Using and Abusing the Biblical Text

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One of the things I love most about our heritage in the Restoration Movement has been our desire to understand the text. I think that is a very godly thing. It was something the Hebrews tried to instill in their children from a very early age that knowing God’s Word and obedience to it was of the utmost importance (Deut 6:1-6 & Psalm 119 for instance). Jesus said in the wilderness that we don’t live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. We need to hunger for God’s Word. Why? Because the Word reveals things to us about God himself, who we are to desire more than anything else in all creation.

So we read the text, study the text, hunger for it and to some degree begin to try to master the text. Sometimes I wonder if we try to master the text rather than letting the text master us. So while we desire the Word of God we should never forget that the reason we desire it is not for the sake of the text itself but for the purpose of knowing more fully God himself, who reveals himself through the Bible. I also wonder sometimes if we study the text so much that we feel we have a corner on the truth market.

I am not implying that we shouldn’t study the text, I am saying that how we study the text and the motives in which we study has an impact on what it produces inside of us. I cannot tell you how many times I have studied a text to prove another person wrong rather than to find out what it actually says. So I find a verse that might work, see that it supports their side of the discussion and not my own and skip on to a verse more favorable to my opinion or doctrine. That is just crazy and I am sad to say I have done it in years past.

I cannot tell you how many times I have seen people argue intensely (myself included) over a passage of the Bible and try to “win” the argument against another Christian. It is almost like the Bible becomes a tool or even a weapon that is used to leverage people toward our understanding of the text rather than help both parties grow closer to God.

When God’s Word is used in ways it was never intended to be used it becomes self-defeating. As we discussion various issues here let us all have a humble attitude of letting the text speak for itself and let God and His Word shape us rather than trying to do it the other way around.

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