Saturday, September 10, 2005

What's in a Verse?

Sometimes I think it would be better for us if we had to experience trying to live the Christian life without a Bible. We too often take it for granted. Even aside from the Bible as a whole, certain passages have become so familiar to us in our church culture that we often rattle them off without really stopping and thinking through what they are actually saying. Take John 3:16, for instance. Practically everyone can recite that: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." But how often have you taken the time to really read this verse, and see what it says? Why don't you take some time right now and do that.

Here's a question that will help you: How many major doctrines of the Christian faith are contained in the 25 words in this verse? Let's start counting and see.

1. There is a God--"For God"

2. God is a God of love--"so loved"

3. The world is broken and unlovely (the Fall)*--"so loved the world that He gave"

4. God took the initiative--"He gave"

5. Salvation is a gift--"He gave"

6. The Godhead includes more than one person--"His...Son"

7. God's Son was physically born (virgin birth)--"His...begotten Son"

8. There is only one Son of God--"His only begotten Son"

9. God has other sons*--"His only begotten Son"

10. Salvation is open to all--"whosoever believeth"

11. Man's part is believing--"whosoever believeth"

12. God's Son is only way--"believeth in Him"

13. There is punishment for not believing (hell)--"should not perish"

14. God's Son is way of escape from hell--"should not perish"

15. Eternity is real--"everlasting life"

16. Life after death--"everlasting life"

* by implication

Amazing, isn't it! And I'm sure you can find more too. I'm beginning to realize that many of the verses we tend to read over quickly contain much, much more truth and spiritual gold, if we would only take the time to dig for it. Not necessarily even just in the overall picture, but in the details of the words used. Notice that most of the doctrines above are contained in individual words themselves; relatively few of them are directly involved in the overall picture, at least the usual overall picture.

Too often, at least for me, I tend to almost subconsciously assume that some of the words are just thrown in to make the main phrase sound better, and have no real meaning. For instance, take the phrase "His only begotten Son." We tend to think that the "only begotten" part is just for embellishment, but when you look at them they actually have profound meaning in themselves, and add much to the meaning of the phrase of a whole. We tend to read "His only begotten Son", but think "His Son." In doing so, we miss out on some real insights and inspiration.

One thing that has helped me some in looking at what the verse is actually saying is to take a phrase by itself and repeat it several times, putting the emphasis on a different word each time. It really makes you think, as you recognize the difference in meaning and importance when read in those ways. Then, when you put them all together, it gives you a fuller picture of all that the verse is saying. Let's take the same phrase again as an example. Think about the implications given to the phrase by emphasizing each word.

"His only begotten Son"

"His only begotten Son"

"His only begotten Son"

"His only begotten Son"

Now as a whole:

"His only begotten Son"

See what I mean? I hope you have been challenged, as I have, to read your Bible more carefully, and pay more close attention to the "insignificant" details. As you do so, I know that you will find that there is more than first meets the eye in verses you thought you understood completely.


The epistles of Paul and the other apostles are great places to start, particularly Romans and Hebrews.

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