I’m not sure where I’m going with this, so bear with me.

There are some passages of scripture that are meant for all people for all time everywhere. Right?

And there are some that are meant for some people at a certain time and place. Right?

We can’t keep a whole lot of the commandments in the old covenant, because 1.) most of us Christians aren’t Jews; 2.) there is no temple in Jerusalem where we could sacrifice even if we were; 3.) the Law was a schoolmaster until ….

Okay, how about the new covenant:

“Slaves, obey your masters.” Meant for some people at a certain time and place. Or not?

“Love each other deeply, for love covers a multitude of sins.” Meant for all people for all time. Or not?

Maybe those seem obvious to you. But there are a lot of things in the new covenant that aren’t that clear to me. To whom were they written and meant to benefit? For all time or for a certain time? For every people, race and nation or for a small definite group of people in a nation which perhaps no longer exists?

How do we decide?

If context gives clear clues, are we allowed to ignore those clues if they conflict with what we’ve been taught – or have otherwise always believed?

If what Paul teaches as command seems to conflict with what Jesus taught by example, who trumps whom?

If some of those teachings are contingent upon a certain event – such as Christ’s return and judgment – and I understand that differently from you (and most everybody else!) should I continue to teach something that I do not in my heart believe is applicable to us and now and everywhere and forever?

Like I said, I don’t really know where I’m going with this. I really don’t have these answers.

And I really, really do want to know them.

9 thoughts on “Applicability

  1. Keith, I think one way we really get into trouble is when we elevate the Bible to the level of the thing to be worshipped, instead of realizing it is a tool, a guide or map to the one to be worshipped. When we do that, we leave the realm of working WITH the scripture, and enter the world of trying to use the scripture as law, which can’t be done successfully by anyone. That’s already been tried.I don’t know how this helps with what you are talking about, except to point us to the true object of all that scripture, which should be our goal in the first place.

  2. Keith- you asked; If what Paul teaches as command seems to conflict with what Jesus taught by example, who trumps whom?I cannot answer all the questions you presumable have but this one is relatively easy, are you a Christian or a Pauleanien?I am now 66 years of age and have been exposed to the Church all my life and now am a member of the Church of Christ for many years.As any good preacher will tell you don’t believe what I tell you the bible says “Read it” and no don’t believe out of love for others what you have been told all your life your soul may depend on it.I left a comment on DU’s blog and was taken to the woodshed by you on what I said, sometimes the truth or precieved truth is not pretty but it should be said non-the-less. I have posted a post on my blog explaining what I was thinking, If you so desire to read and leave a comment please do so. may god bless you with the understanding you desire.

  3. Keith as Don advised me and I am thankful for his attentiveness. I did accuse the wrong Keith for beating me behind the woodshed.I will try to be more careful in the future before accusing one of weilding the club of the tongue.but I still would like your comment.

  4. l.e., thanks for being willing to do the Matthew 18 thing! But don’s right – I’m not the Keith who responded to your comment on David U’s post. I appreciate your comment on mine, though – I’ve still got a lot to sort through on these matters.

  5. These are matters of the heart. Remember about having the law “written on our hearts”?One who has had the love of God “poured out” in his heart will treat a master in a Christ like way if he is a slave, and will treat a slave in a Christ like way if he is a master.Instead of searching the Bible for commands, I look much of the time for a principal to obey. This Ephesians passage is one of those places where by seeing extremes we can know how to live among everyone.Remember, the first fruit of the Spirit in Gal 5 is love. I Cor 13 describes that Spirit produced unconditional love.My 7 year old twins like to stand with their backs against the door jamb in my shop to see how much they have grown and how far they must grow to be as tall as their brother.I Cor 13 is a good place to measure ourselves to see what progress we are making in becoming like Christ.Great post, thanks.Grace and Peace,Royce Ogle

  6. Keith: A little bit of off-the-cuff stuff in response. Yours are such good questions. I’ve wondered about and worked on and vacillated regarding them for a long time now.I do think it’s iffy, at best, to establish an either/or-ness among passages of Scripture. Starting with current assumptions about the nature and authority of the Bible(which I’m willing to re-examine), it seems better to say that ALL passages (ala 2 Tim. 3) are meant for all people for all time. This is what has led to their preservation, inclusion in the Bible, etc. AND all passages were meant (at least initially) for some people at a certain time and place. I.e., what some would call the intended audience or ideal readership.So, if Scripture is going to function as Scripture in the church, then recognizing and wrestling with its particularity, we also have to look for and identify the theology behind the text, between the words, that applies even to us. What we typically call the best examples of conservative protestant (biblicist, evangelical) scholarship tend to operate on those assumptions.This is why, for example, when it comes to passages that inform and direct Christian slave owners, we don’t usually say “Well, everyone knows that slavery is inherently wrong and that Paul was out of his mind when, writing by inspiration, he suddenly became a man of convenience as opposed to a man of truth.” That would seem to negate that what we find in Scripture really is a word from God. On the other hand, it would be impossible to read our theology directly off the pages of Scripture. Exhibit A: Sometimes two people who claim to be doing nothing more than that somehow arrive at positions that are mutually-exclusive. Sorry I went so long here. Must stop. But I wanted to throw that in.Thanks for probing, pushing, asking, wondering.

  7. I have noticed numerous blog posts in the last month or so about this exact topic. at least we all realize how inconsistent we are in interpreting the Bible.

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