Let’s take a little five-verse test before getting into the point of today’s article. Weigh your thoughts and see what comes to mind when you read these verses.
- “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” – Genesis 1:1
- “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16
- “Judge not, that you be not judged.” – Matthew 7:1
- “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God…” – Ephesians 2:8
- “…that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” – Romans 10:9-10
If you’re anything like me, you might have thought something like the following on any or all of these verses:
- Refutes atheists and evolutionists
- Yeah, but it’s not only about believing
- Don’t take that verse out of context, we have to judge!
- But don’t forget about the importance of baptism
- Confessing is only part of the equation
Most of the the sermons and classes I’ve heard, along with many of the articles I’ve read by those in the church, come at these verses from the angles I described. If, like me, one of those thoughts came to mind for you upon reading those verses, we’ve got work to do.
See, the Bible wasn’t written to refute the people who disagree with us, it was written that we all might be taught, reproved, corrected, and trained (2 Timothy 3:17). When we come to a verse and immediately go on the defensive, trying to explain what it doesn’t say, we are in danger of missing what it does say and stealing the true, inspired power from it. To use Ephesians 2:8 as an example – just because John Calvin and others have taught it falsely doesn’t mean that we have to skim over the beauty of what the verse is saying. We have been saved by grace through faith. That’s not an incorrect statement or something we need to supplement by jumping to Acts 2:38 or any other verse. We need to let each verse speak for itself. Ephesians 2:8 is no less true than 1 Peter 3:21.
I’m not going to get into the context of each of the verses mentioned above or discuss every single verse that we often look at defensively. The point is, a proper understanding of the Bible starts with what it meant to the original readers. Then, we take the principles of what was said to them and apply them to ourselves. Yes, the Bible helps us refute false claims, but that’s not its original purpose. It’s not good enough for our understanding of a verse to be merely “not wrong,” we need to understand it correctly. Instead of telling people what a verse doesn’t mean, we need to realize how much more powerful it is to tell them what it does mean. Let’s stop robbing the Scriptures of their true power to only get a watered-down understanding that refutes someone else. Instead, let’s let them speak and say everything they were meant to say.