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Section 6..  Reading and Understanding Your Bible

 

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Rightly Dividing The Word of Truth

Also See

 Context Is Crucial

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Malachi 3:8-9
How can someone ‘rob’ God?

 Matthew 7:1-5
Judge Not? Usually used to imply that judging is a terrible thing.

Matthew 18:18
On binding Satan

Matthew 18:20
What did it mean when Jesus said "where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them"

Acts 5:35:
 
Who said this and is it a Biblical perspective? If their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God."

John 2:1-11:
 Did Jesus actually create an alcoholic beverage at Cana?

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Robbing God? How is This Possible?
By: Tyler S. Ramey

The idea of robbing God is an issue most often heard during stewardship sermons. The idea is drawn from Malachi 3:8-9, and is often misapplied. Let's back up a few verses, starting with verse 5, in order to help with the context of the passage. This will help us in applying it to our own lives. It reads:

"So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me," says the Lord Almighty.

    "I the Lord do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you," says the Lord Almighty.

    "But you ask, 'How are we to return?'

    "Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me.

    "But you ask, 'How do we rob you?'

    "In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse-the whole nation of you-because you are robbing me.

Many are unaware of the historical context of this passage and its proper application. The context of the passage is that the Jewish people, having returned to the Promised Land from Babylonian captivity, had failed to maintain the order and reforms implemented by Nehemiah, a contemporary of Malachi. This is vital to understanding how one robs God.

Nehemiah played a crucial role in overseeing the rebuild of Jerusalem as well as the Temple upon the return of the former captives. One of several reforms implemented was that of helping the poor (Ne. 5:2-13). The poor were being abused during that time through usury and other such things. Nehemiah insisted that the abuses cease. The book of Malachi was likely written after the city's rebuild, Nehemiah's return to royal service in Persia, and his subsequent return to Jerusalem. Upon his return, after a thirteen-year absence, he discovered the numerous failings of the people (Ne. 7:13-31). It was the sins of the Jewish people that were encountered by Nehemiah and which were addressed by Malachi.

A careful reading of the "robbing God" passage reveals that God was intimately concerned about the indifference of his people and their lack of care for those in need, i.e., widows, the fatherless, aliens, etc., (v. 5); the poor and others in need were being neglected. God attempted to correct the people through Malachi for failing to bless them with necessary care.

Failure to care for the needs of the Temple priests was also an issue. Those in the Temple service weren't being cared for through the required tithes. They were, therefore, forced into the fields (Ne. 13:10). This had an effect upon the people in that they were continually not being trained in religious matters. The priests were focused on their own survival and neglected their vocation to instruct the people (Mal. 2:1-9). The ignorance of the people's reply in verse eight when they said: "How do we rob you?" seems supportive of the neglect in their religious training. The people appeared unaware of their transgressions and sincere in their ignorance; they didn't know they were robbing God (v. 8).

Take notice of the connection between Malachi 3:5 and 3:8. We notice in verse five that certain people are found to be quite contemptible to the Lord, and if we heed our Lord's advocacy for the poor in Matthew 25:35-40 we should be more able to appreciate exactly how it is possible to truly "rob God" today.

Usually based on a failure to consider historical context, incorrect applications suggesting a person robs God by failing to pay tithes is a frequent occurrence. There is, however, a clear way that a believer can fall under the judgment of Malachi 3:8, but the judgment must complement what Malachi and, therefore, God, meant when he conveyed the words "Will a man rob God?"

God chastised the Jews for failing to bring their tithes (God's welfare system) to the storehouse (the place where provisions were stored) in order that there would be "food in his house," the Temple (Mal. 3:10) to distribute to those who needed it, i.e., the priests, widows, the fatherless, aliens, etc. This complements God's concern noted in Malachi 3:5 for which the historical context of the prophet's message is clear. And, it also establishes God's advocacy for the poor, and also those he has entrusted to instruct people in religious matters, when he essentially says that if you refrain from providing care to those in need, you might as well steal from him (God).

So in answer to the question of how it is possible to rob God, God suggests through Malachi's words, and within the context of his and Nehemiah's day, that we rob him when we fail to provide for those in need. Robbing God is simply a failure to extend our hands of blessing to those in need. [See in-depth article on Tithing].

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Judge Not?
By: Tyler S. Ramey

Last year I had a conversation with a friend and fellow believer regarding a matter over which we disagreed. It was a cordial discussion that was met with friendly jabs and plenty of joking around, yet we were both quite serious about our opinions, each trying to convince the other to change his perspective. We became distracted from the issue we were batting around when my friend responded to something I said with "Who are you to judge?" Well, this introduced a whole new subject which simply couldn't go unaddressed. "Ah, the ever popular 'Who are you to judge?' or 'Judge not' defense," I replied.

These famous silencing tactics are frequently used by people-Christian and non-Christian alike-who wish to quiet those with whom they disagree. Usually, the one using such an approach is unable to legitimately defend his views, and simply resorts to this indirect name-calling. "Who are you to judge? or "Judge not" is often little more than name-calling since it's implied that being a "judger" is a terrible thing. Sometimes this is true, sometimes not. Let's check out the scriptures.

Matthew 7:1 and Luke 6:37 are the source verses for "Who are you to judge?" and "Judge not." Frequently, however, it's assumed that Christ's words in these verses are the only thing he had to say about the matter. If we carefully read the passages containing Matthew 7:1 and Luke 6:37, along with the broad teaching of related scriptures, we find that judging is something not always condemned by God's Word. In fact, if we read our Lord's words in Matthew 7:1-5 (cf., Luke 6:37-42), we discover that Jesus condemns a certain type of judgment, not all judgment. He says, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. . . . You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."

Jesus, clearly opposed to hypocritical judgment, tells the believer to first take the plank out his own eye, then remove the speck from a brother's eye. Often the assumption of those who say "Who are you to judge?" or "Judge not" is that Jesus condemned any and all judging, but such is not the case. Again, Jesus clearly seems to indicate first taking care of oneself, then worring about someone else; hypocritical judgment is the focus of Christ's condemnation, not all judgments. Incidentally, the underlying thought behind the non-judging trend within the Church is the culture of tolerance where no one is easily permitted to make moral judgments (public or otherwise) on anyone or anything.

Further supporting the notion that Christians are to judge some things are numerous scriptures where judging is encouraged, even commanded. While it is not the place for Christians to attempt to judge eternal matters of the soul-an actual impossibility anyway-several scriptures advocate judging.

Matthew 18:15-20 advocates judging a brother in the context of orderly discipline; I Corinthians 5:12 commands us to "judge those inside" the church; Titus 3:10 implores us to have nothing to do with a divisive person; I John 4:1 says to "test the spirits to see whether they are from God"; II John 10 warns us to be on guard against false teachers, a matter accomplished only through godly judgment; and, III John 9-12 gives an example of exposing the malicious deeds of a certain troublemaker.

So, the next time you feel silenced by someone calling you one of those dreaded judgmental types, first ask him if he is being judgmental about your judging, then follow the Apostle Paul's example as he follows Christ's (I Cor. 11:1). Biblically assess whether the matter at hand is one that requires a righteous judgment based on Scripture, and proceed accordingly. "Watch your life and doctrine closely." (I Tim. 4:16) (Also See Judge Not)

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On "Binding Satan"
by Ray C. Stedman

After pastoring for forty years I can state unequivocally that the most common cause of spiritual weakness in a Christian (or a church) is a failure to recognize the flesh in its disguise of religious zeal. Like Peter flashing a sword in Gethsemane the fleshly Christian thinks he is doing God's will and fighting God's battles for him.

Perhaps one of the commonest expressions of this misguided zeal is the practice of "binding Satan" before Christian ministry is attempted. The Word of God gives no justification for this practice. None of the apostles utilized this approach and no Scripture commands Christians to practice it. It is an exta-biblical performance, arising from the desire of the flesh to look committed and powerful in the service of God. Christians are told to "resist the devil" but never to bind him. Resisting the devil is done by putting on the whole armor of God, as Paul describes it in Ephesians 6. The "binding and loosing" mentioned in Matthew 18:18 refers to the agreement in prayer of believers in line with the promises of God revealed in his Word.

Another form of this same error is to ascribe the manifestations of the flesh to the work of demons, which then are ostensibly "cast out" of an individual through a "deliverance ministry." But Galatians 5:19-21 clearly tell us that lust, hatred, discord, jealousy, rage, envy, sexual orgies, and the like are not the work of demons but of the flesh. It is impossible to "cast out" the flesh during this lifetime, rather it is to be subdued by recognizing its evil character, refusing to yield mind or body to its impulses, and turning immediately to Jesus for the supply of his strength and purity, as Romans 6:13 so clearly outlines.

It is plainly the work of pastors and teachers to help Christians identify the flesh in themselves, by means of the Word of God, and to follow the pattern the Word describes to keep the flesh in subjection to the spirit and the individual free to live as the Lord has already made provision to do.

Footnote: See more about ‘Binding Satan’ in the next section. Immediately below.

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What does it mean when Jesus said "where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them"?
By: Carol Brooks

Matthew 18:19 has Jesus telling His disciples

    "Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. "For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst." (Matthew 18:19-20 NASB)

This verse has become an accepted formula among Christians most of whom take it to mean that provided two or more of them get together to pray about something, God is virtually obligated to give them what they are petitioning Him for. That the agreement among two or three believers somehow "seals a deal" with God.

However, a closer look shows that Christ's words have absolutely nothing to so with "binding demons", "loosing the power of God" or obtaining material possessions. There are three thing we need to do with this verse and all others.


1). Consider Other Verses
Most Christians will agree (At least in theory) that the Bible is an integrated whole and never contradicts itself. Yet over and over again they will base their beliefs on isolated verses without considering what else the Scriptures have to say on the same subject. This practice is sheer foolishness and is the underlying cause of most of the aberrant doctrines being taught in the church today. Our understanding of any passage has to be made in the light of everything the Bible says - not always an easy task but nonetheless one that has to be done.

And when two passages seem to contradict one another, it only goes to show that we have come to faulty understanding of one or the other of them and a much deeper study needs to be undertaken.

Matthew 18:19 is a perfect illustration of what I mean.  Many take this passage to mean that provided two or more believers agree on something God, will give them whatever it is they want. Yet in light of I John 5:14 that clearly qualifies what God will grant, this interpretation becomes highly suspect.

This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him. (1 John 5:14-15 NASB)

James both reiterates and emphasizes what John said. In his words "You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures."  (James 4:3 NASB) Asking amiss is certainly not asking according to His will, and we will receive nothing.

So how is Matthew 18:19 to be interpreted?

2). Consider The Context
"Context" means the part of a text or statement that surrounds that particular word or passage and determines its meaning. Matthew 18:19 has been taken completely out of context, treated as a stand-alone which not very many verses in the Bible are. In fact, no passage in any written document can be assumed to be independent from its setting and the Bible is no different. See Context is Crucial

The eighteenth chapter of Matthew's Gospel is one of Jesus' four major discourses. We know that what He said was specifically directed at His disciples on one single occasion because Matthew 18:1 begins with the words "At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said...". And the next chapter (Matthew 19) begins with "When Jesus had finished these words... "

In other words, Matthew 18:19 is only a continuation of the previous verses that deal with church discipline - telling us how a brother who sins is to be handled. In other words, church discipline has to follow very specific steps.

The offender should first be rebuked in private however, if the private confrontation does not bring about change it should be repeated -  this time in the presence of two or three witnesses (See Deuteronomy 19:15). If this has no effect the matter is to be brought to the attention of the entire church. If he remains obstinate, the final step is that he is to be expelled from the church. Also See Galatians 6:1-2; 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14-15; Titus 3:10-11. Continuing with that message Jesus says,

    "I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven" (v. 18).

And, provided His instructions have been followed, the discipline of the offending brother will be affirmed (bound and/or loosed) in heaven.

In view of the fact that these verses are concerned only with the final step in the discipline of a sinning brother makes it no surprise that the text does not say if they pray but if they agree. As long as Jesus' specific instructions have been followed, God the Father will ratify their decision --  "I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven" (v. 18).

Verses 19 and 20 are not a general promise that if a couple of people pray in agreement about something or the other, God will grant their request.


3). Consider The Original Languages Used
In this case one has to take into account the Greek words translated "anything".

    "Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.  (Matthew 18:19 NASB)

"Any" has been translated from the Greek pas defined as all, the whole, every etc. which is simple enough. However, it is the second Greek word pragma translated as 'thing' that is interesting. Strong's defines pragma as a thing done, a deed, action; a matter, an affair. They add that "by extension" it can also mean an object. However, in all the ten other occurrences of pragma in the New Testament it is never once used for an object. See for yourself.

    Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things (Gk. pragma) accomplished among us, (Luke 1:1 NASB)

    "While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed (Gk. pragma) in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God." (Acts 5:4 NASB)

    that you receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and that you help her in whatever matter (Gk. pragma) she may have need of you; for she herself has also been a helper of many, and of myself as well. (Romans 16:2 NASB)

    Does any one of you, when he has a case (Gk. pragma) against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints?  (1 Corinthians 6:1 NASB)

    For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter (Gk. pragma). (2 Corinthians 7:11 NASB)

    and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter (Gk. pragma) because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. (1 Thessalonians 4:6 NASB)

    so that by two unchangeable things (Gk. pragma) in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.  (Hebrews 6:18 NASB)

    For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things (Gk. pragma) to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. (Hebrews 10:1 NASB)

    Now faith is the assurance of things (Gk. pragma) hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  (Hebrews 11:1 NASB)

    For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing (Gk. pragma). (James 3:16 NASB)

In other words pragma means a matter, question, affair, that has been or is being done.

Besides which the word translated 'ask' is the Greek aiteo that although largely used in the sense of requesting something, can also be understood as wanting or desiring something. For example,

    Now he was very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon; and with one accord they came to him, and having won over Blastus the king's chamberlain, they were asking for peace, because their country was fed by the king's country.  (Acts 12:20 NASB)

    Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory.  (Ephesians 3:13 NASB)

This definition does not fit with agreeing with someone on the matter of getting an expensive car and expecting God to follow up on that wish. It perfectly suits the context of church discipline regarding the Christian who has offended another brother telling us that He is another witness to the discipline being applied and will affirm the decision of two or three who are in agreement. [TOP OF PAGE]
 

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Q. I've been told if a certain teaching is not of God it will die out and that if it is of God, it won't be stopped. Is this a Biblical perspective? And, what would be a biblical approach to confronting false teaching?

A. The idea that "if a certain teaching is not of God it will die out and if it is of God, it won't be stopped originally comes from the mouth of a Pharisee named Gamaliel. In Acts 5:35, Gamaliel addresses the Jewish religious leaders concerning the apostles whom they arrested. He said, ". . . in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God."

Now, this idea is clearly preposterous, for if the same reasoning is used to measure divine approval or condemnation upon teachings based on success or failure, that is, then one would have to conclude that the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses operate by divine approval. Such an idea is obviously unbiblical as well as ridiculous. Well, then, what would be a biblical approach to handling false teaching since "riding out a storm" (as in Gamaliel's approach) is not a scriptural option?

The scriptural pattern of confronting false teaching is very confrontive. Since false teaching is a public issue, confronting it will likewise be a public matter. Consider the public confrontation by the apostle Paul to Peter in Galatians 2:11-14 regarding what is known today as the "Galatian heresy." Verse fourteen says: "When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I [Paul] said to Peter in front of them all . . ." (emphasis added).

Additional examples could be cited to show that it is impeccably clear from Scripture that confronting false doctrine is a matter that quite often must be handled publicly in a firm and uncompromising way. This is the loving and scriptural approach as exemplified by Jesus and the apostles. By: Tyler S. Ramey

Note: Gamaliel was not a Christian and neglected to mention the third possible source of activity.. satan! 

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Q. Did Jesus Actually Create an Alcoholic Beverage at the Wedding of Cana?
By: Tyler S. Ramey

A. Many an argument has been offered in an attempt to make Jesus a "prohibitionist." However, the facts yielded from careful Bible interpretation in lieu of personal problems with alcohol (past or present), show a Jesus who clearly partook of alcoholic beverages and, in fact, created the choicest of alcoholic wines at the wedding of Cana (John 2:1-11). Let's take a look at the most revealing portion of the scriptural account.

After Jesus had performed His first earthly miracle, "the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine . . . Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, 'Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now'" (John 2:9-10).

Typically, the strongest (or choice) wine would be served to guests first and then the cheaper, watered-down wine would be served when the guests "didn't care" so to speak or, at least couldn't tell a poor quality wine from a good one because of their over indulgence. Those who had drank enough to "be happy" or "feel no pain" could no longer tell they weren't being graced with strong wine, which was considered best, and were then given the cheaper, watered-down drink.

The master of the banquet upon tasting the wine Jesus created was amazed at the apparent generosity of the bridegroom when he, the master of the banquet, specifically commented on the quality of the wine by saying, "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now." The master of the banquet tasted and immediately identified the stronger wine which was considered the best.

Clearly, then, Jesus created the very best alcoholic wine at the wedding at Cana of Galilee. No amount of emotionally charged argumentation, wishful thinking, or poor Bible study is going to alter the revealed facts contained in Scripture. [See Related Article... The Bible and Alcohol]

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