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Doctrinal Matters: Bible Interpretation

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Is God Talking to Me?

by  Kyle Butt, M.A.

Among those who profess to believe that the Bible is God’s Word, it has become a common practice to avoid following certain biblical commands. They do this based on the idea that such commands were specifically for the individuals at the time of the writing, and do not have broader application to those of us who are reading the text in a modern-day setting. For instance, one religious group formed a committee in 1992 to research the biblical passages dealing with homosexuality. One of the four tenets upon which the committee was able to reach a consensus was the following statement: “The 7 references to homosexuality in the Bible represent ancient culture and not the will of God. They cannot be taken as definitive” (Robinson, 2005). The idea, then, is that God is not really talking to us, but was talking only to “those” people “back then.”

Jesus had something to say about this very idea. On one memorable occasion, the Sadducees came to Jesus, testing Him with questions pertaining to the resurrection. In their minds, they had concocted an unanswerable scenario. If a woman had seven husbands in this life, they questioned, whose wife would she be in the resurrection? Jesus, knowing their wickedness and their ignorance of the Scripture, explained that “in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage” (Matthew 22:30). He then said to the Sadducees, “But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Matthew 22:31-32, emp. added).

Notice that Jesus was quoting to the Sadducees a segment of Scripture that was taken from the Pentateuch (Exodus 3:6). The text was written almost 1,500 years before this group of Sadducees even existed. In the text, God was speaking directly to Moses, who had a much different culture than those of the first century Jews. And yet, even with such a lengthy time span and major cultural differences involved, Jesus stated clearly that God was talking to His first-century audience.

Several lessons can be learned from Jesus’ statement. First, we must realize that God speaks to us today through His inspired Word, just as He spoke to the Sadducees almost 2,000 years ago. Second, while it is true that some things in Scripture must be analyzed in their cultural setting, and the division between the Old Testament and New Testament must be recognized, it is extremely dangerous to jettison applicable commands and divine principles based on the idea that they no longer apply to us. Even though our culture may drift far from many of the biblical teachings, those teachings have not changed, and will not change due to ever-waffling cultural trends. Regardless of cultural shifts, it will never be right to jettison God commands regarding homosexuality, or any other sins, based on the idea that such commands were solely for someone else in some other time. As the psalmist wrote about God in the long ago, “The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever” (Psalm 119:160). If you want to listen to God speak to you today, open your Bible.

REFERENCES

Robinson, B.A. (2005), “The United Methodist Church and Homosexuality: Conference Decisions,” [On-line], URL: http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_umc6.htm.




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