In our last post, we explored an interesting idea found in Psalm 119:160: the sum of God’s word. When understanding God’s word, God’s character, and God’s will, we must see the entirety—the sum—of what God says rather than cherry picking bits and pieces.
We saw this principle demonstrated as we looked at an example that dealt with understanding the character of God. If you haven’t read it yet, read Part 1 here. Today, we will examine another example, and this one has to do with how we interpret the word of God.When understanding God’s word, God’s character & God’s will, we must see the entirety—the sum—of what God says rather than cherry picking bits & pieces. Click To Tweet
Connecting the Dots
In Deuteronomy 25:4, we read, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.” Another similar passage can be found in Leviticus 19:13, “Do not defraud or rob your neighbor. Do not hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight.” And, finally, in Deuteronomy 24:14-15, we see the idea that a worker is worthy of his or her wages.
If we read these parts by themselves and neglect the whole of God’s word we may end up thinking, “Cool. God cares about oxen and workers, so we should too.” Yes, while this is true, it is not the whole truth. It is not the sum truth.
In 1 Timothy 5:17-18, we read, “The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”
Paul begins to connect the dots for us, but in a strange way. We live in a church world where we are used to people using texts as proof texts. Is this what Paul is doing?
In 1 Corinthians 9:7, Paul asks the Corinthian church a set of rhetorical questions. He asks, “Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat the fruit of it? Or who tends a flock and does not use the milk of the flock?”
Of course, the answer is, “Nobody.” Nobody does that. Paul goes on to ask, “Do I say this merely on human authority?” We might feel slightly confused here. What do we answer? “Um…I guess not?”
But, Paul doesn’t stop there. He continues with, “Doesn’t the Law say the same thing?” Again, we might scratch our heads. What do we answer? “I don’t know where that verse is, Paul. Can you point it out to me?”
Then, he does. But he does so by tying his argument back to those oxen from Deuteronomy. Now, up until this point, a straightforward reading of the Deuteronomy verse would lead us to the obvious conclusion that God was merely addressing animal care, right?
But in comes Paul with the weird new argument and suddenly we’re questioning our understanding. And, we go with it, because he is Paul after all. He asks, “Is it oxen that God was concerned about? Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest.”
Paul is making a direct correlation between the verses found in the Old Testament and the Church’s responsibility to elders. Why am I bringing this up? Because when we understand the principle in Psalm 119:60, what we get is the whole truth. The sum truth. And, the sum of God’s word is what helps us understand that God’s ministers are worth their keep.When we understand the principle found in Psalm 119:60, we unlock the door to the whole truth. #biblestudy Click To Tweet
We don’t have to only take Paul’s word for it. We are, after all, looking at the sum truth. Let’s take a look at what Jesus said about this idea of bringing the old Testament into the New. In Luke 10 we see Jesus sending out the 72 (or 70, depending on your translation). He told them not to take extra provisions for themselves.
You can read the commands he gives them here. Why doesn’t he want them taking extra provisions? The answer is again found in Deuteronomy and Leviticus. Jesus quotes from the Old Testament as he sends his disciples out, touching on this same idea that the worker is worthy of his wages. Why does he do this? Because the sum total of God’s word is truth.
3 Principles of Biblical Interpretation
I want to share three principles about Biblical interpretation that I know will help you grow in your understanding of God’s word. The first is the principle is what we’ve been discussing: the sum of God’s word is truth (Psalm 119:60). Until we understand the whole, some of the smaller components may seem to communicate one thing when in fact they are communicating another thing altogether.
The second principle is: the Bible will interpret itself. The third principle is: the character of God is unchanging. We will dive into the second and third principles in our next post within this series. Join me again tomorrow.
Is this idea of the sum truth re-framing your Bible study? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.