Week 1 Introduction – What Was The Original Meaning of the Passage? (Feb 22)
In our culture today, tolerance is one of the most highly esteemed values. This an important and essential value and the Church should support, encourage and lead the charge on tolerance.
There are times, however, when tolerance is taken to a whole different level—one that is not tolerance at all, but acceptance of everything and anything. “Just because it’s not right for that person, does not mean it’s not right for me”. This is a popular idea in our society. This kind of thinking also invades the way we interpret what we read and, most importantly, the Bible. Often people read the Bible trying to get the meaning they want out of it, instead of reading it with an open mind and trying to understand what was originally intended. So, in summary, here is what we want to keep in mind when studying the Bible:
- Literary Context: Look at the verses before and after the passage for clues to the meaning.
- Historical Context: Are their clues from history or the culture of the time that help us understand the passage. A Bible dictionary or commentary can help us with this.
- The Genre: What kind of literature is it? This is another example of context. Poetry and letters would be interpreted differently. More on this in the weeks to come.
- Try to get at the Original Meaning: Leave what you want the passage to say out. Don’t speak to the Bible, let it speak to you.
Let’s make it as simple as possible. Of course, we are not going to investigate the historical and cultural context every time we read the Bible. That would be too much work and could at times become distracting. It is something to keep in mind and investigate on occasion, or when we have difficulty understanding a particular passage.
So let’s narrow this down to two steps:
- Consider the Context.
- Try to get at the Original Meaning.
Pastor Todd contributed this verse as one of his favourites: Philippians 4:13, “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Let’s follow the steps to try and understand the verse.
Consider the Context: Read Philippians 4:10-14.
Try to get at the Original Meaning: We may be tempted to understand this verse as meaning, God will make me successful in anything I do. If I want a new and bigger house, and I work hard for it, God will give me the strength to get what I want. If I work hard at getting that promotion, God will give me the strength to get it. But the context tells us that this verse means something else. Paul is talking about hardship and being content with what we have. If I am going through some kind of hardship, God will give me strength, because I can do everything through Christ.
Pastor Todd Lester commented about this verse: “This verse keeps me going. When I feel discouraged or tired I read this verse. It reminds me that strength comes from the Lord and this gives me much hope and perseverance.”
1) In what area of your life do you need to remember this verse?
2) Pray: Ask God to give you strength. Have confidence (faith) that He will give you what you need, because you can do everything through Christ.
3) Refer to your Prayer Journal.