I cringe when I hear someone say “the Bible says….”. It’s not that I don’t believe in the Bible or that the Bible doesn’t have truths about God but I have seen how people will use the Bible to support their arguments.
Since my father passed away in November I have been studying various beliefs about what happens after we die. I’m not obsessed with this study nor do I think I’m going to find the absolute answer but it has been interesting to learn the various interpretations of what the Bible says. If you’ve never done this before let me tell you that there are a lot of beliefs out there.
I typed “what happens when Christians die” in the search of YouTube and the first one was a guy who was absolutely certain that when we die that we stay in the grave until the Second Coming of Christ. This is what some folks commonly refer to as “soul sleep”. I had a few Bible passages that I was curious how he would explain. One passage was when Christ was on the cross and told the thief that “today you will be with me in paradise”. That seemed to be pretty clear to me and totally disproved the theology of soul sleep. This guy explained this verse that the comma was in the wrong place with the word “today”. He never really explained his proof about the incorrect punctuation. Then there are those who are militant in their beliefs against the soul sleep theory and even call it heresy. I wouldn’t exactly call it that and besides, we have no control of what happens to us when we die.
Therein lies the problem with people using the Bible to win an argument. I don’t think you can ever use the Bible in an argument. I have seen this happen so many times that anyone can slant the Bible in the direction to support their position. I have known people who were strictly opposed to certain things and used their Bible to back them up until they were personally affected by that situation then they suddenly saw the Bible in a different view about the issue. Just last week I heard about someone who said the Bible prohibited wearing different materials of clothing. Seriously? Now, let me tell you that I came from an extreme Pentecostal upbringing and I never heard of that. I am sure if it were in there that we would have followed it along with the other “advice to members”.
All of my life the church would talk about “rightly dividing the Word” but I always saw how people would divide it in support of their view – or what they would call – their conviction. I have always been suspicious of people who propose that they have the truth about what the Bible says.
Once upon a time I went to church with a couple who strongly opposed divorce and remarriage yet they changed their judgment on this when their precious son divorced and remarried. They explained it that the first marriage was a “mistake” since they were young and got divorced so quickly. Yes, it was okay then. Funny how our judgments can change when the issue lands on us.
I’ve never been one to debate anyone about the Bible because it is never a winnable situation. I have never seen someone back down and defer to what the Bible says. Instead people are more likely to use the Bible back against you with their handpicked verses.
When I grew up in the church, we were taught that the King James Version of the Bible was the truth Word of God. A lot of people still believe this today. Some are adamant that the King James Version of the Bible is the only true version of the Bible. What’s funny is that people think that this is how Jesus talked. Jesus did not speak in the King James English. He spoke most in Aramaic. When I used to watch people speak in tongues and when they would give the interpretation if it wasn’t in the King James language then it wasn’t viewed as being from God. This is ridiculous. I’m sorry but we get hung up on the silliest things. It is no wonder that people have a poor view of Christians. We have embarrassed God and made Him out to be something that He is not.
This is part of the problem with quoting the Bible to support your position. You can’t always simply pick a single verse or passage. There are several things you need to consider:
- Context – You can’t always just take one verse. You have to read verses before and after the verse and even other passages to get the context of what was being said.
- Culture – You need to consider how people lived during that time period and what their manners and customs were in order to fully understand some passages.
- Language – The Bible was translated from Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek and some passages need a word study since things aren’t always translated word-for-word.
- History – The Bible must also line up with historical records. The Books of the Bible aren’t arranged chronologically so it can be a little confusing to establish the correct timetables.
The King James Version was originally translated by 47 scholars from the Church of England. The New Testament was translated from Greek and the Old Testament was translated from Hebrew and Aramaic. This is no easy task since you can’t always translate every word from one language to another and many times it comes down to man’s interpretation of it. So there’s a big issue right there.
I had a preacher one time tell me that I was sinning because I wasn’t obeying the verse in Genesis 1:28 that said to be “fruitful and multiply” because I hadn’t had children yet. I quickly pointed out that this was IN THE BEGINNING and it was for Adam and Eve to populate the Earth. Good grief. This man had lots of children of his own and wasn’t doing a good job taking care of the kids he had.
Do I believe the Bible? Yes. I do think there are some truths in it but I am careful in searching it for myself. I also try not to force feed it to someone else. When you go to the Bible, it involves in digging it out in order to understand it. That’s what preachers are supposed to do. I am sure there are some out there who are doing their best with this. I am not going to be critical of them but I always caution people to never, ever simply just rely upon the preacher to interpret scripture for you. Some are sincere in their translation to you but be very careful not to follow people. Also, don’t just type an issue in the search box and believe everything someone says. Remember: Just because someone can post a video on YouTube doesn’t mean it is true.
Back in the early 1990s, the church denomination I was a member of had a great debate about the wearing of wedding rings. For years it was prohibited by the church to wear any jewelry. This great wedding ring debate caused enormous divisions within the church, in fact, several groups left to create their own organizations because of it. When I approached my pastor that I was going to wear my wedding ring, he denied that the church had even passed that members could wear wedding rings. He went on to lecture me about this and that he was disappointed in me with the background I had in the church. Yes, you are reading this right. Just simply the issue of wearing a wedding ring. For years the church used the scripture in 1 Peter 3:3 that says “Do not let your adorning be external – the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry….” Funny but I never saw a rule against braiding hair but they certainly made a rule against wearing jewelry. The church did actually change to allow wedding rings much to the dismay of that pastor and many of the strict thinkers.
So what changed? Did God change? Nope, it was man’s interpretation of what God had said.
So how can you study the Bible for yourself? Here are some things I would suggest:
- Choose a topic or passage. I would NOT recommend to start reading the Bible like a book from page 1. You will lose interest when you get to Leviticus. Trust me.
- Find relevant verses on the topic or passage to get the context. Use a good concordance.
- Get the background. Who is writing this passage? Who are they writing to? Why are they writing it?
- Read multiple translations. Don’t just use the King James Version. The Amplified Bible is a good one as well as the New International Version.
- Read Bible commentaries.
- Pray about what you are reading. It only makes sense to get help from the book’s author.
If you are a believer, stop hitting people over the head with your King James Bible (or any Bible) and stop arguing with Bible verses. It’s not going to work and you aren’t going to convert anyone that way.