I sometimes think chapter and verse divisions where the worst thing that ever happened to the Bible because it is so easy to pick and choose what we want to read in a way that ignores context. For example, I cannot count the amount of times I have heard someone claim passages from John 15 but ignore verses a few lines before or after.
Looking at John 15:12-17 and let’s see if this sounds familiar:
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you”
Good so far…
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends”
“You are my friends if you do what I command you.
Not as commonly quoted but still good for a poster…
“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from the my Father I have made known to you.”
I think most preachers would acknowledge that Jesus is talking to the disciples but that these statements still apply to all believers…
“You did not chose me, but I chose you and appointed you …”
“…that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, He may give it to you.”
Whew…back to safety…
“These things I commanded you, so that you will love one another.”
Great! Everyone love one another!
So why is it that many churches would attempt exegetical acrobatics to explain why the first part of v.16 does not apply to all believers, but EVERYTHING else in this passage does?
We cannot pick and chose what passages we like based on if they fit into our theology or not. We need to let the Bible determine our theology. This should go without saying but, we cannot pre-determine what our source material should say if we are studying to know what our sources material does says.
And why would you want to skip over this glorious truth? God has chosen us, through no merit of our own, and loved us. He has promised that, though there will be persecution, He will not orphan us (14:18) because He has chosen whom He will adopt (Eph 1:4-5). This is not unfair or unjust. God is under no obligation to extend mercy to anyone, but because He loves He has decided to adopt children, justly deserving punishment, into His kingdom.
So why witness you ask? Well let me ask you the same question-Why do you witness? I would venture to say it is for the same reason. Because “faith come by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” We do not save anyone ourselves, it is purely of work of the Holy Spirit. It is a gift and privilege to be part of the miracle of salvation. This is the method God has chosen to spread His kingdom and His glory.
In parting, here are a few guidelines to follow for proper exegesis: Read each passage carefully. If there is something that gives you pause, ask questions, look at the context and do research; but-most importantly-when you are reading, do not pick and chose what works for your preconceived theology. Scripture is not to be taken piecemeal, you must “take ye, all of it.”