It hasn’t been my normal practice to use a bait and switch, but life hasn’t been normal for a while.
This post is not about fugitives from the Law. It’s not about the two criminals who were crucified with Jesus. I want to briefly highlight four Con-s of Bible interpretation. Obviously I won’t be able to lay down, in one short post, everything you need to do an in-depth study of God’s Word. I hope, however, to give you a few little things to consider when you are having trouble with a verse.
The first Con- is Context. We’ve all had an occasion or two where somebody took something we said our of context. We said what they said we did, but a few words in empty space can hold a plethora of meanings! Sometimes they heard the entire conversation but picked out a sentence or two that advanced their own agenda. Have you ever done that with Scripture?
I have done it. I’ve plucked verses out of context when it suited me to do so. Maybe it was because I wanted something badly and I misappropriated a verse to justify my desire. One thing is sure; nobody wins when scripture is taken out of its context. We need to see a verse’s place in the overall message of the section, chapter and book! What was the author trying to get across to his readers?
The second Con- is Continuity. One of the most amazing things about the Bible is its continuity. I recently came across a graphic that blew my mind. The image is a representation of all of the cross-references in the Bible (check it out for yourself at https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/gallery/2013/sep/05/holy-infographics-bible-visualised) showing that in all of it’s diversity—over time and cultural changes—it remains a unified whole.
If we seek to understand the meaning of a given verse or passage, we must examine it in light of the entirety of Scripture. God will not contradict Himself. Likewise, Scripture will not contradict Scripture. So, if we are reading a verse to have a certain meaning, and it contradicts what God has said elsewhere in scripture, we can be certain that our reading is not correct.
The third Con- is Condition. Years ago my mother went through her Bible and wrote “C” and “P” throughout the whole thing. When I asked her about it she told me that the “C” is for condition and the “P” is for promise. You see, there are lots of promises throughout scripture. But many of them have a condition that needs to be met before the promise is valid. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother (Condition); (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth (Promise).” Eph 6:1-3 KJV.
As you are trying to understand Scripture, ask yourself, “ Is there a condition to this promise?”
The fourth Con- is Connection. This, for me, means that we take some time to internalize and externalize the Word. After we have understood the context of the verses in the section, chapter and book, verified that our understanding of the verses is consistent with the whole of Scripture, and sought to identify any conditions associated with the verses, we must connect with the Word. We must establish its intended impact in our lives and place high value on the verses. Then, we can further connect with them by allowing them to work externally by putting into practice what they teach.
These are just a few things to take into consideration when studying a verse (or verses). We owe it to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to give the Scriptures a priority in our lives. Read to understand, and value the Con-s.
As always, these are the musings of a mindful disciple. Blessings on your week!