- Look at each scripture, not only in the context of the immediate surrounding verses, but of the book from which it comes, and the teaching of the Bible as a whole. For example, James 2:14-26 appears to teach salvation by works. However, this does not fit with the rest of the New Testament, which clearly teaches "not by works, so that no-one can boast" (Eph.2:9). In the past it was suggested that James and Paul disagreed with one another, and that the book of James should not even be in the Bible! However, a closer reading of the passage shows that James is asking "Can such faith save him?" As shown earlier, James is saying that the works are produced by the kind of faith which saves.
- Consider whether this is a piece of advice for a specific situation or time, or whether it can be applied in a wider context and is still relevant today. For example, Paul's advice to slaves and masters (Eph.6:5-9, Col.3:22-4:1). Such teaching does not condone slavery, but was given by God as practical ways of dealing with the realities of the day.
- Consider the original audience for the scripture. Sometimes we have to view scripture through the culture of its time, for example the passage in 1 Cor.11:5-6 about women covering their hair and not shaving their heads. In the culture of the time, uncovered hair was a sign of loose morals in a woman, and a woman's head was shaved because she had either been publicly disgraced or was in rebellion against her husband. These things do not apply today in our culture, although the underlying ideas about modesty and marriage do.
We need to be familiar with scripture and the truths of the gospel which it teaches. This will enable us to be alert to teaching which is suspect, and to be able to check out anything which does not ring true.
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (2 Tim.2:15)
Previous posts in this series:
Legalism: The Truth, The Trap, The Solution
Magic Formulas: The Truth, The Trap, The Solution
Answers to Everything: The Truth,The Trap, The Solution
Scripture Twisting: The Truth, The Trap
Further posts to come in this series:
Superstition: The Truth, The Trap, The Solution
Elitism: The Truth, The Trap, The Solution
The Need to See: The Truth, The Trap, The Solution