Never Read a Bible Verse
- Tuesday, June 26, 2012
This makes perfect sense in the broader context of the chapter. The Jews have no trouble hearing Jesus' words. They know what Jesus is saying. Their problem is that they don't respond with belief. Why don't the Jews "hear" Jesus by responding with belief? Jesus tells us plainly. They don't "hear" because God is not "speaking" to them. They are not among the sheep the Father has given to the Son (26).
The voice being referred to here is not the still, small voice of private direction given by God to Christians, but the effective call of the Holy Spirit bringing non-Christians to salvation.
Our paraphrase test comes to our aid once again:
You do not believe, because you are not of My sheep. Mature Christians have the ability to sense My personal direction for their lives and obey it, and as a result I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all….
You do not believe, because you are not of My sheep. The ones that the Father gives me my sheep are the ones that respond to my message and believe in me, and as a result I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all….
The first view actually makes salvation dependent on the ability to get personalized communications from God. The second makes salvation dependent on the Father, which is Jesus' point in the passage.
To Jesus, "hearing" God is not an advanced skill one must develop to open lines of communication to the Father. It's a figure of speech. Hearing Jesus' voice is not getting individual, personalized direction. It's getting saved. It's the result of the Father drawing the non-believer into Jesus' arms.
This raises legitimate questions about daily devotionals that build a short message from a single verse. In my view, such quiet-time helps can be inspirational, but they come with an obvious drawback.
Fortunately, the liability can be overcome by remembering our basic rule: Never read a Bible verse. Instead, read a paragraph, at least. Always check the context. Observe the flow of thought. Then focus on the verse.
Remember, meaning always flows from the top down, from the larger units to the smaller units. A reflection on a Bible passage from a sermon or a devotional may be edifying, encouraging, and uplifting. If it is not the message of the text, though, it lacks biblical authority even when the quote comes right out of the Word of God.
If you will do this one thing if you will read carefully in the context applying the paraphrase principle you will begin to understand the Bible as God intended. Without the bigger picture you'll be lost.
Only when you are properly informed by God's Word the way it is written in its context can you be transformed by it. Every piece becomes powerful when it's working together with the whole.
It's the most important practical lesson I've ever learned…and thing single most important thing I could ever teach you.
For Further Reading:
Russell, Walt Playing with Fire How the Bible Ignites Change in Your Soul. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2000.
Koukl, Gregory "The Perils of Prooftexting" Solid Ground, Sept-Oct 1999
Sire, James Scripture Twisting. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1980.
Carson, D.A. Exegetical Fallacies. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984.
Fee, Gordon, & Stuart, Douglas How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982.
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