Do you see what I see?
The three rules of real estate are Location, Location, and Location.
Similarly, the three rules of Bible Interpretation are Context, Context, and Context
Whenever we’re trying to understand God, His plan, or the world He created, we must keep in mind the Context of His initial, intended design for the world.
As Paul warned Timothy about the coming false teachers and the believers who would follow them, their lens of context would protect them – or be their downfall:
1 Timothy 4:1-3
Now the Spirit explicitly says that in the latter times some will depart from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons through the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared. They forbid marriage and demand abstinence from foods that God created to be received with gratitude by those who believe and know the truth.
While the false teachings come from forces outside of the church – from deceitful spirits and demons – the actual teaching of their false doctrine comes from within church – through the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared. Later on, Paul will address how these believers became deceived, but for now, his focus is on what they are teaching.
These teachers would take their incorrect understanding of God and then instruct others to apply their teachings in ways that God never intended us to live. From Paul’s two examples here, we see that these false teachers are advocating rules that fully separate the believer from the world around them. It is likely that their seared consciences has allowed them to think that the only way to avoid the sinful lifestyle around them was to completely remove themselves from participating in any corrupted part of creation.
On the surface, the application sounds noble. But that kind of thinking does not produce the kind of life God designed us to live.
1 Timothy 4:4-5
For everything created by God is good, and nothing should be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, since it is sanctified by the word of God and by prayer.
Let’s go back to the Garden of Eden. At the end of each day, God saw that what He created was good. It wasn’t until after sin corrupted everything that God’s intended design for creation was perverted. Marriage – as created by God – is a good thing. Food – as created by God – is a good thing. However, the false teachers aren’t looking at God’s creation within that context. Instead, they are only seeing the current corrupted state of the world. Rather than understanding God’s initial design and use for marriage and food, they are advocating the outright rejection of them in order to prove their status with God.
However, those who believe and know the truth understand that we are not made holy because of the rules we follow or the things we do. We are holy because through Jesus, God has made us holy and our relationship with Him has been restored to the good that it was before Adam and Eve sinned.
Despite the sin-corruption of the world, our food can still be received with gratitude since the believer can understand in the proper context as a gift from God. Marriage, in all its difficulties and struggles, can still be lived out under God’s design. In fact, a proper use of both will do a better job of pointing others toward God than an outright rejection of marriage or abstaining from particular food.
It all depends on the Context we use to live our lives. Will our focus be on trying to manage the sin-corruption we see, or will we look at the world around us through the lens of God’s intended design?
The first one puts us in charge, while the second one reminds us that God is really in charge.
It’s all a matter of Context.