2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
“All Scripture” includes all the Old Testament and the New Testament books, which include the books of history, law, poetry, prophecy, the gospels, the acts of the apostles, the epistles, and Revelation. So, what this is saying is that all these books of the Bible are the words of God, and all of these writings are profitable for us, as followers of Jesus Christ, for teaching, etc.
Does that mean that we have to obey everything written in these Scriptures? Not unless what is commanded is specifically applied to us as followers of Jesus Christ, and/or the commands, when there are commands, are repeated for us in the New Testament. For example, we do not have to obey individual commands that are given to individual people if they are just for them specifically, and we don’t have to obey the ceremonial and liturgical and sacrificial and purification laws of the Old Covenant.
But not everything in Scripture is commands. Some of it is telling stories of other people’s lives, and it is history, and it is wise sayings, and it is prophecy about things to come, etc. So, not all of Scripture is doctrine, either. And doctrinal passages we have to treat differently from lessons from history. Doctrine must be taught in the strictest of context, whereas a historical passage may be used to teach us a lesson outside the literal context of the passage of Scripture.
For example, we may read the story of David and Goliath, but the Lord may use that story to speak to us about a “Goliath” (not literal) in our own lives, i.e. something huge and overpowering and even frightening which is threatening and taunting us and is trying to make us afraid. And the Lord may encourage us through that story to use the armor of God to take up against our enemy in order to defeat fear and to gain victory in Christ.
The Holy Spirit Speaks
Or God may use a passage of Scripture, perhaps one or some where he called the saints of old to their specific ministries in order to call us to the ministries he has for us to do. And the Holy Spirit will speak to us through that passage to direct us in where the Lord would have us to go and to do. But God is not going to call us to do anything contrary to his expressed will for our lives as followers of Jesus, but only to what accords with his will.
When teaching an Old Testament passage, we should teach it in light of the New Covenant if we are teaching doctrine. And if we are teaching something that is from the books of prophecy, and the prophecy is regarding these last days before the return of Christ, then we need to interpret the passage in light of the Messianic age. For example, the temple of God is no longer the Jewish temple and a physical building. We, as believers in Jesus Christ, are his temple, and Jesus is the temple, and he dwells within us by his Spirit.
And the Holy City is no longer physical Jerusalem, but she is the church, the body of Christ, i.e. those with genuine faith in Jesus Christ. For the temple of God now dwells within us and we are the temple, and we dwell in Christ, not on a physical mountain in a specific physical city. We are the Jerusalem that is from above. We are not a physical city but a spiritual one. We are not a physical temple but a spiritual one made up of living stones. So, the ungodly are trampling on us, not on physical Jerusalem (see Revelation 11:1-3).
[see Gal 3:16, 26-29; Rom 9:4-8; Gal 4:22-31; Eph 2:14-18; 1 Jn 2:22]
In a Broader Sense
And going back to the idea of using a passage of Scripture, not in its strictest sense, in order to teach a lesson that can be applied to our personal lives today, we can take passages of Scripture about a subject such as the Christians being told that they must follow some of the Old Covenant ceremonial laws, and we can teach a lesson focused on the broader message which has to do with false teachers trying to tell Christians something that is contrary to what God’s word teaches, whether they are teaching legalism or liberalism. One is adding to Scripture and the other is taking away from Scripture, but they are both man-made and false and altering God’s word.
One time we might read a passage of Scripture and the Lord may apply it to our lives in a certain way related to where we are now, and later when we are going through something different, he may apply it to our lives in a different way. The overall message is still the same, it is just that the application may vary depending on the circumstances. But I am not referring here to doctrinal passages. We can’t change the gospel message to fit our circumstances or where we are now versus where we were before.
Basically, sin is still sin, and sin is defined in Scripture as rebellion against God and as disobedience to God and to his commands. And the sin which separates us from God is unrepentant, deliberate, and habitual sin. Whether you are reading in the Old or the New Testament, we are taught that we must turn from our sins and obey God or we don’t have eternal life with God. That has not changed from the Old to the New. God’s moral laws have remained the same. And faith is still obedience, and unbelief is still disobedience (see Hebrew 3-4 and 1 Corinthians 10).
So, “context” can be a literal interpretation of a passage of Scripture, word for word, or it can be a broader interpretation, looking at the overall picture of what is being taught without losing the basic foundation of the message, like in the example I gave of the story of David and Goliath. But, for teaching biblical doctrine and the gospel message, we need to stay strictly to what the passages are teaching regarding sin, salvation, and eternal life.
For all Scripture is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, but not all Scripture is to be literally applied to us today in the strictest sense. Like God is not telling us to go and defeat literal gigantic men with a sling and a stone. But he is telling us that we must die with him to sin and live to him and to his righteousness if we want to belong to him, if we want to be saved from our sins, and if we want to have eternal life with him. And we need to take that seriously.
For, if we live according to our flesh, and not according to the Spirit, and if we walk in sin and not in righteousness, and if we habitually and deliberately disobey our Lord by sinning against him, without true repentance, and so we are not walking in obedience to his commands, then the Scriptures teach us that we will not have eternal life with God, and that is not open to interpretation depending on our circumstances. There are no excuses for living in deliberate and habitual sin and for not obeying our Lord.
[Lu 9:23-26; Jn 6:35-58; Jn 15:1-11; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Eph 4:17-24; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Co 6:9-10,19-20; 2 Co 5:10,15,21; Tit 2:11-14; Jas 1:21-25; Rom 12:1-2; Eph 2:8-10; Php 2:12-13; Col 1:21-23; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; Heb 10:26-27; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Matt 7:21-23; Rev. 2-3; Rev 18:1-6; Rev 21:8, 27; Rev 22:14-15]
Songwriter: Andrew Lloyd-Webber
Who takes away the sins of the world
Qui tollis peccata mundi
Give them rest, grant them rest
Dona eis requiem, dona eis requiem
Lamb of God
Who takes away the sins of the world
Qui tollis peccata mundi
Grant them eternal rest
Dona eis requiem
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