The Word of God remains the most powerful tool that Christians have for living lives victorious. The Bible stands as our reproof and edification in building up our faith in Jesus Christ who all scriptures point to.
If a believer wants to maximize His call and His growth in the Lord, they must learn to be a faithful student of God’s Word. The Bible is more than just a collection of old chronicles, poems, prophecies and letters. It is the inspired and enlightened word of God brought forth by the empowering of the Holy Spirit.
There can be no other way to explain why such ancient text coincides in virtually every point, stands proven by archaeology and science and even counts as an excellent history book in itself. How else could dozens of writers from different times, cultures and backgrounds agree on the one Person of God? 1 Peter 1:23 says “since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.”
The Word of God is truly alive and effective in making us grow as believers. Hebrews 4:12 also adds, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two- edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Read with Jesus as the foundation
But how do we make sure that we are making the most of the written Word of God and not taking out of context? While nothing beats rudimentary research, study and practice, unless we start with the right foundation, we will always misunderstand scripture.
And there can be no other foundation to scripture except the foundation of Jesus Christ. Every scripture points to the Person of Jesus Christ, and from beginning to the end and in every book, Christ is present. Yes, even in the Old Testament. In fact, the Old Testament simply points to the coming of Jesus Christ and the whole New Testament celebrates the life of Jesus and His finished work.
The moment we take Jesus and His attributes out of scripture is the moment we start cherry-picking verses in the Bible. The Bible can only be fulfilled and complete in Jesus Christ. Matthew 5:17 tells us, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
Look for God’s attributes
Many times that people cherry pick Bible verses, we remove the person and attributes of a loving God. We think of the instance when God sets incredibly difficult laws to follow in Leviticus (not eating pork, observing the Sabbath, etc.) and skeptics will think God is either a megalomaniac dictator or an obsolete idea, and see obvious cherry-picking as a result of leaving out God’s persona.
Leviticus was meant to communicate to us believers just how holy He is and how important righteousness is to our God. We take these scriptures and put it together with Isaiah 6:3 where the Seraphs declare “”Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” Holiness is of great importance to God, and we think of this in the light of Christ and see how He has become the fulfillment of that righteousness for us. Only then do we take the fullness of the scripture.
Read the Bible as a Whole
The Bible is not a collection of disconnected books, but rather intertwined stories and literary pieces spread out across a large period of time to deliver one message arc. The Bible tells us the story of how God created a perfect world with perfect creations, how sin destroyed the perfection God created over and over again, how Jesus came down to redeem the brokenness of this world and how He is to return once more to bring glory once and for all.
Everytime you read a scripture in the Bible, ask yourself “which part of the overall narrative arc does this portion go into?” When we put each scripture in the light of this arc, we start to make more sense of the scripture and we see that each and single word is acceptable and that we can receive and be enlightened by every single word the BIble speaks.
Different culture, different interpretation
Another reason why many people cherry-pick and misunderstand scripture is because we work under the assumption that the Bible was written to a people who live, eat, work, talk, and interact in the same way we do. We must always bear in mind that the Bible is also a history book that presents to us a completely different culture. Casting lots, birthrights, slavery, war, famine, agricultural practices and eating habits were things of culture, and not necessarily of eternal value.
What remains eternal throughout scripture however are the eternal principles that govern the culture. When God calls Israel to war against a nation and a call to annihilate the whole race of citizens (women and children included), the reasons are not as simple as they may first look and require careful consideration. For more insight, read Krish Kandiah’s article on genocide here and David Robertson on the Old Testament God here.
Then there is the fact that the Bible wasn’t written five years ago where technology, government and practices are exactly as they are today. They were written in an old near-east culture that can be different from ours and it is our responsibility to understand the Bible through the lens of this culture if we want to make the most of the Bible’s message and read it for all it’s worth.
If we want to read the Bible for every ounce it’s worth, we must learn how to find the magnified Jesus in every ounce of scripture we read, look for God’s attributes, understand every part’s place in the overall arc of God’s redemption of the whole human race, and see it from the lens of a different time and culture that still reveals important lessons applicable across all ages. As long as the revelation and leading of Jesus comes during our Bible reading, it is less likely we will take scriptures in the wrong light.
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