Rightly dividing the word of truth

The Bible is comprised of 66 books written by around 40 different people. It has many genres of literature which can be broadly classified as history, law, wisdom, poetry, prophecy, gospel, letters and apocalypse. Although the Bible is so diverse in authorship, age and genre it beautifully agrees with one other. If the Bible was a handbook, reference book or a book of rules each individual verse can be understood and interpreted on its own. But the Bible is about Jesus, the son of man: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.” (John 5:39 ESV). “Jesus then explained everything written about himself in the Scriptures, beginning with the Law of Moses and the Books of the Prophets.” (Luke 24:27 CEV)

The Word of God is like a body with many parts: “The body of Christ has many different parts, just as any other body does. It takes many parts to make a single body.  That’s why the eyes cannot say they don’t need the hands. That’s also why the head cannot say it doesn’t need the feet.” (1Cor 12:12,20,21 CEV). Similarly, a single verse from the Bible should not be taken on its own to form a doctrine. Instead the Bible has to be taken as awhole to form any doctrine. Unfortunately this principle doesn’t seem to be well known or understood and sadly many Christians and churches misinterpret and twist the Word of God by clinging on to favourite verses without seeing the big picture of the Bible. The Devil loves to take verses out of context and deceive. He even tried it on Jesus and said, “Since you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, because it is written, ‘God will put his angels in charge of you,’ and ‘With their hands they will hold you up, so that you will never hit your foot against a rock.'” (Matthew 4:6 ISV). But Jesus, rightly dividing the Word of Truth replied saying “It is also written, ‘You must not tempt the Lord your God.'” (ISV Matthew 4:6).

Dear reader, do not fall into the trap of extracting individual verses from the Bible to build a doctrine. See if the entire Bible teaches that doctrine. Be careful of churches that like to focus on specific verses and doctrines. A popular doctrine of the contemporary Church is the prosperity gospel. Not long ago being poor seemed to be Biblical, at least for many South Indian Christians, and now the pendulum is swinging to the other extreme and both sides have their Bible verses! There was a recent comment that we should not judge and that I was guilty. If the Bible is properly interpreted, considering all applicable verses, we see that certain types of judgement are forbidden but certain other types are permitted. Therefore we are instructed not to be taken up by individual words and verses but rather carefully, correctly and precisely divide or dissect the Bible: “Strive not in words that profit nothing, but rather subvert the hearers. Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that has nothing to be ashamed of, rightly dividing the word of truth.”  (2 Timothy 2:14b,15 JUB)

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1 Comment

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One response to “Rightly dividing the word of truth

  1. Amian Amahar

    Quite right. Conversely, as a young Christian many decades ago, I was advised not to throw out a whole doctrine because I might find a verse, or even two, which appeared to contradict that doctrine, but to pray about it until the Lord was pleased to enlighten me as to how it should be interpreted in the context of that doctrine and Scripture as a whole. It is very helpful to be able to consult a Systematic Theology, such as Hodge, Berkhof, or in more modern times, Reymond. I encountered no doctrinal teaching at all within the LEF. The absence of this led to the accusation of ‘judging’ if one dared to ask for Scriptural justification of certain practices. There seemed to be little or no understanding of one’s Scriptural duty to ‘discern’. Discernment and what Jesus actually meant by ‘Judge not that ye be not judged’ were confused. When I suggested to one dear brother that local churches with their own elders and discipline should be set up, that this was scriptural ecclesiology, and that perhaps he might even himself qualify for a such a position in due course, his response was to quote, ‘I would rather be a gatekeeper etc……’ There seemed generally to be an odd idea of what humility is…….which I imagined helped to keep Joshua Daniel in overall control.

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