Every one of us approaches the Scripture with some pre-conceived biases. For that reason, it is often very difficult for us to read the Bible honestly. We end up forcing our beliefs into Scripture, rather than letting the Bible mold our theology. We sometimes even hunt for scriptures that will support our doctrines, ignoring those that contradict our beliefs. This is known as “proof-texting.”
Here is an example I recently encountered of forcing theology into a text. A particular teacher first read Matthew 11:28-29, a well-known quotation of Jesus:
Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls (Matt. 11:28-29)
The teacher then went on to explain that Jesus was offering two different rests. The first rest (supposedly) is the rest of salvation in 11:28, and the second rest is the rest of discipleship in 11:29. The first rest is received by coming to Jesus; the second rest is received by submitting to Him as Lord, or taking His yoke.
But was that the meaning Jesus intended? No, that is forcing a meaning into the text that is neither stated nor implied. Jesus didn’t say He was offering two rests. He was offering one rest to those who are weary and heavy-laden, and the only way to receive that singular rest is by taking Jesus’ yoke, that is, submitting to Him. That is Jesus’ obvious meaning.
Why did that teacher come up with such an interpretation? Because the obvious meaning of the passage didn’t fit his belief that there are two kinds of heaven-bound Christians—believers and disciples. So he did not interpret this passage honestly.
Of course, as we have seen from scores of other scriptures earlier in this book as we considered that particular theology, that teacher’s interpretation doesn’t fit the context of the rest of what Jesus taught. Nowhere does the New Testament teach that there are two kinds of heaven-bound Christians, the believers and the disciples. All true believers are disciples. Those who are not disciples are not believers. Discipleship is the fruit of genuine faith.
Let us strive to read the Bible honestly, with pure hearts. If we will, the result will be more devotion and obedience to Christ.