Never assume you understand a passage of Scripture

We do it more than we realize: we hear an interpretation of a passage many years ago, believe it, then think about how it applies. If we don’t apply it in that way, we are disobedient to God. This is so easy to do, but the danger is you could end up adding to the Law of God. Forcing one application on all Christians is making a law where the Scriptures do not make laws. That is the work of the Pharisees. The other danger is you could be wrong about the interpretation in the first place. Two examples to illustrate (I could be wrong on my interpretation of these, but these are just examples of a greater point I am trying to make):

  1. Acts 1.8- Jesus said after the Holy Spirit comes on his disciples, they will be “his witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” It has become so common for preachers to preach that your city that you live in is “your Jerusalem” and the district or county or island you live on is “your Judea”, and so on. It has become so common that if you don’t follow that pattern for evangelism and missions, you are disobedient to God. But is that the right application based on right interpretation? Was that a command, or a promise? Was that not fulfilled in the book of Acts? Perhaps, since that was fulfilled in Acts, we are in the period of simply evangelizing “the ends of the earth” until Jesus returns. Perhaps, there is much more freedom in missions strategies than first meets the contemporary eye.
  2. “Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” In Matthew 6, Jesus warns against giving to the poor in order to be seen by men. This leads many Christians to think passing an offering plate in service is sinful (because everyone can see you putting money in it!!!), and to never tell anyone that they are fasting. It’s funny, though, it never leads most Christians to think praying publicly is a sin. And, is Jesus’ point that you should never give, pray, or fast publicly? Or is it that you should not do it IN ORDER to be seen by men? I wonder if telling people your motivation for never doing things publicly is just as sinful as doing things publicly to be seen by men.

Just be careful. The problem with Fundamentalism is very similar to Pharisaism: there is one, and only one, application of this specific command. In many cases, I am sure that is true, but many more in which it is clearly not. God’s Word is sufficient, not just to tell us what is needed for life and godliness, but sufficient to actually help us in life and godliness.

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