the truth is in the word. And the Bible tells us the Spirit guided those who wrote the word, those holy men of God who were separated for that task, (cf. 2 Peter 1:20). And said that "no prophesy is of any private interpretation [there's our word] but holy men of God spake, as they were moved [or directed, or carried along] by the Holy Spirit." So in the interpretation of the word, guess who controlled the one interpretation that God intended? The Holy Spirit did.

Well, He's also the One who indwells us and when we walk under the control of the Spirit, you see, these two things come together. He who inspired and controlled the original writers to produce an accurate and reliable record is also the One inside of us, who guides our minds and opens up our minds, who illumines us to what the original intent is of this Book. You know, after I go through these four I feel like saying hallelujah all over again. I get real excited about it. And he hasn't said one thing yet about seminary or college or anything else. About whether you're smart or you're not.

First of all, we know that most of the Christians are not smart. I'm sorry, if you think you are, but 1 Corinthians 1 calls you foolish. And the majority of Christians are also extremely weak and vulnerable. That's what he told us. And the majority of Christians aren't worth much to the world. But did you know the majority of people in the world are in that category. "There are not many mighty and not many noble and not many wise." It didn't say "not any" but he said, "not many." The majority of people are not wise, worldly wise. The majority of people are not educated. You understand? It's easy, isn't it to get full of pride, arrogant. God choose foolish things to confound the wise. We need to walk humbly with our God. 1 Corinthians 4:7 says that you haven't got anything that didn't come from the gracious hand of the Lord.

I just think we'd better get this straight, class. You want to understand the Bible? That's what our course was called. I was motivated to try to help you understand the Bible, its history, its authenticity, its reliability, how to work with it, to give you some basics on this. And that was my assignment. And I think to myself, boy, I've really failed if I somehow give you the idea that if you just know this course, that's all that's necessary. No it's not. No these first four things, you leave them out at any point and you're in trouble. You've got to walk with God. I don't care how smart you are.

I want you to learn with your heart. I want you to learn about your need of the Lord. I don't want you to think that somehow you're going to just walk out of here and know the Bible. You see, you're not going to fool God. You are not going to fool the Lord. And that hunger and thirst for God's word has to be just as strong today as it was if you are looking back fifty years. It has to be as strong. I would never want to go back to where I was coming out of school. And I thought I knew it all. I never want to go back there. I have a greater hunger now for God's word and for learning and knowing than ever before.

A good example was this week I got a new computer program on the Dead Sea Scrolls. And I'm going through them and looking at them. Couple of the volunteer employees came through and said, "What's that?"

I said, "Oh, it's the Dead Sea Scrolls." Well, to me it was exciting! I am reading the word of God, looking at manuscripts. I'm sitting there looking at this and I'm just marveling at God's gracious hand in this whole thing. I've got a hunger for this. I can't quit and I don't want to quit.

It reminds me of Billy Sunday you know the old evangelist, he preached up a storm. And they asked him, "What are you going to do when you get to be an old man and your teeth fall out?"

He said, "Then I'll gum it to death. I want to go down preaching."

Dr. McGee did that. He could hardly walk into the pulpit. One of his last messages was done in my church. I hardly recognized him when he walked in that day. I hadn't seen him in about three months. Suit hanging all over him, shriveled up. We had to carry him up to the pulpit. When he got up to the pulpit, he turned around, I looked at the audience and he did it again. Three times! Turned around! He looked at the audience and he said, "You know the good thing about cancer, when it eats away your body, you can turn around in your suit and your suit doesn't move." He had humor when he was dying because he had the joy of the Lord. And you know something? He got up there and said, "Though I've preached many times on Psalm 2, the Lord just gave me a wonderful new insight." He could hardly talk and the moment he started in it was just like the Holy Spirit of God came on that man and he was the McGee of old. And when he was done, he could not walk away; we had to carry him off. We got down there and he said, "You know the word is wonderful, isn't it?" God bless him.

You see, you can never think that all your study and all that you learn is somehow all you need to understand the Bible. You've got to walk with God. And it will be more wonderful to you fifty years later if that's so. If you don't, it doesn't matter how much you know. There are a lot of good friends of mine who graduated from seminary. They knew much more than I did, but they thought they could do it without walking with God. No you can't! You've got to walk with the Lord.

So all of those four things [faith, holiness, obedience, and the Holy Spirit] to me are crucial and that's why I spent time with it.

The fifth essential of understanding how to interpret the Bible is simply Jesus Christ. And what we mean by this is found in Luke 24-would you turn there please? And that is that the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation is about Jesus Christ. The old time evangelist used to say if you don't see Jesus in the Bible, you'd better go study it again.

Now, here's where we get this from. Luke 24, this is the night of the resurrection. He's with the disciples. Verse 44, "These are the words which I spake unto you while I was yet with you that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses [that's the Torah, which means law in Hebrew] and in the prophets and in the Psalms." That's the section called "writings" of which the Psalms is the majority of it in length. And the chief book of the writings, so they always call the writings by the Psalms. But look at this, the three-fold division of the Hebrew Old Testament still exists today. The law of Moses, five books; the prophets, twelve books; the writings, five books; a total of 22 in Hebrew. He says it's concerning what? What does it say? "…concerning Me. Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures."

Let me tell you class, you won't really understand the Scriptures until you see the centrality of Jesus Christ. That's what this Book is all about. God sent His Son into this world. The whole story of the Old Testament; there's a Messiah that's coming! The whole story of the New Testament, He's come, He's going to come again too, much of which the Old Testament said as well. So this is a very important principle of knowing God's word. It's concerning Him.

I love Acts 8, when Philip was with the Ethiopian eunuch and the Ethiopian eunuch was reading from Isaiah 53. He was a Gentile proselyte to Judaism. We know that because it calls him a "worshipper," which is a technical word for a Gentile proselyte. He comes into his chariot. He sees it and says, "Do you understand what you're reading?"

"How can I unless some man should guide me?" Boy, there's principle of interpretation. And the next thing is, "He preached unto him Jesus." It's all about Jesus.

I hope you see that because if you don't, you don't have the eyes that the Lord wants you to have to interpret the word of God. Sometimes I have to back off and say what did I see about the Lord here?

Number six, spiritual maturity. Now I don't expect a brand new baby in Jesus Christ to have a great, in‐depth understanding, interpretation of the Bible. And it's not because we're proud and we've known the Lord for years. It's because the Bible itself reveals that.

See the principles are from God's word. We aren't making them up. Spiritual maturity is crucial. Now even referring back to that 1 Corinthians 2 and 3 passage, he called them "babes in Christ" as well as "carnal."

Now go to Hebrews 5, please. Would you agree with me, those of you who have done some study in Hebrews that this is a hard book to understand? I remember the first time we were assigned the translation of it in Greek. Man, did we ever struggle with that. This is a tough book to translate. It's not like the simple Greek of John or 1 John. It is hard translation, very Hebraic. That is, it would be easier if it was in Hebrew. The original letter may have been in Hebrew. But you understand that this is a heavy duty book. Not only is it heavy in its vocabulary, but its heavy in its message, its content. And it takes some doing. You have to figure out who he's talking to and why and all those warning passages and all that sort of thing.

Right in the midst of this discussion about the priesthood, in Hebrews 5:11, telling us that Jesus was after the order of Melchizedek-which he will continue in later chapters-but right away he says,

…of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time you ought to be teachers, you have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and have become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that uses milk is unskillful. [There's that word, lacking in the ability to interpret, unskillful] in the word of righteousness; for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even to those who by [How'd they get this way?] by reason of use. (Hebrews 5:11-14)

Notice, you don't become a strong Christian by the number of years that you have been a Christian. You become a strong Christian by reason of use, using the word of God. You have your senses exercised to discern both good and evil. You don't need to ask people. "Is this right? Or is this wrong?" That's typical of new believers and toddlers spiritually. But once we get strong in the word, we know that whatever the answer is to that, it's in the word. I need to find it for myself. "Study to show thyself approved unto God…" (2 Timothy 2:15).

Now sometimes we'll run into a real snag and we'll choose an older mature Christian to ask about that problem to get their viewpoint. I understand that. But do you understand that a mark of spiritual maturity is that you don't need to go asking everybody. You need to go ask the Lord. You need to search it for yourself.

I have found that every time I search the answer to a question, I know the answer. Whereas when somebody tells me, I don't know it, I parrot it. Is everybody listening to me? So if I go and say to pastor, "what do you think about that passage?" He tells me. I heard it and I'm going to parrot it. But you know something, I don't really know it. But if I did the same work he had done originally on it and I went through and studied it and came to that conclusion, then I know it. You see, so sometimes be careful. It's easy to just ask somebody you think knows it, trust what they say and then never study it for yourself. You don't really know it. You need to go through the process of searching it out too.

Did the Lord incite David to number the people or did the devil incite him? It looks like a contradiction to me. Now, which is it? I can tell you what the answer is, but wouldn't it be better for you to search it out as to what the doctrine in the Bible is about God using Satan to accomplish His purposes. It would be a much better task. And then you'd really know the subject. That's what I'm trying to say-spiritual maturity.

2 Peter 3:18 says, "Grow in grace [interesting] and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." There are two things there. Grace means all that God gives you and what He's working in your life that comes from His wonderful hand-His kindness to you. So you need to grow in that. A lot of us have not grown in that because of sin or bad attitudes or whatever. We're not growing in the Lord. And we need to grow in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus. The more we study the Bible, the more we know. That's so important to find out. Spiritual maturity is a key.

Number seven. You won't like this word, but diligently study. Diligent study or put in parenthesis after that, hard work. Psalm 119, which is to me a key chapter all 176 verses in it, to study if you want to learn about the word and how to know the word. You really ought to master Psalm 119. But verse 99 says, "I have more understanding than all my teachers." That's a favorite verse of a lot of students. "I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Thy testimonies are my meditation." Not because I'm higher educated or because I heard some stuff the teacher didn't know about. No. He said, "I understand more for Thy testimonies have been my meditation." I've been delighting in and chewing on the word. And the idea here is that when you depend on the word you don't need to depend on the teachers.

You see that's the principle we all need to learn. You have to learn and relearn and renew constantly what you already know. You might memorize it. You might know the truth. But it comes to you in a fresh and powerful way. That's the wonderful work of the Holy Spirit, and all of a sudden it's a blessing in a new way and a fresh way. Yet you know exactly everything that was said, but it hits you. The Holy Spirit took that and just melted your heart with it and did something special in you. How many of you have felt that?

I've listened many times to some preacher who hasn't said one thing the entire time that I didn't know about. But see, the Bible rebukes those who come to hear God's word just to hear some new thing. No, we don't come to hear some new thing. I want to hear the word preached in the power of the Holy Spirit. Don't you worry about it! I'll get blessed because the Lord has a way of showing us constantly with the power of His word. And I may know everything he's saying, but I'm blessed in a fresh and new way. And that's the beautiful thing about the work of the Holy Spirit. But diligent study, don't try to get out of it. The Berean Christians in Acts 17:11 were commended because they searched the Scriptures, they examined them daily. That's the work of interpretation. That examination is hard work. It takes time.

Two things represent to me diligent study. One is time. Now class, we can waste time too. You know, you can say I spent two hours studying the word, but maybe for an hour you just daydreamed. So I don't mean merely time, but time studying the word. Never believe that diligent study doesn't require time.

I just got a letter from a pastor who told me that he had lost the joy of preaching, studying, all that stuff. And I just told him it takes time. That's all I said. It was just a casual remark. And the Spirit of God went in like a knife into his soul because he was trying to walk into the pulpit without taking time. God's blessing is on the man who does his own homework. I told him that too. Don't think you can escape these principles of interpretation. You can't. Time is crucial. It takes time to study.

Number two is hard work. And if you don't want to do that, then stay out of the ministry. It takes time. And it takes hard work.

Now turn to 2 Timothy 2:15 and let's prove that. If you're going to interpret accurately the word of God, that takes a lot of study. In fact, if you'd like to put it down. As a principle, I believe that study is the key to accurate interpretation. Not your background. Not your knowledge, none of that. Not your denomination. But study is the key to accurate interpretation. You’ve got to hit it. 2 Timothy 2:15 tells you that. Study! Now the reason I translated it "diligent study" is those of you even with the New American Standard know that it's translated "be diligent." Agonize. Our English word agony comes off it. Sweat. It's talking about athletes in a contest of wrestling. This is struggle. "Study to show thyself…." The words show thyself is translated "present your body a living sacrifice," in Romans 12:1. It's translated "yield your body to God," in Romans 6:13-19, same words, "show yourself." It literally means to stand yourself alongside of something-in this case, the word. You want to know how to preach right? Stand yourself alongside that Bible and don’t walk away. Spend some time and do a lot of hard study. God will bless you for it.

How do I know I'll be blessed? Because it says, study to stand, or be diligent, or agonize, really work hard to stand yourself alongside of it and you will be approved unto God. Now it's approval from God is the way grammatically. It's kind of like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, but it's coming from God. The approval on a man's ministry comes from God based on his own study. Not stealing somebody else's sermon. Now the outline may direct you, may guide you, whatever. Somebody else's sermon may help you. But if you don't study, you aren't going to accurately interpret the Bible.

"Study to show thyself approved unto God." Now to emphasize the hard work, he says, "a workman that needeth not to be ashamed" or has no cause for embarrassment. You know the number one reason why we're embarrassed for somebody after the sermon we preached or the class we taught, they bring up some things because we didn't study carefully. And that is so true.

I was preaching a couple months ago and a portion of the text that I was in…I have to admit I didn't have time to look up as to what it really said…I sort of trusted my memory. Dangerous! I preached my heart out that day and so forth. A Bible student-loved the Lord, I mean they're in the church, people who really study-he comes out there and says, "By the way, you know this verse here, I think that is used over in…" And he gave me the context of it. "And I think you came out with the wrong… uh… I'm just curious how you came up with yours?" So you know discretion is the better part of valor. And I said to him, "You know something, that's the one phrase in that whole text that I didn't look up and you nailed me, brother."

He threw his arms around me and said, "It's okay." He walked away.

But see a workman, if you work at it you won't have any cause to be embarrassed. So then when somebody comes up, you know what they're talking about. You've studied it. You've been through it. You can say, "Well I appreciate your view but here's the reason why I came to mine."

God has some really strong stuff there in 2 Timothy 2:15, but the blessing is in the last phrase, 'Rightly dividing the word of truth." So study is the key to accurate interpretation. To "rightly divide" is a Greek word, to cut and to cut straight. It dealt with a guy going into a very thick forest who was making a path for others to walk on. So he's chopping it all down, he's cutting a path and the others can walk on it. So if you want to rightly divide the word of truth, study is a key to it.

Number eight, the simple principle of simplicity! 2 Corinthians 11:3 says, "But I fear as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your mind should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ." If people don't understand what you're saying-we're talking about just average people listening to you, if they don't understand what you're saying-is the possibility not that they are carnal or immature, but that you are not a good communicator? Or number two, you don't know what you're talking about-isn't that a possibility? Why do we always see the problem in the audience? Can't the problem also be in the pulpit? If they don't really understand what you're saying, maybe you're down too deep in the well and you don't frankly know how to get out either. "We need to get into the deep things of God's word." I hear people say that and I don't know where he is. I can't follow him.

Simplicity. Jesus said, "Out of the mouths of babes, God has ordained wisdom" (cf. Matthew 21:16). Is it simple? "The entrance of Thy word gives light, it gives understanding to the simple," says Psalm 119:130. I like to say, "Put the cookies on the bottom shelf so all the kids can get them." It isn't the job of us teaching the Bible to show how much we know that the audience doesn't know! Our job is to help them understand what is very difficult in the Bible and make it simple, so everybody gets it. And I'll tell you, it takes a real smart person in the Lord to be able to do that.

That's a principle that God wants you to understand when you go to interpret His word. He didn't make it in the language of the court. He didn't use classical Greek. He used koine Greek, which is common Greek spoken by the average people on the street. God wasn't trying to trick people. He made it so that little children could understand. He even told people, "Unless you be converted and become like this little child, you can't enter the kingdom of God" (cf. Luke 18:17).

"Hey Jesus, let's get these little toddlers away from You." He grabbed them and put them in His arms and said, "Suffer the little children to come unto Me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven." Don't think they weren't squirming too. I love that picture! Although I don't really like pictures of Jesus, but there's one that's kind of as a rough Jewish carpenter look that I kind of like in the Christian bookstore, and it has all those kids all over Him. Have you seen that one? Man, I love that picture. That's Jesus to me. There are a couple of little maybe first or second graders around His legs. And He's got a baby in one arm and kids hanging over His shoulder. And they're all over Him, those little kids. And I say, "That's my Jesus! That's my Lord right there."

"Suffer, allow the little kids to come to Me cause of such is the kingdom of heaven."

He never made it hard. What do you think parables are all about? Parables are stories that everybody knew everyday. But boy, sometimes we preachers make those parables hard for folks. There is really only one central truth, but we think there's thirty‐seven. We're into "Never‐Never Land" and they've missed the central point, which is the only point of the parable. It's unbelievable to me sometimes how we can complicate what is so simple in the Bible. If the plain sense makes good sense, seek no other sense. But you've got to be walking with the Lord in order to say that.

Interpretation of the Bible — Part One ← Prior Section
Interpretation of the Bible — Part Three Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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