How Do I Read The Bible? Part II

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by: Ryan C. Brown

During our Wednesday night community group, we have been reading and talking through Rob Bell’s book, What Is The Bible? One of the chapters of his book is titled, Turning the Gem. In this chapter, Rob lays out an interesting approach in how to dig deeper in trying to understand certain scripture passages. I have selected one of the passages from this week’s lectionary and I thought we could apply the “Turn the Gem” method to this section of scripture. Our passage is 1 Corinthians 9:16-23. Here is the passage:

16 If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel! 17 For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission. 18 What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel. 19 For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews, I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law, I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law, I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak, I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might, by all means, save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.

So let’s “turn the gem.”

It is accepted in most religious communities that Corinthians is a letter written by Paul to a struggling church located in Corinth. If you would like to know more about Corinth, or possibly what life was like in that region around the time this letter was written, you can find tons of information on Google or in any library in your hometown. So maybe that is a good place to start when you approach this passage, by learning about the intended audience and what the context of this letter meant to convey.

Another way to dive deeper into this verse would be to try and follow the logic outlined by the author. He is speaking about proclaiming the gospel but seems to be conflicted about how the gospel is meant to be conveyed. The author is struggling with his identity and appears to be conflicted in how they are supposed to carry out proclaiming the gospel. 

Have you ever felt this way? 

I know I have. I think that is one of the more helpful aspects of this verse for me personally. I can identify with the struggle this person feels with finding their identity in Christ. But when you look at verse 23, you can see that sharing the gospel is not about finding your own identity, it is about sharing the blessing that the gospels promise to everyone. 

So now it’s your turn. Take this passage, or pick one of your own, and “turn the gem.” Find the deeper meaning by taking the time to dig deeper into the text you have selected. The Bible is a mysterious collection of writings. You can begin to uncover the mystery the moment you allow yourself the freedom to ask and answer your questions.