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.