The question inevitably arises concerning how far we are to repeat what the New Testament writers have said and how far we are to interpret it. Is our primary concern with “what they meant” or with “what they mean”? There is no substitute for pursuing the former question. We must make a sincere attempt to find the meaning the authors conveyed when they wrote their books in their own historical situations. But, of course, as we do so some element of interpretation is inevitable. We read these writings across a barrier of many centuries and from a standpoint of a very different culture. We make every effort to allow for this, but we never succeed perfectly. In this book I am striving hard to find out what the New Testament authors meant, and this not as an academic exercise, but as the necessary prelude to our understanding of what their writings mean for us today.
We must bear in mind that the writers of the New Testament books were not writing set theological pieces. They were concerned with the needs of the churches for which they wrote. (Leon Morris, New Testament Theology, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986, p. 10)