May 26

Reading the Bible in Community

We all have biases. In order to make sense of the world around we use our experiences, knowledge, and emotions to interpret the information we receive. This happens automatically. We don’t think about it, or do it on purpose. Sometimes it helps us interpret things correctly, and sometimes it causes us to make grave errors. In order to correctly understand and interpret scripture, we must be aware of our propensity to read through tinted glasses. When we’re aware of it, we can find ways to work through it.

As I was reading through 1 Corinthians 2:10-16 this week, I noticed that every time I read the word “we” I included myself in the pronoun to the extent that I ignored both who the “we” was and Paul’s overall argument. Particularly in verses 12-13:

12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.

The conclusion I came to when I first read it is theologically correct: because I follow Jesus, I have the Holy Spirit inside me (as does every follower of Jesus). However, I jumped immediately to an application of this text before pausing long enough to understand Paul’s point in saying it to begin with.

For the first four chapters of his letter to the Corinthians, Paul spends much of his time on a long argument about why the Corinthians should not fight with one another about which ‘preacher’ they’re following. The Corinthians placed a high value on the person who brought them the message of the Gospel, rather than the one the Gospel message was about. Given the arc of Paul’s argument as well as the immediate context of the passage, Paul’s whole point in bringing the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer is to counteract the inappropriate emphasis the Corinthians were placing on himself, Apollos, and Cephas (Peter). There’s no reason the Corinthians should be quarrelling about the messenger, because they were simply vessels used by the Holy Spirit. Through this argument, Paul has removed the Corinthian’s ability to boast in him or the other apostles because they didn’t use anything of themselves. It all came from God through the power of the Holy Spirit inside them.

The reason this stood out to me is because of my time with my LifeGroup. Through our conversations about various passages of scripture I’ve become more aware of my propensity to jump to conclusions from a single section of scripture rather than paying close attention to the entire argument. My LifeGroup has helped me study scripture better and more faithfully. A fantastic quote I heard a couple of years ago is “Self-deception much easier when you’re by yourself.” The best defense against self-deception is community.

For Further Conversation:

1.) In your life in general – work, home, school – how much do you have to know why you’re asked to do something before you’ll actually do it? Do you need to know the reason behind the request before you’ll actually follow the request?


2.) What are some things about Jesus and his teaching that defy common sense?


3.) The message talked about the “sides” and the “center” of Christianity. In your conversations with people who don’t share the same faith, how often do you focus on the “side” issues (politics, morality) as opposed to the “center” issue (the identity of Jesus). Remember: the sides will only make sense once the center is settled.


4.) Paul makes the incredible claim that we can have “the mind of Christ.” In what ways has that claim come true in your life? In what ways do you still need to grow towards it?


5.) The message referred to a number of biblical characters who were told to take a journey without understanding why. They received an assignment without an agenda. Which biblical character of whom this is true most resonates with you and why?


6.) What counter-cultural, impractical teaching of Jesus will you put into practice this week, knowing it will only make sense as you make him Lord?



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