Peril on Both Sides

We only interpret the Bible properly and truly when we interpret it as part of this whole.

It is a mistake to treat a passage as if it stands alone, isolated from the rest of Scripture. Rather, every passage fits somewhere within a great narrative that takes us from creation to consummation, from the past and too-short glories of Eden to the future and eternal glories of paradise. We haven’t understood it properly until we’ve understood it within this drama.

 

I’m thankful that preachers are increasingly aware of the Bible’s big picture and are preaching accordingly. I’m grateful to see preachers focused on understanding and explaining how the Bible is a cohesive, coherent book, and doing this by exploring the many connections within it. This compares favorably with using the Bible as little more than a collection of isolated proverbs to be hauled out to prove whatever point a preacher wishes to make. But it has been my observation that this focus on unity can inadvertently cause confusion. It turns out, as with so much of life and ministry, that there is peril on both sides of the equation.

It is a mistake to treat a passage as if it stands alone, isolated from the rest of Scripture. Rather, every passage fits somewhere within a great narrative that takes us from creation to consummation, from the past and too-short glories of Eden to the future and eternal glories of paradise. We haven’t understood it properly until we’ve understood it within this drama.

In this way, every passage relates to every other, and every passage relates to the whole. Thus, there will be some connection between any two passages within any given book. If the preacher is tackling some verses in chapter 4, he needs to make some study of chapters 1 to 3. Further, he needs to maintain some consideration of how this passage fits within the greater narrative of the whole Bible. Often he will find that his verses have a substantial relation to some others. When Paul calls upon children to obey their parents in the Lord, the preacher ought to be thinking of Jesus honoring his parents while growing in wisdom, stature, and favor, and, beyond that, all the way back to the fifth commandment.

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