How the Bible Interprets Itself

In The Previous Usage

[This is An Advanced Teaching]




This our final topic that we will cover on How the Bible Interprets Itself.  Remember that the Bible interprets itself in three main ways:  1) in the verse, 2) in the context, and 3) in its previous usage.  Number three (3) will be a much shorter teaching, but is just as important as the previous two teachings.  Let us now study “In Its Previous Usage”.



If Scripture does not interpret itself in the verse or in the context, then the interpretation is found in the previous usage.  In the first usage of a word, expression or idea, the explanation is usually complete enough to carry through in all other references in the Bible.  If God ever changed the usage of a word or expression, He will always explain it.


To see this great truth on how The Word interprets itself in its previous usage observe II Corinthians 12.  II Corinthians 12 is the passage on Paul's thorn in the flesh which has been a problem to many people.  There are numerous arguments of different things ministers and theologians have through the years written to explain Paul's thorn in the flesh.  These men have come up with about fourteen different conclusions.  The Word tells us what Paul's thorn in the flesh was and thus we do rely on guesswork and cannot, therefore, have fourteen contradictory opinions.  For your interest, some of the subjects Paul’s thorn in the flesh were said to be was sickness and they even went so far as to say that Paul had a sex problem.  Can you believe it?!!  That’s the result of man’s  guesswork.


You see, the adversary will go to any extent to try and hinder and destroy a man’s ministry.  He did it to me.  A cop knocked on my door late one evening and said he received a complaint that I was harassing some woman.  I laughed and said ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.”  I asked who this was and he pointed to her house.  She just moved in – I NEVER SPOKE TO HER – I DIDN’T KNOW HER NAME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I took her to court and won in about 4 seconds!  She’s gone now and I believe she was into Spiritualism and her husband was a known alcoholic.  Nice combination.  That is why I warn you to keep away from the legal system.  KEEP AWAY!  Anyone can accuse anyone of harassment at any time.  Did you know that?


And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.  -- II Corinthians 12: 7


Does that verse tell what Paul's thorn in the flesh was?  No.  But it tells who sent the thorn.  The people who teach that Paul's thorn in the flesh was sickness which was sent by the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ must have lied because this verse says that it was sent by Satan.  Why did Satan send it?  To hinder and obstruct Paul in his work just like he tried in my case.    I’m still here…………………….. !  Paul kept preaching…………………….!


For this thing [this thorn in the flesh] I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.  -- II Corinthians 12: 8


And he [God] said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee:  for my strength is made perfect in weakness [or humility].  Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  – II Corinthians 12: 9


Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, [It does not say sicknesses.] in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake:  for when I am weak [humble], then am I strong.  – II Corinthians 12: 10


The thorn in the flesh still has not been explained though we know more about it. None of the remaining New Testament explains the thorn in the flesh.  So what do we do?  We have to turn in our Bibles to the place at which the words "thorn in the flesh" were used for the first time.


But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land [unbelievers] from before you; then it shall come to pass, that those which ye let remain of them shall  be  pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell.  -- Numbers 33: 55


The inhabitants, the people, shall be pricks in their eyes and thorns in their side.  Do you mean that a Canaanite was hanging in one's eye and another Canaanite attached to one's rib?  What are "pricks in your eyes and thorns in your side"?  They are figures of speech and are not to be taken literally.


This one verse alone, since it is the first usage of the expression in the Bible, says that "pricks in your eyes" and "thorns in your sides" are people.  Previous usage then explains Paul's thorn in the flesh.  We do not need guesswork or private interpretation.  Satan sent Paul a thorn in the flesh to hinder him in his work.  What hindered Paul?  People.  This verse in the book of Numbers interpreted the figure of speech so that we can understand II Corinthians 12: 7.  For good measure let us check two more Scriptures to further clinch the meaning of the thorn in the flesh.


Know for a certainty that the Lord your God will no more drive out any of  these nations from before you; but they [nations, which are made up of people] shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the Lord your God hath given you.  -- Joshua 23: 13


Joshua shows the same truth because people again were "snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes."  Can you imagine a nation of people like the Amorites being in one fellow's eye?  That is not what it means.  The thorn in the flesh always represents people who are pricking and trying to buffet and discourage.


Judges 2: 3 witnesses to the same truth.


Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them [people] out from before you; but they shall be as thorns  in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you.  – Judges 2: 3


The people were to be as thorns in their sides.  Now reread II Corinthians 12:7.


And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.  -- II Corinthians 12: 7


What was the thorn in the flesh?  People.  Everywhere Paul went people constantly tried to alter the gospel which Paul preached.  These people who followed him were thorns in his sides, pricks in his eyes, thorns in the flesh.  People were the messengers of Satan sent to buffet, to obstruct his ministry, to weaken his work.


Remember the record in Acts which tells that after Paul finished preaching, people took him outside the city, stoned him and left him as dead; but the next morning Paul was preaching again.  Listen to another record of PauL


Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes  save one.  -- II Corinthians 11: 24


The Judeans whipped Paul five times with an instrument similar to our blacksnake whip. Who beats people?  People.  If we had been Paul, I would imagine by that time we would have been praying too, "Lord, take this thorn out of my flesh, remove these thorns."


Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;  -- II Corinthians 11: 25


Three times Paul was beaten with rods, rods being whips which had pieces of metal or bone at the end of the thongs.  Three times they beat him with rods, thirty-nine lashes each time.  I hear people say, "Oh, we sacrifice for the Lord; we put our dollar in the collection plate."  Look at the Apostle Paul.  Five times they whipped him; three times they beat him with metal on the end of the thongs; once they stoned him and left him for dead.


In  journeyings often, in  perils of waters, in  perils of robbers, in  perils by mine own countrymen, in  perils by the heathen, in  perils in the city, in  perils by the wilderness, in  perils in the sea, in  perils among false brethren;  -- II Corinthians 11: 26


In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.  -- II Corinthians 11: 27


Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.  -- II Corinthians 11: 28


Who was responsible for all these happenings to Paul?  Satan, the Devil.  He inspired and possessed people who obstructed Paul.  Satan inspired religious as well as irreligious people to act as messengers for him in hindering Paul.


No wonder Paul said in II Corinthians 12: 8, "For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me."  When Paul prayed, the Lord answered, as recorded in verse 9.


And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee:  for my strength is made perfect in weakness [your humility]…………..  – I Corinthians 12: 9a


In other words the Lord said, "As long as you keep your eyes upon Me, Paul, I will take care of the rest, for My strength is made perfect in your being challenged to handle the situation."


The key to be understood here in this teaching is that of interpretation in previous usage.  This takes all the guesswork out and all private interpretation.


Knowing this first, that no prophecy [not one word of that which is foretold or forthtold in the Word of God] is of any private interpretation.  – II Peter 1: 20


It must interpret itself in its own verse or in the context of the entire story or in its previous usage.  Those are the three major ways in which the Word of God interprets itself.