My God and My Neighbor

Jun 26, 2024

A Bible Within the Bible

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What’s your favorite Bible verse? There’s nothing wrong with memorizing special sayings in the Bible, but we shouldn’t play favorites with the Scriptures. This is a mistake many Bible readers make. It is easy to look at only one or two favorite verses and neglect reading other verses that have a bearing on the subject we’re studying. When this happens, the “Bible” people know is only a few sentences long. This episode challenges us to see the context of the Bible as a whole.

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Kerry Duke: Hi, I’m Kerry Duke, host of My God and My Neighbor podcast from Tennessee Bible College, where we see the Bible as not just another book, but the Book. Join us in a study of the inspired Word to strengthen your faith and to share what you’ve learned with others.

All of the Bible is God’s Word. The Scriptures say in Second Timothy, chapter three, verse 16, that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God.” Any part of the Bible should get our attention—the red letters or the black letters, the Old Testament or the New Testament, the genealogies of the Old Testament or the parables of Christ.

We ought to respect every part of the Bible because the Bible is the Word of God. We ought to strive to obey all the commandments that God has given to us. God warns about picking and choosing from His Word. In Revelation, chapter 22, verses 18 and 19, the Bible warns about taking from and adding to the Word of God.

In 2 Peter, chapter 3, verse 16, the Bible warns about “wresting”—and that King James word wresting means perverting or twisting—the Scriptures. In James, chapter 2, verse 10, the Bible says, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now, if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.”

It’s interesting to notice the context of James chapter 2 when he says, “Whoever will keep the whole law and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” The example that he gave prior to those verses is the example of these Christian people as they met for worship showing partiality to rich people and snubbing poor people.

And James says in that context that although they were obeying some of the commandments of God, they were setting aside the law that said to love your neighbor as yourself. But this is exactly what most people do. Most people believe parts of the Bible. Even atheists believe some teachings of the Bible, or they agree with some of the precepts of the Word of God.

Most people have their own ideas and their own opinions about religion. And many people have certain verses in the Bible that they feel back up these ideas. Now the rest they either ignore or they reject. They pick and choose from the Bible, and they create what I’m going to call in this lesson a Bible within the Bible.

Years ago, Art Linkletter had a television show in which he interviewed little children. He would ask them certain questions and get their responses which were interesting and entertaining at the same time. On one particular episode of that show, he was asking these little children about the Bible, and he asked them what their favorite story in the Bible was.

When he came to one little girl, she said that her favorite story in the Bible was the story of Adam and Eve eating some bad fruit. Now, obviously, she’s talking about Genesis chapter 3, but she went on and she exaggerated some of the details there and embellished on that story because she said they ate the bad fruit, and then they got sick, and then they went over into some bushes, and she said that they threw up.

After Art Linkletter got his composure back and stopped laughing, he asked this little girl, “Now what Bible is that in?” She said without any hesitation, “My Bible.” And what we’re going to see in this lesson is that grownups are sometimes no different because they imagine that there are things in the Bible that are not there and they create their own personal Bible.

Now, as we look at this lesson about creating a Bible within a Bible, we need to remember and note just a few things. In the first place, all of us have personal special appreciation for certain verses because we can relate to some verses more than others because of our experience in life. For instance, somebody that has been married 40 years can have a deeper insight into passages about marriage than somebody that’s never been married before.

A person who has gone through great trials and tribulation in life will appreciate certain verses about trials and even about heaven than perhaps others will. And so in that sense when people say, “Well, this is a favorite verse of mine,” or “This is one of my favorite verses,” that’s going to be, in a way, natural.

There’s nothing necessarily wrong in having a Bible with some pages more worn than others or with some verses that are marked or highlighted because they are especially needed at a certain point in life. But that’s not what I’m talking about in this lesson.

Another point or clarification to make is that there are some passages in the Bible that are more relevant than others to our situation. Now, for instance, if we’re living in a time or a place where there’s war, then we’re going to relate more to verses and passages and stories in the Bible on war than we would perhaps in peacetime. Or, consider verses in the Bible on slavery. If we turn back the clock 150 or 200 years, then obviously people would be studying verses on slavery much more than they do today.

So when we talk about creating a Bible in the Bible, we’re not discounting the fact that sometimes some verses are more relevant to our situation than others. We’re also not ignoring the fact that some verses are more urgent than others. When you look at Genesis 3 verse 9, where you find the question, “Adam, where art thou?” That’s the question that the Lord asked of him. That verse and that question is obviously not as urgent and not as important as the question raised in Acts chapter 2 verse 37, where the Bible says the people on Pentecost Day said, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” and they were told to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins.

We’re also not discounting the fact that the Bible does talk about the weightier matters of the law. In Matthew 23, verse 23, Jesus said that justice, mercy, and faith are weightier matters of the law. Now, that’s not playing favorites with the Bible. That’s not creating a Bible within the Bible. It’s simply showing that the Bible itself teaches that there are some things that outweigh other things in the Bible.

And last of all, some Bible commands apply to us today and others do not. Colossians 2:14 says that the old law was nailed to the cross with all of its ordinances and commandments. But even then we can learn from the word of God and we have to admit that those things were given by the inspiration of God.

But what I’m talking about in this lesson is the fact that nobody has the right to pick and choose because of his own likes or dislikes. No one has the right to create a Bible within the Bible, but that is exactly what many people try to do. In fact, there are some people who literally create their own Bible, and I’m talking about the actual pages in the Bible.

There are some that take those pages, mutilate those pages, cut and paste where they will, and try to create their own set of Scriptures. In the past, this was done several times. There was a man in the first half of the second century named Marcion. He was the son of a bishop, and he settled in Rome. This man rejected the entire Old Testament and he only accepted some of Paul’s letters and a small portion of what Luke wrote. The rest he rejected.

And so he created a Bible within the Bible. The reason that he did this was theological. He believed that the God of the Old Testament was a God of wrath and a God of justice, a God who was always punishing people and even putting people to death. But in the New Testament, he thought he saw a different God, another God, a God of mercy, a God of grace, and a God of forgiveness.

Now, of course, the Bible talks about the same God in the Old Testament as it does in the New Testament. But what this man, Marcion did in the first part of the second century was to literally create a Bible within the Bible because of his own preferences.

Moving up closer to our time, Thomas Jefferson himself created his own Bible. Thomas Jefferson did not believe in the miracles of the Bible. And so he cut out and he pasted together the sections of the Bible that he thought were helpful to people, but he left out all the miracles in the New Testament. It is known as Jefferson’s Bible. He literally created his own Bible just as surely as King Jehoiakim took a pen knife and cut the Scriptures. Jefferson took a penknife and he cut out verses in the Bible that dealt with miracles.

More recently, there have been many theologians and so-called Bible scholars and Bible experts who have tried to create a Bible within the Bible. Several years ago, the Jesus Seminar began. This was a meeting of Bible scholars from all over the world and their purpose was to come together and vote on the authenticity of verses in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

And so their job was to give their vote as to whether or not they thought that these verses in the Bible actually belong there or not. It was called the Jesus Seminar. They were trying to create a Bible within the Bible. There have been so-called Bible scholars who for several generations have questioned or denied central truths of the New Testament.

Some of these men say that the virgin birth is actually a myth. Some of them say that Jesus did not bodily rise from the dead. Many of them deny the miracles and especially the inspiration of the Scriptures. These men are trying to create a Bible within the Bible. They pick and choose from the Scriptures, they add to and take from the Word of God, offer us a finished product, which they call the Bible, and expect the rest of us to accept it and believe it because, after all, they’re the experts.

And, not surprisingly, we see this same thing in the scribes and Pharisees in Jesus’ day. These religious teachers were guilty of making a Bible within the Bible. They would pick and choose from certain verses in the Law of Moses, and they would omit verses that they did not want to observe. Look at Matthew chapter five.

What we find in Matthew chapter five, beginning in verse 19 especially, and going through the rest of the chapter, is that Jesus gives several examples of how these Jewish leaders had taken the law of Moses and been selective with it. Notice in verse 19, after he’s talked about the fact that he came not to destroy the law or the prophets, but to fulfill. Notice in verse 19 that he says, “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven.”

That is exactly what these scribes and Pharisees did. They not only broke those commandments, but they said that certain commandments were not necessary or not important. But Jesus adds in verse 19, “But whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, he shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

What was the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees? It was a way of righteousness. It was a religion of picking and choosing according to their own subjective desires. Now, beginning in verse 21, Jesus gives several examples of what He’s talking about. Notice now that he’s describing how that the scribes and Pharisees created a Bible within the Bible. And you’ll notice in all these examples that Jesus uses this kind of description.

He says, “You have heard,” but then He says, “But I say.” Now the contrast here is not between what the old law, the law of Moses, said and what Jesus said. That’s not what he’s comparing or contrasting. He’s not saying the Old Testament said this, but the New Testament says that.

What he’s contrasting is this. He’s contrasting what the scribes and Pharisees said about the law of Moses with what God really intended in that Law of Moses and what God really meant by that law. So, the first example is in verses 21 through 26. And the example here is from the Law of Moses in the Ten Commandments which said, “Thou shalt not kill.”

The scribes and Pharisees taught that. They taught that you should not kill, and if you did kill, you would be in danger of the judgment. Was that teaching right? Yes, it was. It was good and right for them to teach what the Law of Moses said about murder.

But the problem was they didn’t go far enough. They didn’t pay attention to verses that talked about having the wrong attitude toward other people and hating and despising other people. They didn’t stress equally what the Bible said in Leviticus 19 verse 16 and 17—to love your neighbor as yourself. And so Jesus corrects them in verse 22 saying, “But I say to you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment, and whosoever shall say to his brother Raca”—that is, you empty headed one—”shall be in danger of the counsel, but whosoever shall say, thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.”

So Jesus said, you’re right in saying that it’s wrong to kill. But you are wrong for omitting and ignoring these other verses that talk about having the right attitude toward other people. In other words, it’s wrong to kill, but it’s also wrong to hate. But these scribes and Pharisees had created their own Bible.

And so their own Bible practically said it’s wrong to kill, but hating is not really that bad.

The second example is in verses 27 and 28. “You have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery. But I say unto you that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

So these scribes and Pharisees would quote the passage which said, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,”—again, coming from the Ten Commandments. They were right in doing that. There was nothing wrong with them teaching, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” But they did not go far enough because the same Old Testament said, “Thou shalt not lust after her beauty in thine heart” (Proverbs 6 verse 25). So they had created practically a Bible within the Bible.

The next example is about divorce. You’ll find that in verse 31 and 32. “It has been said”—now remember, He’s talking about what these scribes and Pharisees said about this passage—”Whosoever shall put away his wife–that is, divorce her—”Let him give her a writing of divorcement.”

Now, that is from the Old Testament. It is from Deuteronomy, chapter 24, verse 1. So there was nothing wrong with reading that passage and teaching that verse. But the problem was that these scribes and Pharisees made that one passage their entire Bible on that subject. They created a Bible within the Bible.

And so on the subject of divorce, they would quote Deuteronomy chapter 24 verse one, and they would tell Jews that they were to obey that passage, but they would take it out of context. They wouldn’t consider anything else. And they came up with reasons as flimsy as a man’s wife burning the meal and giving that man the right to divorce his wife. The Old Testament never taught anything like that, but these scribes and Pharisees would justify that kind of behavior by creating a Bible within the Bible.

The next example is in verse 33 and going down through verse 37 and the subject there is vowing. And he says again and notice this phraseology here again “You have heard”—they heard from the scribes and Pharisees because those were the outstanding religious teachers of the day. “You have heard that it has been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths.” And that, too, was Old Testament teaching, and so the scribes and Pharisees were right in teaching those verses, but they had taken this so far that they would swear and take oaths about anything and everything.

They would swear about the least little thing, and they would invoke God’s name and holy things over the least little matter in life. So, yes, the Old Testament taught about vows and about taking oaths. But, the Old Testament did not tell people that they needed to swear about every little promise that they made.

Jesus said, all you need to do is to say yes or no ordinarily. And so the scribes and the Pharisees had created a Bible within the Bible because they said, if you swear to it, you have to do it, and you need to swear about virtually anything and everything in common life. That’s creating a Bible within the Bible.

The next example is in verses 38 through 42. And there is the example of retribution. The scribes and the Pharisees were quick to quote verses like the one in verse 38. “You have heard that it has been said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” The Scribes and the Pharisees would quote that verse because if you wronged them in any way, they were vindictive. They wanted to get even. And they would cry out for justice, and they would use verses like that to justify their position. And at the same time, they would have nothing to do with verses about mercy and showing grace and forgiveness to other people. That’s why Jesus speaks in the terms that he does about turning the other cheek and going the second mile.

When it came to settling disputes with other people and having conflict with others, the scribes and Pharisees Bible only had verses, practically speaking, about justice, about getting even with other people and making other people pay over the least little thing. Their Bible, practically speaking, didn’t include verses on showing mercy to other people, and so they created a Bible within the Bible.

And the last example that Jesus gives starts in verse 43, where he says, “You have heard that it has been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor.” And that is exactly what the old law said in Leviticus 19, verses 16 and 17. But this last part in verse 43 shows that Jesus is contrasting what the law actually said with what the scribes and Pharisees said that it taught.

He says, you have heard from these scribes and Pharisees that it has been said, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy.” The old law did not teach that. The old law did not say to hate thine enemy. That is what the scribes and the Pharisees taught. Their Bible was all about justice, but not mercy.

And notice how Jesus summarizes this section and all these examples in verse 48. “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” The word perfect there obviously does not mean sinless. The word perfect means complete. It means complete as opposed to being partial. These scribes and Pharisees were partial because they picked out the parts of the Bible that they wanted to observe and teach, and they left out other verses that they didn’t want to observe and did not teach. And so they practiced an incomplete religion. They were like their ancestors, who are described in Malachi 2 verse 9 as being “partial in the law.”

That is what the scribes and Pharisees did as they created a Bible within the Bible. Let’s notice some ways in which people do exactly the same thing today. People take a statement out of the Bible, and that becomes their entire Bible. They don’t want to know anything else about the subject, because they have their favorite verse, and they create a Bible within the Bible.

For instance, some people make a Bible out of John 3, verse 16. That’s the only verse that they know, and that is the only verse that they want to know on the subject of salvation. John 3, verse 16 says, “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.”

Some people’s Bible begins with that verse and ends with that verse. They don’t want to consider anything else in the Bible on the subject of salvation. They have a Bible just like anybody else. They have the 66 books of the Bible, but as far as they’re concerned, this is their Scripture. This is their Bible.

But the Bible has more to say on the subject of salvation than what we find in John 3 verse 16. For instance, the Bible not only says that we must believe, it also says that we must repent. In Acts 17:30, the Bible says that God commands all men everywhere to repent. But some people make a Bible out of John 3:16, and they don’t want to hear about repentance. And the same Bible that talks about believing also talks about confessing. Romans 10, verse 9 says that we must confess with our mouth the Lord Jesus. But if you make a Bible out of John 3, 16, then that person will not have anything to do with Romans 10, verse 9.

And the same thing is true in regard to baptism. The Bible says, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believes not shall be damned” (Mark 16, verse 16). The Bible says that “baptism does also now save us” (1 Peter 3, verse 21). It is wrong to take any one verse in the Bible on the subject of salvation or any other subject and try to create an entire Bible out of it.

Some people try to create a Bible out of Matthew chapter 7, verse 1. And if there’s any verse in the Bible that they can quote, it is Matthew 7, verse 1. “Judge not that you be not judged.” But most of the time, when people quote that verse, they misapply it because that passage of Scripture does not condemn all judging.

We know that because of John 7, verse 24. The same Lord that gave us Matthew 7, verse 1, also gave us John 7, verse 24. That is where Jesus said, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous according judgment,” In Ephesians 5:11, the Bible says, “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” And that is a form of judging according to the teaching of the word of God.

But some people think that all they need on the subject of judging is Matthew seven verse one. They don’t consider anything else. They don’t even consider the context of Matthew 7 verse 1. Because when Jesus said not to judge, He was talking about habitual judging and especially hypocritical judging, where we judge someone and condemn someone for doing something that is wrong when we ourselves are doing something even worse.

So some people take Matthew 7 verse 1, and that is their Bible as far as they’re concerned. They create a Bible within the Bible.

Some people try to make a Bible out of 1 John chapter 4 verse 8. God is love. That is a true statement. God is love. God is a merciful God. God is a good God. God is a God of love.

1 John chapter 4 verse 8 is very needed in our time. God is love. But some people don’t want to go any further in their study of what the Bible says about God. They don’t want to consider anything else. And as a matter of fact, they have their own flawed view of what love is to begin with, but they only want to look at that one statement.

God is love. That is their Bible. God is love. And so they refuse to look at verses like Hebrews 12, verse 29, where the Bible also says, Our God is a consuming fire. The same Bible that says that God is love says that God is a consuming fire. And they don’t want to read verses like Romans 11, verse 22. That’s where Paul said, “Behold, therefore, the goodness of God and the severity of God.” God is a good God, but He is also a severe God. He is a God of love, but He is also a God of wrath.

And then there are some people that try to make a Bible out of John 17, verse 21. This is where Jesus prayed that they all may be one. This is His prayer for unity among his followers. We all ought to be concerned about unity. We all ought to be praying for unity in the followers of Jesus Christ, just as Jesus prayed here. But this is not all the Bible says on this subject. There are some people that use this verse, and they take it so far that they don’t consider anything else that the Bible says on the subject of unity and fellowship.

The same Bible that talks about unity here is the same Bible that tells us, for instance, in Romans 16 verse 17, “Mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which you have learned, and avoid them.” The same Bible that talks about unity talks also in 2 John 9 in this way: “Whoever transgresses and abides not in the doctrine of Christ has not God. He that abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God’s speed for he that biddeth him Godspeed is partaker of his evil deeds.” The Bible talks about unity, but the Bible in talking about unity describes the right kind of unity and the wrong kind of unity.

The Bible talks about a wrong kind of division and a right kind of division, so we should never go to the Bible in John 17:21 and separate and isolate that one statement from the rest of the Bible.

And then there are people that try to make a Bible out of Romans 14, verse 19. “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace.” They quote that passage. And in regard to any controversy or any dispute or any problem in the church, that is the only verse that they refer to. It’s the only verse they know, and it’s the only verse that they care to know. They don’t consider verses in the Bible like Matthew 10, beginning in verse 34, where Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth. I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and he that loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

But people try to make a Bible out of Romans 14 verse 19 and other such passages. But instead of taking one statement in the Bible and trying to create our own Bible within the Bible, our Bible should be the whole Bible. We should love and respect all of God’s Word. Listen to what the Israelites said in Exodus 19 verse 8. “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” Also in Deuteronomy chapter 11 verse 8: “Therefore shall you keep all the commandments which I command you this day.” David said in Psalm 119 verse 6, “Then shall I not be ashamed when I have respect unto all thy commandments.”   And what did Jesus say in the Great Commission in Matthew 28 verse 20? “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”

How can we avoid creating our own Bible within the Bible? One thing that we can do is to study the whole Bible, and especially to study the Old Testament as well as the New Testament.

A second thing that we can do is to pay attention to anything that God says in His Word and stay away from hobbies. Don’t be partial with the Bible.

A third thing that we can do is to accept not only the parts that comfort us, but also the parts that correct us. In short, be honest with the Word of God like the people on Pentecost Day when they asked, “What shall we do?” Peter said to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins. And the Bible tells us in verse 41, “That they gladly received his word” and they were baptized. The Bible says in Second Timothy chapter 3 verse 16 that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God.” How does your Bible read?

Thank you for listening to My God and My Neighbor. Stay connected with our podcast on our website and on Apple, Spotify, YouTube, or wherever fine podcasts are distributed. Tennessee Bible College, providing Christian education since 1975 in Cookeville, Tennessee, offers undergraduate and graduate programs.

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