Imagine you are sitting at a table and have a brown box. You open up the box, finding various puzzle pieces scattered inside. You take one out and place the puzzle piece onto the table. You then come up with an idea in your head of what the entire picture looks like. You are absolutely certain you recognize what the whole picture is, and you tell your friend about it. You show your friend the puzzle piece, and explain the rest of the picture. Now imagine what your friend is going to tell you. Your friend will likely say that you cannot be certain of this idea you have, and that you have to put the rest of the puzzle together. Obviously, only once the pieces are all put together will you ever know what the puzzle designer intended the picture to be.
When it comes to the Bible, it is exactly the same way. God has given us a great big picture, and we have to put all of the pieces together in order to see it. Frequently people will take that puzzle piece, one verse from God’s word, and talk about the rest of it without actually looking at the rest of it. We must be sure we never fail to make the same mistake, for this sadly results in a fake picture of God’s word. This leads others likewise to be convinced that this image is real. Paul told us that it is all scripture that is given by inspiration, all of it comes from God, not only parts of it. It is all collectively crucial, and all of it demands our attention. Every piece matters.
We must rightly divide the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15), that is, use God’s word properly. This involves a close study of the Bible. Peter said of Paul’s writings “…as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the scriptures.” Can we use God’s word properly without all of the pieces together? Not at all. Doing so is to destroy oneself. We ought to recognize the immediate context (verses right around the particular verse we may be looking at), and the remote context, the passages that extend further out. All of it is critical, and none of it shall go without attention, none of it shall be taken out of context and placed into an imaginary one. God has made it simple for us to look at all of it and understand it, but Satan makes it as difficult and as confusing as he possibly can.
Taking verses out of context was exactly something Satan himself did as he tempted Jesus for forty days in the wilderness (Luke 4). Jesus used other Scriptures which showed Satan was misusing the word of God. Jesus set forth in His life the perfect example for us, the pattern we ought to follow. May we see the entire, pure picture of God, the picture that leads to salvation (cf. Rom. 1:16), and not man’s corrupt picture, the picture that leads to destruction (cf. 2 Peter 2:1-3).
Hayden Sherrell is the preacher of the Greenville Church of Christ on New Harrison-Bradford Road in Greenville. He is a graduate of Moundsville School of Preaching in West Virginia. He can be reached at: greenvillecoc.chuch or call 304 830-4739. The viewpoint of this article are the beliefs of the author and the Church of Christ. The Daily Advocate does not endorse the viewpoints or the activities of this author.