What’s the Truth? Part 2

 

Last week we considered that “A text without context is a pretext for a proof text.” We looked at how pulling a single verse from the Bible and using it to make a point can lead us away from truth rather than into truth. While there are many verses in scripture that stand alone as great truths, reading scripture in context always gives a better understanding.

 

Let’s now look at another case where proof texting has be used to take a verse out of context and arrive at a conclusion that is quite different from the real meaning-the intention of the author.

 

No Interracial Marriage?

Imagine the young couple introduced last week has now settled comfortably into a local church. They have even made some friends. The preaching and teaching often challenge them and check out against what they read in their Bible. Then one week in a small group study, the leader opens to 2 Corinthians 6:14 which says, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” The group leader is an older man, a respected leader in their church. He is quite serious about his faith and knows his Bible very well. His teaching uses part of the verse (what communion has light with darkness?) to claim the Bible teaches interracial marriage in wrong – proof texting! Not at all what the author (in this case, Paul) wanted his readers to take away. In this example of proof texting, a meaning is applied to several words in a verse without even looking at the context of the verse or other New Testament teaching.

Themes

It’s easy to visualize our couple now passionately doing their own study in the Bible to see if 2 Corinthians is really advocating separation of races in marriage. It looks to them like it’s rather a warning against idolatry. They find several passages that taken in context begin to present a theme. One is Acts chapter 10. There Peter, a disciple and friend of Jesus, has a vision which really challenges him. Up until this point he has kept himself separated from non-Jews according to the traditions of the law. After the vision and meeting with some other Christians “Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.” Acts 10:34-35 – NKJV. 

 
Another story they see is in Galatians chapter 3. Paul (the same person who authored the book of 2 Corinthians) is writing to some (including the same Peter in the previous paragraph) who appear to be going back to depending on the law and “segregation” from non-Jews. In a powerful portion (from Gal 2:11 to Gal 3:29) the conclusion is “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Galatians 3:26-29 NKJV

 

We Are Outta Here…

They rightly conclude that the Bible teaches that everyone who accepts Jesus is the same in God’s sight and any cultural or racial differences are not a part of true Christianity. Our couple now has a decision to make. They could just leave the church and look for another fellowship; just keeping quiet and not saying anything is an option. Instead they decide to meet with the pastor to ask if the church doctrine is truly against interracial marriage. Through this conversation and another with some of their friends, they learn this is not the position of the church. They decide to stay and politely challenge unbiblical teaching in a polite and peaceful way and hopefully continue to grow and mature with this group of people as life goes on.

 

Conclusion-Until Next Week

Rather than simply accept what was taught, they read it in context. As they learned more, they were able to see that there is a larger context not only for a verse, but that there are themes throughout the whole Bible. By questioning what is thought and taught, studying the Bible in context and sharing what they learn, they are becoming Bible scholars and leaders.

 

 

 

 

 


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What’s the Truth?

 

Jesus said “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32 

 
The first and the foundational truth for those who wish to know God is that by placing faith in Jesus and his sacrifice for our sins we are forgiven.
 

Meet our young couple

Consider a young couple married for several years who both sincerely want to know how to live and prosper as individuals and as a couple. Someone shares the gospel with them, and they accept the truth of what Jesus did for them. Recognizing that being a child of God changes everything, they each commit to changing how they live. This starts them on a life-long journey of understanding God’s truths and how those truths will set them free from the bondage and consequences of sin in a broken world. They learn that the Bible instructs them how to deal with every situation that comes up in life. 

 

Truth or lies

Let’s imagine that our young couple is invited to a Bible study. The people are friendly, our couple feels loved and accepted. The following direct quote from 1 Samuel 15:3 is read: “Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.
 
Discussion follows that centers on a plan to go into the city and carry out this “truth.”
It is immediately apparent to any right-thinking person that this directive must be considered in the context of the passage as well as the historical narrative. If a deranged person pulls this out of the scriptural context and uses it as a command to go on a killing spree, it would clearly be recognized as insanity. Any attempt to justify that kind of behavior is obviously proof texting.
 

Context

The quote is taken from the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel and relates the story of God’s people at the time of their first king, Saul. It is a period of conflict and war with the neighboring peoples. 1 Samuel 15:1-3 says “Samuel said to Saul, I am the one the Lord sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the Lord. This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’” Every serious Bible student understands this to be a very explicit command to specific people for a specific situation.

 

Thankfully, our couple goes home and reads the verse in context. They then read John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  Consequently, they decide to reject the group’s conclusions and instruction from 1 Samuel and not go back but find a different study group.
 

Text without context

If a truth in scripture is misquoted or misunderstood, it is no longer truth. For this reason, it is incredibly important to study and carefully weigh whatever is presented and taught as “Bible truth.”

In many instances it is obvious that context matters, and proof texting is dangerous.

In other words – A text without context is a pretext for a proof text. For the sake of this discussion, let’s consider a basic understanding of this statement. A text (verse or passage of scripture) without context (the full passage and historical perspective) is a pretext (misleading justification) for a proof text (using a text to prove what someone wants to believe or wants their audience to believe, not what is actually meant).

 

Great truths that stand alone

It is important to recognize that every time a verse is quoted without context it is not necessarily proof texting. Many verses stand alone, stating direct and clear truths. Micah 6:8 stands as a true and powerful statement by itself. “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you? To do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”
 
Micah 6:7 is also a powerful truth. “Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” Verse 7 is saying that even committed and devout people can miss what God desires. No amount of religious activity, legalism and sacrifice will save a person’s soul. This is an important truth with many implications. Verse 8 goes on to explain what a godly person should do. Either verse by itself states a great truth. 

 

Putting the two verses together gives the bigger picture. “Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O mortal, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:7-8.
 

Trying to find truth

Next week we will follow our couple as they seek truth and Christian people that they can trust to teach that truth.

 

 
 

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Old Love

George David Baker passed away recently at the age of 88. He is remembered and missed by a large family and many friends. Uncle George was my father’s brother and I would like to share some thoughts about him and what he means to me.

 

Where should I start? At the beginning. There is not a time in my life when Uncle George was not in my life. Of course, as a child we don’t understand such things, so it wasn’t until much later that I came to appreciate how important his influence was when I was a kid. Many times you would have seen a boy walking from a farm, across the fields to visit his cousins on another farm. (If you look at that place now you’ll see Bayberry North.) I always felt welcome in Aunt Pat and Uncle George’s home. It was a safe place for me. Of course, part of what made it safe was the fact that at home, as the littlest boy, I had enough big brothers doing what big brothers do. The cousins were closer to my size and also friends.

 

For me – the most defining statement I can make is that Uncle George was a Christian man – a man who knew and trusted his God. He didn’t say he was a Christian and not live it. He knew what God expected from His children and he lived it.

 

The heart of God showed through him.

He had a truly tender heart and cared about people. Many times I saw his tenderness towards people when a tear would come into his eye when he heard about the things people were going through – or he choked up and couldn’t finish when sharing the difficulties he saw people facing. I never saw a judgmental spirit – just compassion.

 

Yet with all his tenderness he had an incredible strength. Uncle George proved that gentleness and kindness are not a sign of weakness. They are anchored in strength. For Uncle George it was strength of character and dependence on God. With the knee pain he dealt with, I never heard him complain and never heard of him complaining. As he grew older he moved a bit slower, but he was always ready with a smile and a kind word.

Uncle George was a great constant in a world where faithfulness to God and family are all too rare.

 

A personal joy in my life came when aunt Pat and uncle George began attending our church. Seeing them on Sunday mornings has been very special for me.

 

At first I wasn’t sure why this was the most emotional part of what I’ve written. But I think its this.

 

We live in a culture that idealize and glorifies youth, physical health and beauty as if they are the ultimate goal and pinnacle of all human accomplishment. What a sad and shortsighted perspective that is. Somehow we have glorified youth when youth really is no more than potential. Potential without moral guidance is destructive energy in so many lives and leaves nothing more than appearing to have a good start and broken dreams.

Potential yielded to God and guided by His wisdom with discipline and perseverance yields great rewards.

There are times that we may feel like there couldn’t be anything more beautiful in life than the picture of a young couple firmly clasping young strong hands and joining joyous hearts as they start their life together. We see that and we might ask “Can there really be something more beautiful than young love?”  Well, actually yes, I have seen a far more beautiful thing. It is the beautiful and inspiring vision of an old man and an old woman – faithfully finishing their journey together on that path they started out on such a short time ago – a path that has taken them places they never could have imagined when they started – a journey filled with love and laughter, children, grandchildren, even great grandchildren. (Even a nephew) They don’t stand as tall or move as fast, but their hands are still firmly clasped and in the many ways that really matter the most, are stronger than ever through years of companionship; their faces are seamed, but still radiant, but now with the priceless satisfaction of finishing well with love and devotion for one another.

Absolutely, there is a more beautiful thing than young love.   

Old love.

A life genuinely well lived is priceless – and that is what we are celebrating today.

Thank you, Uncle George, – and Aunt Pat for showing me that.
 
Written by Pastor Charlie Baker, George Baker’s nephew.
 
 

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