Which is better, memorizing or knowing? Aren’t they the same? Not necessarily…
1 Wisdom has built her house [preparation]; she has set up its seven pillars [done the leg work]. 2 She has prepared her meat [gathered her sources] and mixed her wine; she has also set her table [laid everything out in a proper order].
There is an old joke that a person took his Bible and opened it to a random page; he closed his eyes and pointed at a random verse, “Judas hanged himself;” He then closed his Bible, opened it again and repeated the process. This time, the verse was, “Go thou and do likewise.” If the person in the joke were to put these verses together and use them to advocate suicide, then the person would be proof texting. What is proof texting?
Proof texting is the method by which a person appeals to a biblical text to prove or justify a theological position without regard for the context of the passage they are citing.
Proof texting is my taskmaster when reading Scripture because it forces me to know context as well as content. “As the saying goes, ‘a text without a context is a pretext for a proof text.'” Let’s look at John 3:16 as an example since most people are familiar with it–you may even be able to quote it.
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. KJV
The first hurdle we come to is interpretation. John wrote his book in Aramaic, the language of commerce throughout the Roman Empire. It was translated into Latin sometime in the 4th Century and then into English in the 14th Century by John Wycliffe. The language, both Latin and English, has been updated, scrutinized, and re-interpreted many times up to today. There is also an ancient Greek version. For us, we will look at several interpretations from several versions:
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. NIV
16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. NASB
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. ESV
16 This, you see, is how much God loved the world: enough to give his only, special son, so that everyone who believes in him should not be lost but should share in the life of God’s new age. NTE
Reading different versions is much like the game we used to play in school where we tried to find the differences in two pictures that looked much alike. Understanding that each version is the interpretation of people who didn’t live in that time, we need an overall approach to whatever version we are reading so that we read it impartially (well, as impartially as we can) to keep us from proof texting. For me, that approach is to run everything through Jesus, both in the pages and at the throne. In other words, The Spirit will help me by explaining what He wants me to know and applying it to my life. It will never be a full revelation, but it will be what I need for today.
As I have grown in Christ, the Spirit has shown me these things about John 3:16:
- He loves me so, so much;
- He came as Jesus–God with skin on–to die for me, come to life again, and offer me that new life;
- Believing in Him as my Messiah (Savior and Lord) means trusting Him with my life;
- Eternal life is life with Him beyond my physical death, but it begins here on earth with Him and me together.
Tomorrow, we will look at context. Do you know the verses around John 3:16?
Abba, I can only trust man’s opinion so far, but I can trust You completely. Your Truth never changes; our perception of it does, though, according to when we live, how we live, and what we know. May You keep revealing truth to me as I study my Bible and listen for Your voice. Help it make sense, Lord. I can’t understand it without You. Amen.