Conversations from Campus: Bible Interpretation 4: The Impasse (part 2)

Rick Mattson Bible Leave a Comment

Last week we saw that college students Bob and Alison disagree on the meaning of a Bible passage:

Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well (3 John 2).

Alison thinks the text was written as a general well-wishing in the Lord, as if to say, “Be blessed in all things.”

Bob thinks the passage refers to financial blessings. He’s been in economic hardship all school year and believes the Holy Spirit gave him the text in a time of intense prayer as a promise of financial prosperity.

Two thoughts:

1. In their excellent book, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, Fee and Stuart insist that “a text cannot mean what it never meant.”*

So if the author of 3 John, under the inspiration of the Spirit, never intended to promise financial blessing per se, then we are not free to read it that way. We cannot override the author.

2. Bob seems to be spiritualizing things, making his interpretation unquestionable. Who can question anyone who says, “God said this to me.”

I’m not saying God cannot speak directly to his people. He certainly can and does. 

But I do think we need to receive such direct words from God with a sense of humility, aware of our own fallibilities. Best to turn to trusted advisors and ask, “What do you think? I seem to be getting this message from the Lord. Does it sound right? Does it line up with Scripture?”

So: Both Alison and Bob cannot be correct here, in my view. I’m siding with Alison. What do you think?

* Introduction

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