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One Key to Scripture Interpretation (One of Some)

Foundational Prerequisites




The following presentation is a reproduction of chapter one of The Study of Scripture by Arlen L. Chitwood, The Lamp Broadcast, Inc., 2629 Wyandotte Way, Norman, OK 73071, 2005, which is the preeminent book on hermeneutics (interpretive principles) existing today.  Its author is Arlen L. Chitwood of The Lamp Broadcast, Inc. of Norman, Oklahoma.  The remainder of this work and other studies by Mr. Chitwood, along with his e-mail address, may be obtained from his website—all are encouraged to avail themselves of the wealth of material at



Foundational Prerequisites

In the beginning God... (Genesis 1:1a).

The Book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham

(Matthew 1:1).

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1).

The Old Testament opens with the statement, “In the beginning God created the heaven [‘heavens'] and the earth”; and the Gospel of John opens with a parallel simple statement, “In the beginning was the Word...All things were made by him...” Both references go back to the same point in time—the beginning of God's creative activity relative to the heavens and the earth.

The first five verses of Genesis can be paralleled with the first five verses of John's gospel. But, beginning with verse six, John moves millenniums ahead and continues with events during his day, though he still continues to reference events of prior days.

The Gospel of Matthew, opening the New Testament, immediately references the Old Testament after another fashion – “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (1:1). And in Luke's gospel, the matter of Christ's genealogy is carried all the way back to Adam (3:23-38).

The Old Testament leads into the New after an inseparable fashion. The latter forms a continuation and completion of that which was begun in the former; and both together constitute one continuous, complete revelation which God gave to man over a period of about 1,500 years through some forty different Jewish writers, revealing His plans and purposes in relation to man, the earth, and the universe at large.

Consequently, one must be understood in the light of the other, apart from precedence given to either. It is no more or no less valid to interpret the Old Testament in the light of the New as it is to interpret the New Testament in the light of the Old. One is interpreted either in the light of itself (other parts of the same Testament) or in the light of the other (the New in the light of the Old, or the Old in the light of the New).

The interpretative method laid down in Scripture is very simple:


“...not in the words which man's wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches; comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Corinthians 2:13).


One part of the Word (at any point in the Old or New Testaments) is compared with another part of the Word (at any point in the Old or New Testaments) under the leadership of the indwelling Spirit.

Then, again, many of the distinctions which Christians often view between the Old and New Testaments simply do not exist. A basis for calling the two parts of Scripture by these names could be derived from verses such as 2 Corinthians 3:6, 14; but to see one Testament as Jewish and the other as Christian, as is often done, is about as far removed from Biblical reality as one can get.

The word “testament” is a translation of the Greek word for covenant (diatheke). The word appears thirty-three times in the New Testament, and, in the KJV, it has been rendered “covenant” twenty times and “testament” the other thirteen (cf. Hebrews 9:4, 15). Either translation is correct so long as one understands that the thought has to do with two different covenants.

And confusion often arises at this point through the erroneous thought that the new covenant has been made with the Church. That simply is incorrect. Covenants are not made with the Church. They never have been, and they never will be.

Since the call of Abraham 4,000 years ago, God, within His covenant relationship to mankind, concerns Himself with one nation alonethe nation of Israel (Romans 9:4). The old covenant was made with the house of Israel during the days of Moses, and the new covenant will be made with the house of Israel when the One greater than Moses returns (Hebrews 8:7ff; cf. Jeremiah 31:31ff).

During the interim, Christians are ministers of the new covenant in the sense that the shed blood of Christ is the blood of this covenant and the entire basis for any Christian's ministry has to do with this blood—blood shed at Calvary, presently on the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies of the heavenly tabernacle (Matthew 26:28; 2 Corinthians 3:6; Hebrews 9:14-22). But the fact remains. The new covenant has not been—nor will it ever be—made with the Church.

The new covenant will replace the old, and it will be made with those in possession of the old. And, apart from being ministers of the new during the interim (for the blood has been shed, and this is the basis for all ministry during the present time), the Church has no more to do with the establishment of the new covenant than it did with the establishment of the old covenant.

Thus, when one talks about “New Testament doctrine,” “New Testament theology,” etc., the expressions cannot extend beyond the thought of doctrine or theology which has for its basis the shed blood of Christ; and this is something which cannot be understood at all apart from the Old Testament.


Revelation surrounding the shedding of blood for the remission of sins begins in Genesis, chapter three, immediately following man's fall; and the entire Old Testament sacrificial system which followed pointed toward the One—of Whom the prophets spoke (cf. Isaiah 53:12; Zechariah 12:10; 13:6)—Who would one day come and take away “the sin of the world” through the sacrifice of Himself (John 1:29).

The foundations have been established in the Old Testament, and both Testaments together comprise one continuous, complete revelation of all the various facets of the person and work of Christ. And the only way one can grasp the complete picture is to look at the whole of Scripture after this fashion.


All Scripture is Theopneustos


2 Timothy 3:16 in the KJV reads,


All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine [teaching], for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”


The words, “given by inspiration of God,” are a translation of the one Greek word, theopneustos, meaning “God-breathed.” This is a compound word comprised of Theos (“God”) and pneuma ("breath" in this particular usage [this is also the word used for “Spirit” in the N. T.—the Holy Spirit, man's spirit, and the use of spirit in general; also “wind” in John 3:8]).

That which is meant by and the implications of Scripture being God-breathed are given in a somewhat simple manner in Scripture, but one has to look at and compare related parts of both Testaments before he can really begin to see and understand that which is involved. A person has to reference passages in one Testament, then passages in the other. He has to compare Scripture with Scripture, i.e., he has to compare “spiritual things with spiritual.”

Note first of all Hebrews 4:12:


The word of God is quick [lit., ‘alive’], and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword...”


Now, the question: Why is the Word of God “alive,” “powerful,” and “sharper than any two-edged sword”? The answer: Because of its origin. The Word is “theopneustos”; The Word is “God-breathed.”

But, what does that mean? And why is the Word “alive” because of its origin? This is where one has to go back to beginning points in the Old Testament and find the first mention in Scripture of God bringing a matter to pass through the use of His breath.

This is necessary not only because of the need to compare Scripture with Scripture but also because of a principle of Biblical interpretation, called, “the First-Mention Principle.” This principle has to do with unchangeableness, and it centers on an unchangeable structure of the Word given by the unchangeable God. Because of the inherent nature of the Word, the first time a subject is mentioned in Scripture, a pattern, a mold is established at that point which remains unchanged throughout the remainder of Scripture.

Remaining within this principle, the first time one finds the breath of God mentioned in Scripture is in Genesis 2:7, in connection with life imparted to man; and, consequently, at this beginning point, this verse connects life with the breath of God after an unchangeable fashion. God formed and fashioned man from the dust of the ground, but man was not created alive. Life was subsequently imparted through God breathing into man's “nostrils the breath of life,” resulting in man becoming “a living soul.”

Thus, at this point in Scripture the unchangeable connection between God's breath and life is established and set. Only God can produce life, and any time life is produced beyond this point it must always be through the one means set forth at the beginning, revealed in Genesis 2:7.

The whole of the matter can be illustrated after a simple fashion from a later Old Testament passage, the vision of the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel, chapter thirty-seven.

The bones are presented as lifeless, and the question is asked in verse three, “Son of man, can these bones live?” Then note in verse five how life is to be affected: “Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live.”

And verse eight, revealing their condition following “sinews,” “flesh,” and “skin” covering them, but prior to God acting, states, “there was no breath in them.” Then there is a cry in verse nine for “breath” so that “these slain . . . may live.” And the end of the matter is then given in verse ten: “...breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceeding great army.”


(Ezekiel 37, in its entirety, outlines events of a yet future day. It has to do with that time when Messiah returns and life [spiritual] is restored to “the whole house of Israel [both those alive at that time (possessing natural life) and resurrected O. T. saints]” [Exodus 13:19; cf. Ezekiel 36:24-28].

The remnant in the land today comprises only a small portion of “the whole house of Israel”; and this remnant, in relation to God's breath, can only be described after the same fashion as Jews anywhere else in the world—lifeless [spiritually].  Then, beyond that, the dead from the past dispensation must be included [Scripture presents “the whole house of Israel” remaining dead for the entire two days—2,000 years—of the present dispensation (John 11:6, 7, 43, 44)].

The whole house of Israel” is pictured today after one fashion in Scripture—very dry bones, without breath. But they will one day live. When? “After two days [after 2,000 years] will he revive us: in the third day [in the third 1,000-year period, the Messianic Era] he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight” [Hosea 6:2].)

Thus, there is the information from the Old Testament to show what is meant by the statement in 2 Timothy 3:16 (“All scripture is God-breathed...”), to show the connection between this verse and Hebrews 4:12 (“For the word of God is alive...”), and to show the full implications involved by what is further stated about the whole of Scripture in both passages.


(Note also Luke 8:55; James 2:26; Revelation 13:15. The word pneuma appears in each verse, referring to “life”; and the word should be understood as “breath” in these passages.)

Then there is the inseparable connection between the Spirit (the Pneuma) and the Word:


For the prophecy [referring to written revelation (v. 20)] came not in old time by the will of man: but holy [set apart] men of God spoke as they were moved [borne along] by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21).


The Word is “God-breathed,” and thus “alive,” because of the Spirit's inseparable connection with the Word. He is the One who gave the Word to man through man, and He is the One presently in the world to guide man “into all truth” through the use of this Word (John 16:13).

The Pneuma (Spirit/Breath) is not only the One Who gave the Word after this fashion in past time, but He is also the One Who affects man's regeneration after a similar fashion during the present time. It is the present work of the Pneuma (Spirit/Breath) in man's regeneration that produces life (there must be a breathing in for man to pass “from death unto life” [cf. Genesis 1:2; 2:7; John 3:6-8; 5:24]).  And the Pneuma (Spirit/Breath) not only produces this life (based on Christ's finished work at Calvary), but He presently indwells the one to whom He has imparted life in order to lead and guide that person into an understanding—from immaturity to maturity—of the God-breathed Word that He Himself previously imparted to man through man.

Thus, it is the breath of God producing life in unregenerate man today, through the instrumentality of the Spirit, based on the Son's finished work. And that new life is nurtured and sustained by a continued work of the Spirit, through the use of that which is itself the breath of God, and, accordingly, living.

The Holy Spirit uses only that which is living to nourish and nurture that which has been made alive. Spiritual growth from immaturity to maturity requires spiritual nourishment, which is derived from only one source. There's no other way for spiritual growth to occur.


That's why pastor-teachers have been exhorted to “Preach the Word,” and that's why Christians have been exhorted to "study" this same Word (2 Timothy 2:15; 4:2). A person's ability to function in the spiritual realm is inseparably connected with that person's knowledge of and ability to use the Word of God.

It's the WORD, the WORD, the WORD! Christians have been given nothing else; nor do they need anything else.


Faith Is...Through Faith...Without Faith


Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen...

Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear...

But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him

(Hebrews 11:1, 3, 6).

When an unsaved man believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, the Spirit breathes life into that man, based on the finished work of God’s Son at Calvary. Breath is imparted, and man passes “from death unto life.” Man’s spiritual nature is made alive, resulting in that individual possessing something that he, heretofore, didn’t possess—spiritual life. This is wrought, in its entirety, through the work of the Spirit of God; and this new life is then to be fed and nurtured by the same Spirit through the use of that which is spiritual. All is spiritual.

Consequently, there is a spiritual life which requires spiritual sustenance, resulting in a spiritual walk, etc. All of this is completely alien to the thinking of “the natural man ['the soulical man'],” “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). He does not have spiritual life. His experiences relative to “life” pertain only to the natural; and, resultingly, “the things of the Spirit of God,” having to do with spiritual life, are “foolishness unto him” (1 Corinthians 2:9-14).

Things having to do with this spiritual life are “spiritually discerned,” and the natural man has no capacity to comprehend these things, for, spiritually, he is dead. There is no breath from God within that person. He is as the bones in the valley in Ezekiel 37very dry, without breath.

On the other hand, the spiritual man, having “passed from death unto life” through the impartation of breath, possesses the capacity to understand spiritual truth.  And the spiritual man, within his spiritual walk, is to act in only one realm.  He is to act in the realm of “faith.”  The interrelated realms of “sight,” “man’s wisdom,” “the arm of flesh,” etc. are all alien to the realm of “faith.” Faith alone has to do with “the spiritual”; all else has to do with “the natural.”

“Faith” is simply believing God. Acting or walking ‘by faith” is simply acting or walking on the basis of what God has said about a matter. “...who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by [‘out of’] hearing, and hearing by [‘through’] the Word of God” (Romans 10:16b, 17).

God has spoken, redeemed man within his spiritual capacity is to avail himself of that which God has stated, and he is then to act accordingly.

Faith Is

Hebrews 11:1 is not a definition of faith. Rather the verse, continuing from the preceding chapter, provides that which results in the spiritual life from one's exercise of faith. And, as is evident from the verses leading into chapter eleven, this has to do particularly with things related to the saving of the soul.

The word “believe” in verse thirty-nine and the word “faith” in the next verse (11:1) are from the same word in the Greek text (pistis). Also note “faith” (pistis) in 10:38 (ref. NASB). The thought from verses concluding chapter ten continues right on into chapter eleven, and this should be so understood as one begins reading in chapter eleven.

In Hebrews 10:38, the “just [redeemed]” person is to “live by faith.” He is to believe God as he exercises “patience [‘patient endurance’]” under present trials and testing, knowing that a promised inheritance lies out ahead and knowing that one day (“yet a little while”) “He that shall come will come” and will bring to pass that which has been promised (10:36, 37; cf. Hebrews 6:12; James 1:2-4, 12).

If he (the “just”" person who is presently believing God and acting on that basis) draws back from such a life, the Lord states, “My soul shall have no pleasure in him.” That is, if the person draws back (stops believing God and, resultantly, acts on the basis of non-belief, non-faith), God will not be pleased or delighted at all with that person.

God delights in an individual living in one realm only—the realm of belief, faith. God delights in an individual, by faith.  God delights in an individual, by faith, keeping his eyes fixed on the revealed goal out ahead and moving toward that goal—the goal that God revealed in His Word.  God delights in an individual, by faith, fixing and keeping his attention centered on that which He Himself has revealed to be of utmost importance.

And that's exactly what is in view in these closing verses of Hebrews, chapter ten, leading into chapter eleven. Closing chapter ten, the writer states, “But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition [those ceasing to walk by faith, resulting in their own ruin (in relation to the matter at hand—the promised inheritance, the saving of the soul)]; but of them that believe [continue walking by faith] to the saving of the soul.”

Those in the former group take their eyes off the goal, begin looking around, and God has no delight in them. Those in the latter group though keep their eyes fixed on the goal, they don't look to one side or the other, and God delights in them. One is unfaithful to the saving of the soul, and the other is faithful to the saving of the soul.

That's the backdrop for Hebrews, chapter eleven; and when one begins at the first verse, he must understand that this chapter is simply a continuation of that which has proceeded. Verse one should be understood in the sense of,


"Now believing God to the saving of the soul [10:39] is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."


"Substance" is the translation of the Greek word hupostasis. This is a compound word, comprised of hupo (“under”) and stasis (“to stand”). The word, in its literal sense, means, "to stand under." In this respect, it is used in the sense of “a foundation,” that which stands under and supports the structure above.

Believing God (with particular reference to the saving of the soul) is that which stands under all else. Believing God is that which forms this foundation. In this respect, believing God and the foundation of matters at hand are, in reality, one and the same. Thus, apart from such belief, the structure above will have no foundation below. If the structure ever existed in the first place (note those who drew back [10:38, 39]), it can only collapse; and if it never existed at all, a building process cannot occur.

Some English translations or word studies will use terms such as “firm confidence” or “assurance” in an effort to convey the meaning of hupostasis. These are good and well, but they are only efforts of translators to convey into English that which is set forth in the Greek text as a firmly fixed foundation upon which all must be built, if it is to be built.

In the preceding respect, believing God to the saving of the soul is the firm confidence (the unshakable foundation) “of things hoped for, the evidence [a ‘bringing to light’ so that we have proof] of things not seen.”

Believing God is the firm confidence of one day realizing the hope set before us (cf. Titus 1:2; 2:12, 13; 3:7; Hebrews 3:6; 6:12-20); and believing God brings to light all the things which God has promised after such a fashion that we have proof. He has promised these things in the God-breathed Word, and His Word fails not.


Through Faith

Through faith we understand...” That is to say, “Through believing what God has revealed in His Word, we understand...” This could apply to any realm in which God has spoken, but the text has to do with God's design of the ages and that which He has purposed for man within the framework of these ages.

Through believing God we understand “that the worlds [Gk. aionas, ‘ages’] were framed [established in an orderly arrangement and manner] by the word of God...” The reference would be back to the opening verses of Hebrews.


God has appointed His Son “heir of all things,” and it was through the work of His Son within the framework of the ages that God, in the beginning, “made the worlds [‘made the ages’]” (Hebrews 1:2).

God is a God of order. All the ages—encompassing all time (past, present, and future)—have been placed in an orderly arrangement and this was done in the beginning. Not only is this the case, but the Divine design surrounding this orderly arrangement centers around the work of God's Son within the framework of these ages.

And knowledge of this fact will, at the very outset, tell one what the book of Hebrews is about. Immediately preceding seven Messianic quotations, the book begins by calling attention to the Son's coming heirship within the framework of the ages which God has established (1:2-13).


Then after dealing with Christians through two major warnings relative to that future day when “the heir of all things” will bring “many sons unto glory” to realize “so great salvation” (chaps. 2-4), the writer refers to Christ being made a Priest "after the order of Melchizedek" (5:6ff); a quotation from Psalm 110 (v. 4), a Messianic Psalm:


“Thou art a priest forever [lit., ‘with respect to the age’ (one age)] after the order of Melchizedek.”


And Christ being a Priest after this order is specifically stated to be something reserved for a time encompassed by one of the ages within the framework of all the ages referred to in Hebrews 1:2; 11:3.


Thus, within this framework, Hebrews 11:3 should not only be understood in the light of Heb. 1:2 but also in the light of Hebrews 5:6ff. The “age” referred to in Hebrews 5:6 can, contextually, only be the Messianic Era, the age in which the Son will be manifested as “heir of all things,” that future time when He will bring “many sons unto glory” with Him (1:2; 2:10).


This is what the book is about; and this must be recognized as one moves throughout the book, else he will find himself lost in a sea of misinterpretation.

Then note the latter part of Hebrews 11:3: “ that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” Again, remain within the context for a correct understanding of that which has been stated. The context (10:38ff) has to do with the saving of the soul, the hope set before us, and the ages placed in an orderly arrangement by God. And the emphasis, contextually, is on one particular age within these ages—that age when Christ will exercise the Melchizedek priesthood, the Messianic Era.

The “things which are seen” and the “things which do appear,” contextually, cannot refer to the origin of the material universe about us. The reference is not back to Genesis 1:1ff, though we do, as well, understand, “by faith” that which is stated concerning God's creation of all that exists. Rather, the reference is to existing conditions seen "by sight" during the present age, which are set in contrast to the things that redeemed man has been allowed to see "by faith" relative to God's Divine design within the framework of His arrangement of the ages. And, again, the emphasis in the realm of faith would be on one particular age within these ages, the Messianic Era (the things hoped for, yet unseen [though seen by faith], in v. 1).

The latter part of verse three should be understood in the sense of,


“ that the things which God has brought to pass within the framework of His orderly arrangement of the ages, which an individual sees and understands through faith, are separate and distinct from the disorder one sees all about him during one of these ages.”


The word ginomai (“to become,” “happen,” “take place” referring to something with a definite beginning and possible ending) appears in a perfect tense in the Greek text in the latter part of this verse (translated, with a negative, “were not made” [KJV]). The perfect tense refers to action completed in the past and existing during present time in a finished state. Ginomai in this verse refers to God's past action in arranging the ages in an orderly fashion—action completed at that time and presently existing in a finished state.


Thus, in this sense, there is a present aspect to the matter of God's orderly arrangement of the ages. But the verse states specifically that though there is a present aspect, the present disorderly condition all about us, which one can see and experience, is separate and distinct from the orderly condition which God has decreed (past) will shortly exist (future).

This orderly condition is what Christians can presently see through simply believing God. They can see what God had decreed, established, and promised in the past through His orderly structure of the ages. Then they can view the present and future within this framework, believing God and conducting their present pilgrim walk accordingly.

Without Faith

Apart from faith—apart from believing God—it is impossible to please Him. And that would be self-explanatory. God has spoken, and He expects the one to whom He has spoken to believe that which He has stated. If man believes, then God is pleased. However, if man doesn't believe, then the opposite is true. God is displeased. The matter is that simple.

The same thought can be seen a few verses earlier in Hebrews 10:38. The “just” person is to live by faith. If though he departs from such a life, the Lord states, “my soul shall have no pleasure in him.”

The context in verse thirty-eight has to do with faith relative to a promised inheritance at the time of Christ's return (vv. 36-39), and Hebrews 11:6 is no different. In this verse the one coming to God by faithmust believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”

Believing that God “is” would take one back to God's statement to Moses in Exodus 3:14. God, revealing Himself to Moses, simply identified Himself as “I Am.” And the verb used in the Greek text of Hebrews 11:6 would be a Greek equivalent. It is simply a verb of being (eimi), incorporating no beginning or end (as distinguished from ginomai used back in v. 3).

It is the same verb used in John 1:1, 2, translated “was”: “In the beginning was the Word...” That is, the Word existed without reference to a beginning or an end at that point in time when the material creation was brought into existence.


(The same Greek verb was also used by Christ when He identified Himself to the “band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees” in John 18:5-8. The identifying words, “I am He,” should literally read, “I Am” -- a clear declaration of His deity, identifying Himself with the God of the Old Testament.)

Believing that God “is” is simply believing in His eternal, unchangeable existence as set forth in the Word. He always has so existed, and He always will so exist. “In the beginning God...” And God expects man to believe that He “is” on one basis alone—the revelation of Himself in His Word (cf. Hebrews 13:8).

Then God expects man to believe that He is “a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” on the basis of the same revelation. God offers rewards for faithfulness, and He expects man to believe that this is the case on the simple basis of the fact that He has so stated.

Man though often sees things in a somewhat different respect, disdaining the teaching of rewards and compensation for faithfulness; but not so with Scripture. To the contrary, Scripture deals with faith in relation to rewards and compensation. This, textually, is what is being believed in an exercise of faith.

And the highest of all rewards is that with which the context is concerned—the reception of the promised inheritance at the time of Christ's return. And that is really the thought which carries over into the text (note the inheritance mentioned in connection with Noah and Abraham in the succeeding two verses [vv. 7, 8]). Then the whole of chapter eleven continues and ends with this same subject—receiving that which has been promised (cf. 10:36; 11:9, 13, 26, 39).

Concluding Remarks

The beginning points and prerequisites for coming into an understanding of the Word are very simple:

A person must first of all see the Word for what it is—the God-breathed Word which not only reveals God's plans and purposes within the framework of the ages but that which is also able to build a person up and give him an inheritance within the one age toward which all things move—the coming Messianic Era (Acts 20:32).

Then, in order for the latter to occur, a person must believe God and govern his life accordingly. And to do this he must begin at the point of finding out what God has stated, for “faith cometh by [‘out of’] hearing, and hearing by [‘through’] the Word of God (Romans 10:17).

And there's no limit to the heights a person can rise in the realm of faith, for there's no limit to the depths of God's revelation to man. The latter is inexhaustible, and so must the former be as well.

Arlen L. Chitwood, The Lamp Broadcast, Inc., Norman, Oklahoma.