Early Church Lesson #2: Two Ways to Read the Bible


June 14, 2019

Acts 2:22-33 (NIV)

“Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs,which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. David said about him:

“‘I saw the Lord always before me.
    Because he is at my right hand,
    I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
    my body also will rest in hope,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
    you will not let your holy one see decay.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence.’

“Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day.But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 


There are two major and conflicting ways of approaching Scripture. We can interpret the story of our life and times through the lens of Scripture or we can interpret Scripture through the lens of the story of our life and times. The difference means everything. Let’s call the first approach, “contexting.” We will call the second approach, “proof-texting.” We could also use the respective terms exegesis and eisegesis.

In the first public message of the movement, Peter interprets  their experience of the Holy Spirit through the lens of the Scripture. His instincts lead him to read his own story out of  the context of the larger story of Scripture. He knows this story inside-out and his mind runs to a prophecy and a psalm. For Peter, Scripture is not like a rolodex of recipes, principles, and precepts. Because Scripture has so formed his own memory, it readily informs his understanding of the present while it transforms his imagination of the possibilities of the future. Go back and watch how this works with his remembrance of Joel.

Now, look how he does this in today’s text with Psalm 16. His biblically-formed memory informs his present understanding while transforming his imagination of the possibilities.

It is so tempting to read the Bible through the  interpretive lenses of our own context and the way we want to hear it, rather than from its own original context and the way the writer intended it.*




Are you more interested in how the Bible is relevant to your life or how your life is relevant to the Story of the Bible? What will it take to move from the former to the latter? Are you ready to make the investment in learning the Story of the Bible?

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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*Though tangential to today’s Daily Text, it bears referencing that the present debates over human sexuality provide a present day example of these conflicting ways of reading Scripture. In an effort to resource the church to think and discern carefully together we have published a few books worthy of your attention. Into the Light by Mark Ongley, Homosexuality and the Church: Defining Issue or Distracting Battle by Howard Snyder, and Seeing Black and White in a World of Gray: The Need for Theological Reasoning in the Church’s Debate over Human Sexuality by Bill Arnold.


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