It is not uncommon for people, when approaching the Bible, to take the point of view that the verse in question (regardless of which verse is in question) is meant for someone else and not for them.
Sometimes this is done overtly. For instance, in Matthew 19, Jesus quite pointedly talks about marriage and divorce, and God’s expectations regarding the same. Over the years since, quite a bit of time, resources and ingenuity have been invested in explaining why what Jesus said to His followers should not apply to this or that person today.
Just as frequently, the assumption that certain passages have no relevance to the reader is made without thought, and the passages in question are glossed over during reading. Many Bible readers, if they are honest, will confess that they have a tendency to skip over such things as the genealogies found in scripture. Or maybe, when they come to some of the personal remarks in the apostles’ epistles they tend to simply read them without thinking and move on.
But let us assure the Bible student that, yes, that verse was meant for you.
The Bible teaches us, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17; ESV)
“All scripture,” means every single verse. Every bit of it, as originally penned by the inspired authors, is from God. And, every bit of it, as given to us through the apostles and the prophets, is profitable for the reader.
It is true that passages must be read in their context, and that the reader is not always the one being directly addressed. But that does not mean that God did not have the reader in mind when He inspired the writing of the passage in question. Concerning the Old Testament, a set of books written well before the Christian age, and directly addressed to people long since dead, we are told, “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” (1 Corinthians 10:11; ESV)
So, when you come to a particular passage, God meant for that passage to be profitable and useful to you, today, as you try to serve Him.
There is a story that is told concerning one passage in 2 Timothy. The context of the epistle is that Paul, the apostle of Christ, is languishing in a Roman prison and is, from that state, writing to Timothy, who is busy preaching elsewhere. Paul knows he is going to soon be executed. He is somewhat lonely, but has not quit teaching and preaching, even from the confines of prison. In that context, Paul makes a request of Timothy, saying, “When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.” (2 Timothy 4:13; ESV).
Many reading this verse might well wonder why such a request would be relevant to anyone but Timothy? What lessons could be learned therefrom? One preacher of more recent years came to a point in his financial life wherein he felt rather desperate. As the bills piled up, he thought about selling his library. But before he did so, he recalled this simple passage and was struck by the realization that the apostle Paul, one of the greatest preachers to ever live, felt the need for books by which he could study. If it was necessary for Paul to read and study, then so too with us. Recalling the passage, he resolved to keep his books, and found another way to pay his bills, a decision that in better times he was thankful for. The passage, obscure as it might seem to some, had a profitable lesson for that minister, one that helped him make an important choice at a crossroads in life.
We may not always, when reading a passage, understand the exact application to ourselves, but that does not mean there is not one. God wrote down what He did in order to instruct us and equip us. All of which is to say: you are well served to learn as much of the Bible as you can, because, although you never know when that which you have learned will prove most useful, all of it, every single word of it, was written for your benefit.
If learning more about the word of God interests you, , the church of Christ invites you to study and worship with us at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio. Likewise, if you have any questions, please share them with us through our website chapelhillchurchofchrist.org.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.