Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
Instructions: Life has many choices. You have the choice to read this or not, most of you can choose what you eat for dinner today, you can choose what socks you’ll wear, what god you’ll worship, and if you’ll shave today. The list of choices goes on and on. Likewise, today’s article is filled with choices. You will be presented with a scenario and depending on what choices you make you’ll be directed to different paragraphs and ultimately your choices will decide your final outcome. So go, have fun, and choose your own adventure!
1. Scenario: You were born and have lived a pretty good life undisturbed by thoughts about religion or God or anything like that. One day, someone comes up to you and wants to talk to you about Jesus, the Gospel, and salvation. What do you do?
-You’re not really interested in anything he has to say (Go to paragraph 2)
-“Fine, make it quick.” (Go to paragraph 4)
-You’re willing to listen to his opinion (Go to paragraph 12)
-You already have a religion, and it’s not his (Go to paragraph 16)
2. You explain to the person that you’re not really all that interested in hearing about God. He tries to protest but …well, it’s your choice. About a week later, someone else approaches you about Jesus. What do you say?
-*Sigh* “Make it quick.” (Go to paragraph 4)
-“I really don’t want to talk about Jesus” (Go to paragraph 3)
3. You respond to the person, just like the first, that you really don’t want to talk about Jesus; you just want to enjoy the sunshine outside without people coming and talking to you about religion. The person protests, noting that in John 8:24 it says, “I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.” The person makes it clear that by denying Jesus, you’re choosing to go to hell.
-“Alright, alright, make your pitch, but do it quickly.” (Go to paragraph 4).
-“I don’t care, it’s my choice, leave me alone.” (Go to paragraph 5)
4. “Alright, fine, make it quick” you say. He goes on to explain that in the beginning, the first man and woman sinned against God, this is called original sin- “Everyone knows that…” You roll your eyes but he continues anyway. He explains that because of that sin, all humanity is bonded with sin, almost genetically, and therefore is totally incapable of having a relationship with God or going to heaven. However, Jesus’ death on a cross made it so that we’re able to be absolved of our sins; past, present, and future and when a Christian dies they’ll join their God in heaven. Now he looks to you…
-“I don’t really care, it’s just your opinion and I don’t agree.” (Go to paragraph 5)
-“I don’t really understand, please explain to me more.” (Go to paragraph 12)
5. “I don’t care,” you say. “It’s my choice. God doesn’t exist. It’s my life.” He acknowledges that it is indeed your choice and leaves you alone. However, someone else comes the next week (where are these people coming from?) and asks you to check out his church.
-“No, screw your church and your God, leave me alone.” (Go to paragraph 6)
-Alright, you give up, go check out his church (Go to paragraph 7)
6. You try to hold back your annoyed rage, “Screw your church and your God, leave me alone and take me off whatever list it is that keep all you people bothering me!” The man tries to argue, “But the wages of-“ you cut him off though and explain that you don’t care, it’s your life.
-He leaves and nobody approaches you about Jesus again (Go to paragraph 10).
7. You acquiesce to the person’s offer to take you to church. You go to the church if at the very least it gets everyone to leave you alone. You half-listen to the pastor but catch a few things. He says, “For God so love the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). He talks about forgiveness and quotes Isaiah 44:21-22,
Remember these things, O Jacob,
For you are my servant, O Israel.
I have made you, you are my servant;
O Israel, I will not forget you.
I have swept away your offenses like a cloud,
Your sins like the morning mist.
Return to me,
For I have redeemed you.
For some reason, these stick in your mind, maybe it was brief moment of listening, maybe you’d heard them before, or maybe there’s something more- you’re not real sure. The pastor then explains that it’s actually very easy to go to heaven. He says,
…That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved (Romans 10:9-10).
After the sermon is finished, the pastor does what is apparently called an “altar call” (that’s what the guy who brought you calls it anyway). He asks everyone who wants to be saved to stand up and give their lives to Christ.
-You sit through the service and then go home unchanged (Go to paragraph 10)
-You sit through the service, but decide to go to church again next week (Go to paragraph 8)
-You decide to stand up and receive God’s promised forgiveness (Go to paragraph 9)
8. You decide to go to church again. The pastor has a new sermon. This time he says things like, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24). You presume he’s talking about Jesus, who apparently can both forgive and heal. The pastor also tells everyone,
Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel. For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live! (Ezekiel 18:31-32)
Then he closes his sermon; almost as if focusing on you he reads from Ezekiel 33:9, “But if you do warn the wicked man to turn from his ways and he does not do so, he will die for his sin, but you will have saved yourself.” I guess he doesn’t want any guilt if people don’t agree with his opinion. Once again comes the altar call, what will you do?
-You gave church two tries, but it’s not your thing. You go unchanged (Go to paragraph 10)
-Some stuff is sticking, some isn’t. Let’s try church one more time next week (Go to paragraph 11)
-You decide that this Jesus seems pretty legitimate and stand up (Go to paragraph 9)
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will- to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the one he loves (Ephesians 1:4-6).
The pastor looks right at you and says, “Welcome to the brotherhood.” Then he turns to the rest of those in attendance, “This person, too, is a child a God!” Everyone claps and the pastor prays with everyone then proclaims, “Your new life starts right now!”
10. You go home, totally unchanged by any of this Jesus talk. Nobody bothers you about it again. The rest of your life is a mystery, your end uncertain, and your life without real purpose. One day you will die, and if those Bible thumpers are right, you’ll spend eternity in hell. Oh well, such is life- anyway it’s your life, and you’re pretty sure you’ve made the right choice.
11. You go to church a third time. People are starting to recognize you and it’s getting awkward. The pastor explains that Jesus taught,
Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it (Matthew 7:13-14).
He explains that apparently that “narrow gate” is Jesus, and it is only through accepting Christ that you can be saved from your sins. The pastor then casts an eye around the whole crowd and reads in his most booming voice possible:
See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.
But if you heart turns away and you are not obedient, if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.
This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Deuteronomy 30:15-20).
Immediately the pastor calls people to stand up and give their lives to Jesus Christ. It’s do or die time.
-Whoa, suddenly this doom and gloom preaching- and I’m not even Jewish! Nah, church isn’t really doing it for me (Go to paragraph 10)
-You stand up; if this is your last chance you better play it safe (Go to paragraph 9)
12. You explain to the person, “I don’t really understand all this, please tell me more.” He explains,
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made (John 1:1-3).
He explains that “The Word” was Jesus, who along with the Holy Spirit, was with God and they were God in the beginning of the world –confusing stuff. When God created man, the first two people ate some fruit they weren’t supposed to and doomed everyone to death- a concept that didn’t exist until that point, apparently. But, Jesus overcame death and came back to life three days after being killed, proving both his divinity and his ability to destroy the curse of death on humanity. The guy acknowledges how insane some of this sounds and that if indeed Jesus didn’t come back to life then all of Christianity is just as doomed as the rest of us. He continues, though,
But Christ had indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:20-22).
Though, in this version of things, the life being referred to is a life after death in heaven with Jesus. So if you believe in Jesus, you can go to heaven. He looks a little uncertain, like maybe he’s not been doing a very good job explaining things, but looks to see your response anyway.
-This whole “only Jesus” concept doesn’t really jive with you, and you tell him (Go to paragraph 13)
-“I’m still not getting it.” (Go to paragraph 14).
-“I dig what you’re saying, but I want to hear more” (Go to paragraph 15)
13. “Are you telling me there’s only one way to heaven?” you ask, “Screw that, and screw you, man.” He tries to dissuade your opinion by saying that hell really sucks. In a panic quickly he rambles off, “They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power…” (2 Thessalonians 1:9) and
But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all lairs –their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death (Revelation 21:8).
And he finishes with, “But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:33). This guy seems desperate to convert you, as if your life depends on the choice you make about Jesus.
-I’m not buying this sales pitch, screw this guy (Go to paragraph 6)
-“You’re not making a whole lot of sense, man” (Go to paragraph 14)
14. You explain that you don’t really understand everything the man is saying to you. He responds, “That’s ok, it’s not the easiest thing to understand. Why don’t you check out my church- my pastor is better at explaining all this. If you’re still not convinced after listening to him, that’s that; I understand, I’ll leave you alone.”
-If it calms him down and gets him off your back, you’ll go to his church (Go to paragraph 7)
15. Although he seems unsure of himself, some of what this guy is saying to you is sticking and you’re drawn to his message. You tell him you want to hear more. He responds, “Then come to my church. I don’t know what’s going on in your life, but Jesus can help- that I do know.” Then he starts rambling off some memorized lines like, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28) and,
Even youths grow tired and weary,
And young men stumble and fall;
But those who hope in the Lord
Will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
They will run and not grow weary,
They will walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40:30-31).
Wide-eyed, he finishes with, “As the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame’” (Romans 10:11).
-Just…just go to church with him (Go to paragraph 7)
16. You explain to the man that you don’t believe in Jesus because you already have your own god. He argues by saying, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). “Duh,” you say; and explain that your religion has a creation account too. But he says that, after being separated from God, many early humans turned in different directions. He recites,
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles (Romans 1:21-23).
Before you can respond he earnestly explains that the Bible says,
“I will hide my face from them,” he said,
“And see what their end will be;
For they are a perverse generation,
Children who are unfaithful.
They made me jealous by what is no god
And angered me with their worthless idols.
I will make them envious by those who are not a people;
I will make them angry by a nation that has no understanding” (Deuteronomy 32:20-21).
He proclaims there is only one God, and all other gods (including yours) are false and will only lead to hell and suffering.
-“You know what? Screw you, dude.” (Go to paragraph 6)
-“My gods are my gods” (Go to paragraph 17)
-“I don’t think it’s your place to tell me my god is false (Go to paragraph 19)
-“I dig what you’re saying, tell me more” (Go to paragraph 15)
17. You respond to his outburst that your gods are your gods, and him calling them false isn’t really helping his case any, because his may very well be false as well. He responds that his Bible has an answer for that. He quickly pulls out the book and thumbs through it until he finds what he’s looking for and reads,
“Present your case,” says the Lord.
“Set forth your arguments,” says Jacob’s King.
“Bring in your idols to tell us
What is going to happen.
Tell us what the former things were,
So that we may consider them
And know their final outcome.
Or declare to us the things to come,
Tell us what the future holds,
So that we may know that you are gods.
Do something, whether good or bad,
So that we may be dismayed and filled with fear” (Isaiah 41:21-23).
Apparently, this guy’s God has thrown down the gauntlet to all other gods to prove their worth. The guy continues,
For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for who we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came ad through whom we live (1 Corinthians 8:5-6).
He tries to acknowledge that your god may be existent in some sense, but that all things come under his God’s control, and that only his God is the true God.
-You decide to stick with your god (Go to paragraph 18)
-You take offense and try to argue back (Go to paragraph 19)
-“I’m still not really getting it” (Go to paragraph 14)
18. You explain, as nicely as you can, that you don’t think that his opinion and his book invalidate your faith. In the end, it’s your god and your faith verses his God and his faith. Why are you going to change who you’ve been worshipping just because off this guy? He looks saddened, but respects your opinion and leaves.
-Go to paragraph 10
19. You explain that you don’t’ really think it’s his place to tell you that your God is false. Quickly he responds, “Ok, ok, but at least come to my church and try my God and my faith out.” He’s grasping at straws here.
-No, screw you and the God you rode in on (Go to paragraph 6)
-He’s earnest, give his church a chance to change your mind (Go to paragraph 7)