Two people stand before a painting of a sailboat in an art museum. It’s a very beautiful painting, traditionally painted with a sweeping blue horizon, small ripples of waves breaking along side of its bow, and a signature in the bottom corner.
One person looks at the painting and remarks to the other how lovely the painting of the sailboat is calling it a splendid rendition of the painters vision of the boat. The other person looking at the painting remarks to the other viewer that he has been deceived and is clearly a painting of a watermelon patch with an alligator and a llama standing amongst the watermelons. Which is right?
Obviously the first viewer. He can clearly define the painters original intent of the painting is to convey a sailboat. He does not allow outside influences or his own imagination determine what the painting should be, but what the painting is. He understands the painter wanted to convey something very specific and accepts the painting a such. Common sense right?
The other viewer brought his own ideas and meaning into the painting and saw it for something it was never intended to be. He does not bear any respect to the fact that the painting is a sailboat. He “breathes” his own meaning into it.
It’s the classic, “What does it mean to ME?” A very post modern approach where there are no absolutes, only what a person perceives to be truth resulting in an endless number of truths which all contradict one another.
When we come to the bible, we do one of two things. We either exegete or eisegete the text. Simply, we either let the text speak to us in the original intent it was designed for and taken in the context it is given or we take our own preconceived ideas and notions and place them into the text to pull from it what we want it to say.
God has spoken. He has spoken in His Word, the bible. And in that word he has something very specific to convey to us that is not open to how we wish to perceive it or how we want to twist it. Every bit of it needs to be carefully studied in and through it’s surrounding context taking into consideration things like genre, hyperbole, metaphors, language, history, and the original tongue they were written in, i.e. Hebrew and Greek. If not carefully handled, we can cherry pick anything from anywhere in the Bible and allow it to say anything we want it to. It is how many cults start. Someone will rip some text from it’s moorings and build an entire “doctrine” around it and convince others it is what “the bible says”. A very good clip of Hank Hanegraaf can be found here stating how important knowing the Truth is in regards to being able to pick out the false among us.
But to come before the word and allow it to perform it’s duty to reprove us and rebuke us as it was originally intended is what proper study and reading is about. Even if it means sacrificing our pet doctrines or what we hold as dear on the alter of the bibles innerency and infallibility and allowing ourselves to admit we may be wrong.
I have personally sacrificed at least 3 preconceived notions I had on that alter because I put such a high regard to the bibles nature. That is, that it is the very word of the God of all the universe and needs to be handled rightly. I have had to admit that I was wrong about certain texts after careful study of that texts context and comparing that scripture with similar scripture found elsewhere in the bible.
My point here is this. It is the very word of the Most High. It needs to be treated with the utmost of care, understanding that it is not to be treated as another novel among millions or a grab bag of verses to justify our actions. To understand that it is inerrant (without fault), and infallible (incapable of even having and fault), and to come before it and reap from it what the signer of that book (God) has to say to me. Even if it means correction and swallowing my pride and admitting I had it all wrong.
I know about one tenth of a percent (and that’s generous) of the absolute majestic richness that lies within the bibles pages. I’m but a flea on the back of an elephant as I stand before it. It is absolute truth and it has absolute power to convert the human soul, correct the proud (me), and strengthen the downcast. It is sharper than any two edged sword. We are but dust before it.
Lets us all bow before the Word of God as the created that we are and hear from the One who speaks to us.
For further explanation on my point of “rightly dividing the word of truth”, here is an excellent explanation on how to do just that.