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.