From “Growing in the character of a disciple”: Chapter 11 – The complications that arise when we tell the truth, and a look at some exceptional situations where we could lie
When we read the Bible, and especially if we teach it to others, we are under a solemn duty to be careful and truthful in the way we interpret its meaning. That means that we need to read every verse in its full and proper context and refuse to twist any verse to suit our own purposes. Instead of adjusting the meaning of a verse to suit our opinions we need to change our opinions to get into line with what the Bible says.
This may sound obvious, but it is not what many of us do. We take liberties with the Bible and ignore what we see on the page. We also read things into a verse which aren’t there, so as to get the Bible to fit in with our opinions and traditions. That is wrong. Every Christian must show the utmost reverence towards God’s Word. That includes taking great care to find its real meaning, rather than imposing on it a meaning of our own making, which is more to our liking.
Every verse of the Bible needs to be interpreted in accordance with what the whole of the rest of the Bible says. Therefore if you are taught that a verse has a particular meaning, but that meaning is contradicted by some other passage, then what you have been taught cannot be the correct interpretation.
The Bible is fully consistent with itself. That is why the proper context for any verse is the whole of the rest of the Bible. That puts you under a duty to know the whole Bible and to be vigilant to check everything that you are taught to make sure that it is biblical. That means that it is consistent with what the rest of the Bible says. As we shall see in Book Three, every verse of the Bible is true, but only the whole Bible, i.e. the sum of God’s Word, is the truth:
The sum of thy word is truth;Psalm 119:160 (RSV)
and every one of thy righteous ordinances endures forever.
Therefore you need to study all of the Bible to be able to say that you have got the whole truth. The responsibility is on you to make sure you get that. So, being a disciple involves accepting the challenge of seeking to become familiar with the whole Bible. Without that you will always be at risk of being deceived or mistaken about the meaning of any particular passage.
People twist the Bible’s meaning for a variety of reasons, but if you have the love of the truth you will be vigilant to resist that. You will always want to know the real and true meaning, even if that contradicts your own opinions, or your denominational traditions, and even if it requires you to admit that you were wrong previously.
That last point is the hardest for many people. There is a pride in us which hates the idea of having to admit that the way we have always interpreted a passage, or the belief we have held about a particular doctrine, was wrong. People feel that such an admission would diminish them in the eyes of others and they are not willing to risk that.
As a result, many of us stubbornly hold onto a wrong belief, or refuse even to consider an alternative belief, simply because to do so could involve loss of face. This is a particular problem for many church leaders. But it means that they are deliberately, or at least negligently, holding onto error and rejecting truth merely for the sake of maintaining their own image and prestige. Imagine how seriously God views that kind of failure to love the truth and how He will judge it.