All too often, I see Christians, who I want to believe are well intended, using their experiences to inform scripture. What do I mean? For example, I have heard many a person say “They shouldn’t serve in church, they smoke.” And then, when they’ve come across a convoluted path through scriptures that may be a vague reference to health, they declare it to be a sin because, socially, it is unacceptable. Or when a church forgives someone of an socially unforgivable crime, I’ve heard “What’s wrong with those people, don’t they know what that person did? How could they forgive them?” Or when people openly defy the word of God by justifying their usurping of roles He set down by saying “That was for that time and place,” all the while saying that other times and places in the bible are “socially unacceptable today.” I know this is a harsh lesson, and it is hardly evangelical in nature, but it needs to be said: Your experiences, feelings on a matter, and emotions do not inform scripture. What God calls a sin is sin, what is not declared to be a sin is not sin, forgiveness is essential to those who claim to follow Jesus, and what God has ordained and established cannot be undone.
How we respond to the scriptures speaks volumes of what we believe. Eisegesis, a fancy word meaning to draw our own meaning out of the scriptures, is a flawed way to view the word of God. We can’t glean a meaning out of the word that is not there. Exegesis, the opposite of eisegesis, means that we go to the author’s original intent and leave our modern “sensibilities” out of it. This is the correct lens with which to view scripture. Many of us have survived abuses of all kinds, but we’re still expected to completely forgive our abusers, as God through Christ forgave us. Many of us have been affected by smoking and drinking, but the Bible says nothing to smoking, and is very specific to alcohol (It says “Do not be drunk with wine,” and also Jesus turned water in to wine, and preached a lesson about the fermenting process of wine). Horrible things happen in the world, and murders and mayhem rule supreme, but we’re expected to judge ourselves and work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. In this politically and emotionally charged era in which we live, following the word of God is going to seem alien to those who are worldly (it always will, but less so when more of us have leanings toward scripture). We need to side in Scripture, and seek to grow daily by learning to live by it. And then, to truly understand God’s will, leave our opinions, emotions, and experiences at the door.
2 Peter 1:3-21
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.
For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.