Be careful which promises you claim.

bible

The Bible is our most glorious tangible gift from God.  God inspired Moses to give us the history of the beginning of the world and the calling of the Hebrew people in the first five books, and He has continued to compel writers to document His work throughout history.  It informs us of the actual events but it also teaches us the heart of God and His story of redemption from creation until the end of time.  Every word in the Bible is inspired by God (2 Tim 3.16), it is inerrant in its original form, and is by far the most credible work from antiquity in number of copies and consistency between them.  It has been evaluated for centuries by scholars and scientists looking for flaws, and not one word of it has ever been disproven or discredited.

It is the Word of God, written down.  If you want to know God, you must know the Bible.  If you want to be a Christian and follow Jesus, you must submit to the Bible.  If you want a word from God and direction from the Spirit, you must find it within and compare it against the teachings of the Bible.  God will never contradict the Bible and will always uphold what He has already revealed and taught therein.

It has erroneously been taught and believed, however, that the Bible is a collection of proverbs, a string of pearls, or a collection of promises, truths and blessings that we can pick and choose for our day-to-day lives.  Many people will flip open the Bible in search of a blessing and just start reading until they find something to “claim” before God.  And while there are beautiful promises that we can lift from Scripture to claim throughout our trials, they are all weighted in theological, doctrinal and intricate truths that only add glory and preciousness to them when understood.

The Bible is systematic.  It is logical.  It tells a story and humanity’s interaction with God develops throughout the whole of the book.  Authors had intentions in writing.  God had intentions in inspiring the authors, and while every word in Scripture is profitable for teaching, for reproof and instruction, not every word is a direct promise or instruction for us.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

– 2 Tim 3.16-17

We must always seek to understand the context of the passage.  Who is the author?  Who is the audience?  What type of writing is this:  historical narrative?  Poetry?  Prophecy?  Instruction?  Just because Abraham lied to the Egyptians and told them that Sarah was his sister does not mean that we can or should lie.  Just because the disciples cast lots to decide who would take Judas’ place does not mean that we should trust the dice with our major decisions.  Just because God promised land to the Hebrew people, it does not mean that He has promised land and a nation to us.  Just because God told the rich young ruler to sell everything he owned and give all the proceeds to the poor does not mean that He is commanding us to do the same.

Most of the New Testament is written as systematic arguments and logistical reasonings.  The book of Romans is a missionary support letter that Paul wrote explaining his theology and how he instructs new believers to understand and embrace the grace of God.  He starts with the problem of sin, builds on the explanation of the Law and how humanity is guilty, teaches God’s undeserved grace and gives us unfathomable hope.  We fully understand the instructions of the end only after we grasp the foundations of the teachings in the beginning.  Jesus Himself argued logically and theologically.

Consider, for instance, you came across this quote from Matthew:

 “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.”

– Matt 4.9

What a shocking statement!  This promise marries perfectly with the Health and Wealth Gospel.  Jesus promises to meet all of our needs, and He will give us everything – the whole world – if only we will worship him. The context of the verse, however, reveals a shocking reality:

“Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.’  Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’”

– Matt 4.8-10

To claim Matthew 4.9 is one of the easiest abuses of Scriptures to see, when you read the surrounding verses.  Jesus did not make this promise, it was the tactic of the Devil to tempt Jesus.  Jesus strongly rebuked the Devil, claiming the truth of Scripture to stand up against him and proclaim truth.  We also learn throughout Scripture that God is not in the business of quid-pro-quo.  God does not need our worship and He will not buy it with material blessings.  Not only that, but God considers our needs differently than we do.  There are often times that believers will go hungry, will not be able to pay their bills and will even be killed because of their faith.  These things all result in the maturity and development of the faith and are intentionally used by God to His glory.  These things will all work to our good and God’s glory, but we will not necessarily be comfortable and well fed (Rom 8.28).

There are many excellent study Bibles which explain the context of each book, the author, the date, the audience and the intention.  There is the MacArthur Study Bible, The ESV study bible, and the Open Bible are a few good ones!  There have also been study tools developed which will help grasp each text as we read.  We can ask generally:

Step 1: Observation—What does the passage say?
Step 2: Interpretation—What does the passage mean?
Step 3: Application—What am I going to do about what the passage says and means?

We also must ask:

Who is speaking?
To whom are they speaking?
What does this teach me about God?, and
How does this apply to my life?

It has been summarized in a variety of ways, some people like this test:

Is there a sin to avoid?
Is there a promise to claim?
Is there a blessing to enjoy?
Is there an example to follow?
Is there something new to learn about God’s character?

There are countless tools to help us in understanding, learning and applying God’s word.  Let’s be intentional to be wise as we approach the only tangible and uncontestable instruction from God, and let’s be purposeful to know everything we can about God – through His Word!

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