Today's Little Lift
by Jim Bullington
Every verse of the Bible is true, but only if taken with every other verse of the Bible. Today's text will be used to illustrate this point. More definitively, when one reads the Bible he/she can be assured that the truth is before him/her, but it can only be grasped if the passages being read are taken in their larger biblical context. Consider this fact as you read the balance of this devotional.
Jesus said, “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11.9-13).
What might one get from this text if the remainder of the Bible is not considered? First, the passage is straightforward; it clearly states that “everyone who asks receives.” It also says that “he who seeks finds.” In the same vein it says “to him who knocks it will be opened.” What could be clearer? However, does this mean that every person who asks will receive of God, that every one who seeks God will find Him, and every door will be opened upon which a person knocks?
Without hesitation, this writer affirms that this cannot be the meaning of this text. Let me explain why that is the case. In the first place, James clearly affirms that unless a person asks in faith, nothing doubting or wavering, he will receive nothing from God (see James 1.5-7). In the second place, some who seek will not find. Hosea speak of people who sought God but could not find Him because He had withdrawn from them (see Hosea 5.6). Likewise, Amos foretold a time when men would run to and fro seeking the word of the Lord and would not find it (Amos 8.12). And as for every door being opened, everyone knows that is not an unconditional promise. The five foolish virgins in Matthew 25 learned this lesson the hard way when the door of entrance into the marriage supper was closed and would not be opened to them regardless of how urgently and pitifully they pleaded.
There are faith only churches because there are passages which say that man is saved by faith. There are “once saved, always saved” churches because some passages state that believers have (present tense) eternal life. There are predestination churches because the Bible clearly teaches that believers are predestined in Christ. There are universalism churches because the scriptures clearly teach that Jesus died for every person regardless of his or her spiritual condition. This list could be continued almost indefinitely! The Bible also clearly teaches that Christ did not intend for there to be competing churches, all wearing or claiming to honor His name. The real reason all of these churches exist is that men have refused to listen to all that God has to say on many subjects. The plain fact of the matter is this: When we fail to hear all that God has to say on a matter, we fail to hear to God! This may be a bitter pill for us to swallow, but it is nevertheless true.
As Bible students our resolve must be to hear all that God has to say on any and every subject of importance. Anything less is a guarantee to fail and a guarantee to act in ways that are not God honoring. In order for us to listen as God would have us listen, every human agenda and prejudice must take second place to the one agenda that really matters. Ask, seek, and knock - there are conditions to the promises attached to these commands!
1. How large it the context of each Bible verse? Or to ask this another way, how many other passages must we consider before we conclusively come to the meaning of any given passage?
2. Can God be honored by hearing only part of what He has to say? Why or why not?
3. If the answer to question 2 is no, what can we do to insure that God is honored in all matters religious?
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