Thursday, March 18, 2010

On Reading the Bible (Well) pt 1

Too many of my students have no idea how to read the Bible (well). Unfortunately, this is not limited to younger students, but most people don't read the Bible for all it is worth.

We have privatized our religion so much we do not understand the principles in the Bible are meant for everyone, not just a subjective interpretation. We explain what the Bible means in light of what we already believe, or in light of a wrong interpretation because of our cultural influences, not the intended culture.

There are so many examples of this it is hard to pick just one, but if I must, I must.

Today's culture loves to say we "want to be on fire for God." I have no problem with people wanting to be on fire for God. In fact, in light of what that means in today's society, I think being on fire for Him would be a very good thing.

Unfortunately, we should not let this kind of cultural context skew the principles set forth in the Bible.

Revelation 3:14-22,  John writes the words of Jesus to the church in Laodicea. Christians commonly misinterpret this passage and come to what can be a disastrous conclusion based on this misinterpretation. The main verses in question are 15 and 16:

"I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot! So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth!"

The common interpretation of this passage is that God wants us to be "on fire" for Him, or not for Him at all. Can you see where our cultural influence comes in? Do you think all cultures have used "on fire" to mean spiritual fervor for God? Is God really saying He would rather have people against Him completely, then to mess up and only try to follow Him sometimes?

Horribly, believers have bought into this interpretation of the passage, but this is probably not what it means!

Laodicea was a landlocked city. They had no water source of their own. Because of this they needed to pipe in their water from two nearby towns, Colossae and Hierapolis. The water in Hieropolis was warm and used as medicine. It came from a natural hot spring. The water in Colossae was cool and refreshing. You might think of a cool mountain spring.

Laodicea did not have either warm or cool water. Instead, by the time the water reached Laodicea, it would be lukewarm and nasty. This is the kind of water people might actually spit out.

With this in mind it makes much more sense to see the passage as meaning we should stay close to our source (God) and do the job he has given us. We can be people who are refreshing, or people who heal, but if we stray from our source (again God) we will become lukewarm and nasty. Does God want us to be "on fire" for Him? Of course, but He also doesn't say he would rather us be against him if we are not "on fire."

The study of this passage has made it obvious we need to be more careful to interpret passages correctly, in the context they were intended.

In part two we will learn the easy steps to remember what to do in studying a passage.

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