I have a little pamphlet in my office that is entitled “Never Read a Verse of Scripture.” The main point of this little booklet is to remind us that the Bible did not come to us as random verses here and there. Instead the Bible books come to us as complete documents or letters. Only hundreds of years later were they broken down into chapters and verses. Those writing were then organized with other writings into a collection of 66 books. Together they form the Word of God.
I frequently remember the name of this pamphlet as I hear people talk about the Bible. Quite often people will pull out one verse and use it to define their theology and practice. Sometimes this is at the expense of good interpretation. Proper understanding of a passage comes by exploring the original context within the immediate writing. Once we have a grasp on that information we then have to ask about the overall message of the Bible. Does the basic meaning of this passage align with my overall understanding of the Biblical topic?
In doing these simple and routine practices of interpretation through the years I have started to notice the Bible often gives us two things. First it gives us direct commands. You shall not steal is easy to understand.
I think the second thing the Bible gives us boundaries. These are diverse statements from which we navigate in between. Here is what I mean:
-We are told to be like children (Matthew 10:14). Then we are told to grow up. (Heb. 5:11-14)
-We are told to help one another (1 John 3:17-18). Then we are told that if we don’t work, we don’t eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10).
-We are told to grow and be fed spiritually (1 Peter 2:2). Then we are told to feed others (John 21:15-17 & Heb. 5:11-14).
-We are told to have a drink of wine (1 Timothy 5:23). Then we are warned about the evils of wine (Proverbs 23:30-31).
-We are told not to judge (Matthew 7:1). Then we are instructed to judge those inside the church (1 Corinthians 5:12)
-Jesus was a friend of sinners (Luke 15:1-2). Then we are told that bad company corrupts good character (1 Corinthians 15:33).
I could actually keep my list going and going.
I think this is important to know when we are reading the Bible and trying to live for God. One verse may resonate with me and help me know more about God, but frequently I need to see this from the other side of the issue too. Before you set your life in a firm direction be sure the other side is clear. This will always keep you moving the right direction with God.
I often think that our life with God is a bouncing back between the boundaries of God’s will.