Tag Archives: Bible Study

Blackness

Matthew 5:13-16 “You are the light of the world…”

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The world that we know is in turmoil.  I am in a black room with no window or door. I try to bring figure it out.  I have tried philosophy to understand why I am in this room.  I have tried psychology to determine my thinking process of living in a dark place.  I have tried education to learn enough to know all the characteristics of the blackness. Medicine has no hope to lighten my room it only lengthens my lives in this blackness. Drugs to enlighten our surroundings create shadows, but they do not last. Politics do not seem to help; they have no program of support for the dark.  I can depend upon myself with a humanistic outlook and say “to thine oneself be true”, but it is still black. I can feel for the sides of the room and slid down the wall and give up. Agnosticism in a dark room says there is nothing more.  A realist would say, “what is, is.” The only answer to the world’s bewilderment of total blackness is Jesus.  Any other answer is simply darkness.

God the only judge of character.

It is going to happen whether we like it or not. The presidential election. It has been touted as the most important in this or last century. It is discouraging to contemplate the two candidates running for the highest leadership position in our country. Both and neither seem to check all the boxes for me. Never-the-less, the election will be held, and someone will be in the white house for four years.

In the middle of the sometimes heated discussions of politics, we are distracted from the headlong ubiquitous degradation of America’s moral foundation and fundamental liberties. My inclination to discover what their vision is for the future and vote for that future. I want to do my civic duty. My vote is not about the personal values of the candidate but the change or lack of change for our country.

Yet there are many within the church who strongly disagree about one or both candidates. I have heard some will not vote, out of protest. Others condemning anyone one not seeing it the way they do. Others explicitly state their mandate is only to vote if it does not compromise their Christian witness whatever that means. And others say, “If you don’t vote you are not Christian.”

My thoughts here are from my study of the Bible. Both candidates profess the Christian faith. Where is my responsibility to include in my criteria for voting the genuineness of their Christianity? Where does it say a criterion of who is the best leader in this time of turmoil, pandemic, and social unrest, be based on my judgment of Christian their character? I can’t find it. Judge as you would be judged.

Our political decisions may well lead to discussions and even to outward persuasions, but I will not judge. That kind of Judgement is God’s and I am not looking for a job. I Cor 4:5 states that Jesus will judge. It is for him alone to bring to light what is now hidden and to commend or rebuke. So my friends, let us “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, [bear] with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2). Let us not dismiss our own faith by doing anything else.

General Principles of Biblical Study

As we study the Bible, whether we are in our own or with a group, there are a number of specific principles that help us to understand the Words of God as we read and study.  These are the principles that I try to follow.  Through personal use of these principles, they have keep me from jumping into places where God would not have me be.  Perhaps they might help you.

Principle 1: Author’s intention.

It is not my meaning of the scripture but the intention of the writer.  This means we should know the who is writing, why he is writing, when he is writing, what is the cultural setting, differences in language historically, what is the style and literary forms being used.

Principle 2: Know the context

A single word, even with a good dictionary must be understood within the sentence and paragraph in which is placed.  What does the following mean? “I booked.”  Does it mean you left in a hurry?  Does it mean secured a ticket on an airline? Does it mean I reported an event? Interpretations must be done in the context of the passage. Therefore, context determines meaning! The nearest context must give the most weight in interpretation. First, there is the near context of the sentence, then the paragraph, then the section and then the book and even author.

Principle 3: Normalcy

If possible, the Bible must be taken at its face value. When Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth”, the rule of normalcy says it is possible that Jesus meant they were Sodium Chloride?  When Isaiah 55:12 says “the trees of the field will clap their hands” the rule of normalcy would take this as impossible because trees have no hands.  When the literal does not make any normal sense, it is most likely there is some sort of figure of speech.  Conversely when Jesus said, “Blessed are the mercy for they shall mercy,”  Figurative language include: Parables, similes, metaphors, hyperbole, satire, analogy and illustration.

Principle 4: The Bible as the Key to the Bible

Use the Bible to help interpret itself. Interpret difficult passages with clear ones. This principal is sometimes called the law of non-contradiction. Because the Bible is God’s word, and God is true, the Bible will not contradict itself.  Do not try to change an Old Testament scripture because it seems to contradict a New Testament scripture.

Principle 5: Application is not interpretation

As we study the Bible there is only one interpretation.  This is God’s word and it does not change with time or human application. When Mary anointed the feet of Jesus with expensive oil, this is the factual interpretation. The interpretation is only refers to the act of Mary. What about us today? An application might be that we are willing to give sacrificially for the Lord’s work and give Jesus acts of worship as Mary did. Another would be that everyone must carry expensive oil to church and anoint the pastor’s feet every Sunday.

Principle 6: Distinctions of audience

Be sensitive to distinctions between Israel and the church and, Old Covenant and New Covenant. Promises made to Israel in the Old Testament cannot automatically be transferred to the church in which we are a part. For example, the land promises were given to Abraham and his descendants (Gen 12:7) but that does not include me, a Gentile Christian. It is true that certain Old Testament commands repeated in the New Testament are still binding, but this is made clear by their repetition in the New Testament. The church was formed in Acts 2 with the descent of the Holy Spirit and most direct statements to and about the church occur after that.

Principle 7: Types of literature

There are many types of literature in the Bible. There is law, narrative, wisdom, poetry, gospel, parable, epistle, and apocalyptic. Each of these types of literature has specific features that must be considered when interpreting a text.