Studying the Bible is important. Every Christian should read the Bible every day and study what it tells us because it’s our Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. Considerations that need addressing in how the Bible is studied include what the original language said, and changes in the English language since the King James Version was written. The KJV says “suffer not a witch to live, for example. In the 1400s, the word suffer had several meanings. One definition of the word suffer then was “to permit or allow”. That usage no longer exists.
Using a version that is an accurate translation is another important consideration. Some versions are not accurate. Stay away from paraphrased versions because they do not accurately translate the original languages. Also, the popular New International Version (NIV) has some glaring inaccuracies that change the meaning of a verse or passage. For example, John 3:16 reads that God gave His “one and only Son”, rather than His only begotten Son, which is the accurate translation. The Bible clearly says that Adam was the created son of God, and Christians are adopted into God’s family and become Jesus’ brothers and sisters. These are important distinctions. So, language considerations are. important.
Also, who wrote the book and to whom it was written are important considerations. Paul wrote Romans to the church in Rome. He used illustrations from Roman law to explain some points, like the adoption of Christians by God. He didn’t explain the law because the church members in Rome already knew the law. So, unless you know what the Roman law said about adoption you won’t completely understand what Paul wrote.
Other considerations in Bible study include reading a passage in context with other verses on the same topic, and not using smorgasbord theology, taking verses out of context with others on the same topic to reach a clearly erroneous conclusion. Many groups falsely believe that you have to work yourself into salvation. They take verses out of context to “prove” their claim. But John 3:16 and Ephesians 2:8-10 tell us that by God’s grace we are saved by faith (believing in Christ as Savior), not of ourselves, and not by works. We are created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God has previously determined that we should do them. So, works are a product of salvation, a fruit thereof, not the means. Apples don’t grow apple trees. Apples are the fruit of the tree that God designed it to produce. Works are the fruit of Christians that God planned ahead of time for them to do after they are born again in Christ.
This brings us to the subject of this week’s blog, eliminating pride and prejudice from our Bible study. By pride and prejudice I mean our subjective and emotional interpretations of Bible passages that are designed to inaccurately interpret the meaning of biblical concepts. Some evangelists and media preachers misinterpret the biblical concept of prosperity, claiming that by following their teachings you will become wealthy. This isn’t the biblical concept. Prosperity in the Bible means flourishing in Christ, to become what He has planned for you. Very simply, the prosperity of God is becoming more than the sum of your parts. It means accomplishing things in “partnership” with Christ that you’d never be able to accomplish on your own.
Many reasons exist for misinterpreting the Bible. Most of them come down to people not wanting to give God control of their lives because they want to continue on in their worldly sins. Therefore, they use smorgasbord theology and the misquoting of scripture to justify their continuing in sin. Or, they have a secular theory about how things work in the world that contradicts what the Bible teaches. Several philosophies were developed to place humans at the center of importance. They suggest that humans can become gods, or that what we want is all important. Nothing is further from the truth.
Tennyson said there was faith in honest doubt about miracles. But it is a destructive faith that does not set one free, but instead ties the doubter to the dogmas of the secularists. The doubter is bound by the teachings of those who would take them away from Christ who does set them free. That is not freedom at all.
Another insidious concept is liberalism in the Christian church. It does not free the believer. For example, a popular belief states that God loves everybody, and His love would not permit anyone to suffer the fate of a Hell. This belief is not supported by the Bible. God’s love is the true form of love. And true love brings a sword. It cannot compromise its nature to accommodate our desires to live outside of God’s will for us. G. K. Chesterton explained that God’s divine order separated man from Him after Adam and Eve’s sin. And, Jesus said He brought a sword that would separate brother from brother, meaning He separates believers from nonbelievers. There is a real hell, and you do not want to go there.
One teaching from a few decades back was the work of a woman named Besant, who claimed that we are really all one person, that we should be our neighbors. An extension of this theory is that everything is the world is interrelated, and any cause has an effect on everything else. But the idea that the death of a butterfly in Montana will cause a giraffe in Africa to get a sore throat is patently ridiculous. Besant’s philosophy was a perversion of Christ’s teaching that believers are reborn in Him and He in them. Christians are literally the body of Christ. However, we are not each other. God created each of us with our own spirit and soul. Those are not universal. Each Christian has his or her own personality and God gives each of us gifts that enable us to make the most of our unique attributes. We love our neighbor, said Chesterton, precisely because he is not us, but because he is different.
This universality of mankind and our religions has led to another falsehood that all religions are basically the same, it is just the trappings, or ceremonies, that are different. This is actually the reverse of the truth. The religions of the world are very similar in their rites, but they do differ greatly in their teachings. It is their doctrines that divide them. This false universality of religions led to the dangerous teaching that Christ is a way to salvation among many others. But Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me” (emphasis added). A sword can be used in two ways, to tap a person on the shoulders to instill knighthood, or to chop his head off. And so it is with the sword of the Lord. He uses it to instill one into His family, while at the same time separating him or her from non-believing family and friends. Christians are a chosen people, not better than others, but set apart from them for God’s benefit as well as theirs.
I could go on. The point I am making here is that mankind has constructed highly elastic mental contortions in an attempt to free us from biblical constraints. Most of them come from misconstruing biblical teachings, and some of these falsehoods are subtle in nature and hard to spot. They come from the selfish desire to make God conform to our wishes rather than our conforming ourselves to His commands. A popular bumper sticker said, “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it”. The error in that statement is that what God says is settled whether we choose to believe it or not. It borders on blasphemy to imply that God’s sovereignty is dependent on His creation’s sanction.
In studying the Bible, therefore, it is important to recognize our own subjective coloration of what the Bible teaches us. We may not impose our own emotional-and sinful-tendency to continue in a worldly lifestyle on God’s word. We need to discern exactly what the Bible teaches, no more and no less. Two very strongly-worded warnings against adding to or subtracting from the Bible are in the book of Revelation, and in other passages throughout the Bible. Next week’s blog will explain the tools to study the Bible and how to use them. Meanwhile, be aware of how you are reading the Bible, making sure you are not trying to knead it into conformity with your subjective desires. I’ll see you here next week.