March 12, 2024


While exercising the devotional approach to scripture, it is important to maintain healthy exegesis. Often the devotional method will parcel up scripture into small portions and the interpreter will plunge ahead looking for application without appreciation of the context or authorial intent. Remember the first rule of interpretation is context, context, context!

Bernard Ramm rightly points that we should approach the scriptures devotionally, but there are some dangers:

The devotional and practical emphasis in Bible teaching is absolutely necessary. The purpose of preaching is more than doctrinal communication or exposition of the meaning of Scripture. It must reach over into life and experience, and this is the function of the devotional teaching of Scripture. The vital, personal, and spiritual must be present in all the ministries of the Word.

There are two weaknesses of devotional interpretation:

(i). It/falls prey to allegorization especially in the use of the Old Testament. In the effort to find a spiritual truth or application of a passage of Scripture the literal and therefore primary meaning of the passage is obscured. If it is not a case of bald allegorizing it may be excessive typology. Given enough allegorical and typological rope one may prove a variety of contradictory propositions from the Old Testament. One may prove Calvinistic security (the central board in the wall of the Tabernacle) or Arminian probationalism (the failure of faith at Kadesh-Barnea). A Reformed expositor may prove that the soul feeds on Christ while discussing the sacrificial system, and a Catholic prove his doctrine of the mass. 

All sorts of distortions have been made of the historical records of the Old Testament (and occasionally the New) in order to derive a spiritual blessing or to make a devotional point.

(ii). Devotional interpretation may be a substitute for the requisite exegetical and doctrinal studies of the Bible. Strong doctrinal sinews and solid exegetical bones are necessary for spiritual health. If the emphasis is completely devotional the requisite doctrinal and expository truth of Scripture are denied God’s people.

Bernard Ramm, Protestant Biblical Interpretation (Grand Rapids, Mich. Bake Book House, 1970), 62-63.

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