My Thoughts. . .
Thursday, May 2, 2019
A few years back I began writing to one of our former members who is an inmate in a prison in Nashville. If folks read those letters several hundred years from now, would they think we were writing to them?
When I began studying the Bible, I learned that one needs to ask several questions. First, who is writing this book or epistle? Who is he writing to? What is he saying to the person or audience that he is writing? What lesson can I learn from this exchange? Is there an application that is universal that I need to see, understand, and apply to myself? What are some things being stated that do not or cannot apply to me? Are there principles being stated in the writer’s culture that apply to me without involving me in his culture? These are questions that could be asked when one picks up another’s correspondence to someone other than himself.
Example of commands found in the New Testament. Which ones may apply to us?
“When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments” (2 Timothy 4:13). Can we take Paul’s cloak, scrolls, and parchments to him?
“Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord!” (Philippians 3:1). Is it possible for us to rejoice in the Lord today?
“Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.” (Acts 8:24). Is it possible for us to pray for Simon who lived about 2,000 years ago?
My correspondence to that prisoner did not contain a preface instructing him nor other readers to ask those questions. I don’t have to inform him since the letter is to him personally. The Bible does not include that specific information either. Neither did the writer have to include such a preface because those who received that material knew it was to them. It applied to them. Yes, some or all of those letters were shared with other believers in that time period. However, everything in a letter to Sardis might not apply to Philadelphia (Revelation 3:1-5 & 7-13). So, why does the reader of Scripture need to ask those questions? The difference is that we recognize the Old and New Testaments as covenants between God and mankind. What is Yahweh saying to people living under each one of those covenants? What applications are inherent in those instructions for us today? If I want to be included in the company of those being blessed or corrected by God, shouldn’t I follow the Lord’s instruction if I have the same problem or need? Shouldn’t the interested reader desire an answer to those questions? Are their problems attached to such questions? Yes, but Yahweh warns the reader through the messenger to be careful as he reads (Matthew 24:4; Mark 8:15; 1 Timothy 4:16; Hebrews 3:12, etc.). It is possible for the one studying the Bible to not be approved (2 Timothy 2:15).
The eunuch was studying from the prophet Isaiah but wasn’t clear on who was being addressed. Philip pointed out that it was Jesus (Acts 8:35). Today, a lot of baggage burdens the average believer. That baggage contains tradition, culture, misunderstandings, family beliefs, peer pressure, religious politics, and other failures of the flesh. The questions Paul asked the four Corinthian groups should be asked today. “Is Christ denominated? Was our division crucified for us? Or were we immersed in the name of our division?” (1 Corinthians 1:13). Satan is a persistent teacher! He is also a successful personal worker! He makes himself at home in the best assemblies. Corinth wasn’t his last “church” visit!
Those in the church in Corinth were involved in numerous doctrinal errors. Yet, all of them were in the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27). That means they had been added to the saved (Acts 2:41, 47). They were the “temple of God” being corrected (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:19). Though in error, they still belong to God for He had purchased them with the blood of Jesus (1 Corinthians 6:20; Acts 20:28). Was Paul writing to 21st century individuals? No. Are there principles penned by Paul that we as individuals and assemblies need to apply to ourselves today? Yes.
“Study to show thyself approved unto God” (2 Timothy 2:15 KJV).