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July 05, 2010


You've never read a Bible verse? Ba da ching!


I appreciate your emphasis on reading Scripture in context and agree with much of what you are saying here, but I think we have to be careful not to press this too far.

For example, in Acts 20:28 we find words from Paul directed specifically to the Ephesian elders. Do these words not apply to pastors today? If not, then we lose some valuable instruction for pastors (not to mention Richard Baxter's classic work The Reformed Pastor which was built around this passage). The same could be said about various promises or commands found in Paul's epistles to various churches. As with Jeremiah 29:11, these were specific letters written to specific people at a specific time, but we understand that many of the promises and commands also apply to us.

We also need to take into account what Paul says in Romans 15:4: "For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." Paul also says in 1 Corinthians 10:11 that certain things that happened to Israel in the Old Testament "happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come." (Unless Paul is only speaking to the Corinthians in this passage and not to us. You can see how this can get us into trouble if we press it too far.)

I think rather than dismiss a passage like Jeremiah 29:11 as not applicable to believers, we should look at the verse carefully within its context and then ask in what way does this passage apply to believers? Certainly as believers God has a glorious future in store for us after the resurrection. We also know that God works all things in this life together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose. And so as I follow Christ in my life I can trust that God's plans for me are indeed good and are meant for my welfare, even if it means going through some heavy duty trials along the way.

By comparing Scripture to Scripture, we may apply the Scriptural principle we find in the promise to ourselves. But, yes, we must first set the verse in its context before we can begin the process of applying.

God bless, and thanks for a thoughtful and thought-provoking post!

"Paul also says in 1 Corinthians 10:11 that certain things that happened to Israel in the Old Testament "happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come." (Unless Paul is only speaking to the Corinthians in this passage and not to us. You can see how this can get us into trouble if we press it too far.)"

I believe this is a GREAT example of where context is important. Paul IS speaking to his contemporaries ("us"), since Jesus' coming was a fulfillment of the Old Covenant "age;" hence the "fulfillment of the ages" did come upon them. It is a past event, culminating in the destruction of Israel in 70 A.D. If you were reading these words at the time, then you indeed were in that group that would see the physical destruction of Old Covenant Israel. We are now living in the New Covenant age, a present reality. However, that doesn't mean we can't glean knowledge from the Old Testament - we just have to realize that the fulfillment of prophecies concerning the coming of Jesus and the establishment of His kingdom are now past to us. We are not the "us" Paul was writing to.

Well, if anything is clear in the New Testament, it is that the authors of the New Testament did not restrict their reading of Scripture to anything like what Koukl is suggesting. Check out St. Paul's interpretation of Deuteronomy:

"Do I say this merely from a human point of view? Doesn't the Law say the same thing? 9For it is written in the Law of Moses: "Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain."[b] Is it about oxen that God is concerned? 10Surely he says this for us, doesn't he? Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. 11If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you?" (1 Cor 9:8-11).

I think Greg's example with losing money gambling is a very good clarification of what he's talking about here.

Yes, there is certainly something we can learn about from this passage. We can learn about the character of God. We can even go with the idea that God has a plan, which goes to His sovereignty.

Though, it does not seem that He intends for us a life with no "calamity" or else this would contradict Jesus' telling us that "in this world, you will have trouble..."

I think it's important to understand, not only what Mr. Koukl is suggesting here, but also to understand what he is NOT suggesting. It doesn't seem to me that he's saying that we can't learn something from this passage. He seems to be simply stating that this particular promise, as it is written, was not directed to all believers at all times, but to a specific people at a specific time.

Then, as was pointed out in previous comments, we can learn things from this passage, take out the "timeless principles" and apply those to us today.

Just my $.02.

Grace, love and peace.

Can I claim the the verse from Romans 9:17--"For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my Name might be proclaimed in all the earth!"?...No wait...thats about Pharaoah!!! Never mind

I guess what it boils down to depends.

There is a difference between things written for us, and things written to us. All of Scripture is written for us, but almost all of it was written to others, in another culture, time, language, political milieu, etc.. Some of it can be directly appropriated as members of God's people, but other things are bound to time and place, and give us insight into His dealings, without being a directive or promise. They are instructive, but not necessarily decretive. The decree comes in what they reveal about Him.

Steve - beautifully put. Couldn't have said it better myself!

Rod re. Romans 9:17 - I just came across that verse in a Christian book in a chapter on living life to glorify God. (It was actually the Old Testament reference to that verse at Exodus 9:16.) The verse was used at the end of the chapter as an inspirational verse to meditate on. I think this is an excellent example of what Greg is cautioning about in this series.

I think it's important for Christians to allow God to speak to their hearts. For some, this will be an outdated verse that means little, and for others it will be a sustaining promise through hard times. The fact is, God has a plan, that includes trouble, problems, stumbling blocks, trials, and tribulations. Ultimately, He wants to see us succeed, and he does not wish us ill. Hence, "Plans to prosper you, and not to harm you" I find this verse very fitting when I am facing trials, because it is a promise that God has already set up a plan for me to come out better on the other side.

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