Understanding the Bible: A Personal Perspective

Any theology or doctrine formed from a limited scope or narrow appreciation for empirical alternative views of the Scripture and which results in the oppression of any kind towards any person or group of people is no Gospel at all. It’s no Gospel and it’s definitely not God-ordained. Apostle Paul defines the Gospel as the person and the works of Christ. The works of Christ is best understood by studying his ministry.

The Ministry of Christ is composed of three essential elements: Teaching, Preaching, and Healing. The practical assumption in the in-depth study of Christ’s ministry is that anyone who has faith in Him also believes and follows his edicts on unity and equality for all. Not all who claim belief has the understanding or insight of God’s upside-down leadership and order of importance and how these two are connected together and unified to the contextual messaging of God’s commandment on Love. In actuality, most of those who quote Bible verses don’t even read the Bible in a real sense.

The Bible is a unified literary collection of stories, poems, narratives, and excerpts meant to bring what is apart together. Any theology or doctrine formed from a narrow understanding of the scripture that in any way promotes or results in the oppression of others is not God-willed.

Here’s what I realized throughout countless times of sitting in Bible studies and Scriptural discussions. Most don’t read and many of those who do, tend to read passages in isolation of the overall narrative and message of the book. In short, most group studies and discussions suffer from a two-prong issue. One, people don’t read. You can’t seriously say you have authentic discussions of the Bible when your participants are not reading the Bible, to begin with. Two, people don’t have proper reading skills. You have group participants who tend to read the passage without taking into account the Bible’s standpoint or its overall message and without regard to literary conformities. And so, as a consequence, they fall into the pit of forming false doctrines and hardline beliefs. You can pretend you are having compassioned and reasonable discussions, but the fruit of the pudding is always in the eating.

There is a danger in target-reading a verse, connecting it to a few other verses and then weaving the texts to an independent narrative that isn’t aligned to the overall theme and message of the Scripture. Romanticizing passages poses risks, too.

History tells us that the Scripture has also been used as a weapon to either advance evil ideologies or control a targeted group of people. Take the issues of slavery and the treatment of women for instance. Slave ownership is a long-standing practice in the history and economics of the ancient biblical times. Christian-professed slaveholders used the Bible to justify their support and practice of slavery.

Women during ancient times were the property of men and were bound to submission by virtue of cultural and religious beliefs. Christ introduced very radical changes to what were common precepts and practice in the cultural and religious setting. The mindset of treating women as unequal eased down a whole lot in time but several versions of women oppression continue to persist. Women are to be quiet. In America, it would take several more centuries after two millennia to give women their right of suffrage.

However, the unobstructed truth is that slavery, oppression of women, and gender and human inequality had never been and will never ever be God’s will and desire for humankind. These compassion-bereft conditions sow division, fear, and hate.

While we have mostly gotten rid of slavery and made significant progress in the area of equality, there is certainly more work needed to attain God’s intention and mandate on unity and gender and human equality (Genesis 1:27-28, Galatians 3:28-29).

KNOWLEDGE —> UNDERSTANDING —> INSIGHT

Even when you think you are certain that your overall understanding of the Bible is aligned to the truth of God’s grace and unrelenting love of mankind and the world through Jesus, it’s a good practice in humility and a great opportunity to hone your critical thinking and relational skills to challenge (even dissect) your long-held personal beliefs and listen to other viewpoints. Consider openhearted discussions over debates.

Given the doctrines and theologies you gathered from your exposure of the Scriptures, how have you applied Christ’s detailed messaging of the New Order of Love in the Upper Room? Have you done an in-depth study and wholehearted check on a certain hardline doctrinal and religious belief you hold and see whether it really promotes Christ’s message of unity and equality or if it is sowing division and oppression of others?

About the Bible

1. The Bible, which is composed of 66 books written by over 40 authors in three continents over a span of maybe two millennia, is a unified literary piece.

2. The Bible has two sections, the Old Testament and the New Testament (also known as the Good News). The Old Testament is composed of 39 books while the New Testament has 27 books.

3. In studying the Bible, it is imperative that the reader understands it in the context of the author’s voice and intention, history, economics, geography, and culture. Being able to connect themes and plots to the overall message of the Scripture must be an integral part of the insight-development process. The Bible has three literary essentials: continuing narrative, conflict, continuing or central theme and conflict resolution. The continuing narrative is bringing together what’s been pulled apart. The major conflict in the story is, left to our own devices, we humans are incapable of overcoming sins. The continuing theme and conflict resolution is Messianic Salvation which hinges on the two principal covenants, Abrahamic and Davidic.

4. The conditions during the period when the Bible was written include patriarchal society, monarchical governance, slavery, polydeism, and women were treated as property.

5. There is an inherent and palpable danger in formulating a doctrinal interpretation of any part of the Bible independent from its overall themes of unity and equality and core messages of restoration through God’s grace and unrelenting love. There is always a danger in target-selecting a verse, connecting it to a few other verses and then weaving an independent narrative that isn’t aligned to the overall theme and message of the Scripture. Often, a passage is misquoted for commercial use or unwittingly as an affirmation, or worse – to gain control over another group of individuals and then cause harm in the process whether unintentionally or otherwise. Watch out also for a tendency to romanticize a passage and the over-spiritualizing of messages.

6. Humankind’s salvation and unity with God through the death and resurrection of a Messiah is the ongoing theme of the Bible. The protagonist is God and sin is the recurring antagonist. It’s a compelling love story of what is apart coming together.

7. The Bible chronicles a gripping narrative of God’s grace and love of all human beings. It tells a dynamic and incredible story of change that brings people together in honor of God. It points towards a direction that restores God’s relationship with His creation and the humankind. The message is clear: God wants everything that is apart be brought together.

Lastly, I encourage a reflection on the following questions. Are your religious or doctrinal beliefs preventing you and others from achieving unity in your relationships? Do religious and doctrinal hardliners affect your attitude and your willingness to discuss let alone consider social, political, economic, global and humanitarian standpoint? Is your assumed tenet pushing you to choose between science and religion?

Over a year ago, Scott Treadway led a lesson about understanding the gospel in the context of God’s grace. Click here for the link, Scandal Of Grace.

Here’s my personal definition of faith. Faith to me is an informed and confident response to God’s revelation. It is based on knowledge (of who and what God is), belief (in his being), and trust (safety under his care). Faith is grown by continually seeking understanding and insight into all things about God. When we moved positionally into the family of Christ we are transformed. Faith then is manifested by confirmed work of the Holy Spirit in the person’s life that moved his or her into a life of love and service of everyone everywhere. As James, the brother of Jesus and author of the Book of James puts it, faith without work is dead.

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