Everybody is Invited!

Misunderstanding Context

Without realizing it, many of us somehow misinterpret Scripture by disregarding context. Sometimes we quote a favorite verse to support our view but without realizing it, unintentionally of course, we sometimes miss the point.

John 6:44 is one good example of an often-quoted verse. In this verse Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

The BibleOf course, we can easily understand this verse and its meaning is quite clear. That is, if this versethis sentence — is all by itself and there are no other verses surrounding it. But there lies the problem. Interpreting a verse in isolation — apart from its context — can mislead us into a wrong interpretation.

We have to remember a sound principle in interpretation that: Words or phrases derive its meaning depending on how it is used in a particular context.

Another way of saying it is that: In interpretation, the message of the text is not conveyed through single words alone but through words in relationship with each other as they occur in a specific literary context.

Without considering its surrounding context, we can misunderstand John 6:44 to mean that God is limiting the number of those whom he will save or elect.

Some interpret this verse to mean that only a few elected ones are predestined to be saved and the rest of humanity will be damned in hell. But is this really what Jesus is telling us in John 6:44? Let’s find out and check its surrounding context.

Getting the Context

It is always best to read the whole chapter to get the larger context. In John 6:41 we find Jesus claiming to be the Bread of Life or the Bread that came down from heaven. The Jews began to grumble and complain when Jesus claimed divine status by saying that he is the Bread from heaven. It was tantamount to blasphemy according to the Jews.

Jesus’ reply to the Jews was that they should not grumble (verse 43) if many people are coming to him. Jesus said that it was the Father who was drawing these many people to come to him—the Bread of Life (verse 44). Yes, the Father was the one inviting and drawing everyone to come to Jesus, the Bread of life. Jesus affirmed his divine status as the Bread of life. That is the surrounding context of John 6:44.

John 6:44My main point in this blog is to show that God was not limiting the number of people who are drawn to him. That is how most people assume is the meaning of John 6:44 when reading it outside of its surrounding context. God was actually inviting and drawing everyone to come to Christ—the Bread of life!

This very verse which some people use to support a view that only a few will be saved or only a few are elected at this time is actually a verse that tells us that God wants to include and save all! God loves the whole world!

Verse 40 is interesting and is quite clear: “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” Please take note that verse 40 is part of the immediate context and should not be disregarded! This is God’s open invitation to all!

Clearly then, God is not limiting the number of those whom he will save. The opposite is actually intended by Jesus Christ in John 6:44. God wants to draw all men to himself. He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

This is the context of John 6:44, the context of the whole book of John and the context of Scripture viewed from a Christ-centered point of view. You are loved! You are accepted! You are included! Everybody is invited to come and enjoy life and love in Jesus Christ!

Photo credit: Google

Photography: From Film to Digital

 

Photography: Ayana
This is a colored photo changed into a black & white photo.

Film Photography

During my boyhood years during the 60s, photography was usually done using mostly black and white films. We were used to photographs taken in black and white. Eventually, colored films became more and more available and less and less expensive and with the coming of “instamatic cameras” — that is, point-and-shoot cameras — people everywhere used colored films more and more and became popular.

There was a time when one can make a choice of whether to buy black and white films or colored films. If you’re buying film in a photo shop, you would normally have a choice of whether you want it colored or black and white. I remember back then that one had a choice of buying a roll of film with 12 shots, 24 shots or 36 shots. Eventually black and white films became less and less common and I guess those who would be looking for such films would usually be artists who continue to be fascinated by black and white photography as an artistic medium.

Photography: Ayana
This is actually a colored photo but with modern technology, we can now easily change it to a sepia tone or a black & white photograph.

Digital Photography

Well, with the coming of the digital age, even colored films eventually became obsolete. Films are no longer needed with the advent of digital cameras. It’s amazing to see the development of photography through the years. Who would have thought that we won’t be needing films for photography nowadays haha! It would indeed be a rare chance if one can still buy colored films these days. But I guess it would still be available. I just don’t know where. You’ve got to have an old film camera too if you want to use films. Additionally, you would need to have these negative films developed. I guess that would be a great challenge haha! And I would suppose that it would even be more difficult to look for and buy black and white films.

Well, no worries if we don’t have black and white films because with digital cameras nowadays, we can still continue to shoot in black and white if one so desires especially for artists who continue to love this medium. It’s maybe because black and white photos somehow evoke emotions of the past and a nostalgic feeling of bringing back “the good old days.” It’s just dramatic and artistic when photos are in black and white — somehow. Of course, I love colored photos too.

Model: Ayana Manriquez

For God So Loved the World

God’s Love for All

God's loveJohn 3:16 is a very familiar verse and many can recite it by heart. Many Christians have memorized it since their childhood days. And yes, this Bible verse is really very encouraging and very reassuring. It says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (NIV John 3:16). God’s love is for all. God loves the whole world.

John 3:16 in Plain English

For any ordinary reader who will read John 3:16 in plain English, it would seem simple and easy to understand — God’s love is truly for the whole world. But it’s interesting to know that some Christians understand this verse differently. For them the word, “world” (Greek, cosmos) in this passage does not refer to the whole world in general but only to a select few! This same Greek word, cosmos can also be found three times in the next verse, (verse 17) and once in verse 19.

But by just reading the verses through and through, you wouldn’t be able to figure out that Jesus loved only a selected few. This view is something imported and foreign to the text and is out of context. Some call this type of interpretation as eisegesis. This is forcing the Scripture to mean what it doesn’t intend to really mean.

John Calvin and John 3:16

The famous theologian, John Calvin himself in his very own commentaries — which can easily be verified on the internet — clearly pointed out without any hesitation that the word, “world” truly refers without doubt to all and not to some. He also took the time to explain the word, “whoever” to mean anyone and everyone not just some lucky elected folks. John 3:16 says, “whoever” and the Bible means what it says! It means the whole human race and not just a limited few!

Immediate Context: Before and After

The context of the immediate verses (before verse 16) in verses 14 and 15 about Moses lifting up the serpent in the wilderness should also be considered. In Numbers 21:8-9 we learn that anyone who looked upon the brass serpent high up on a pole got healed of snake bite. Yes, it was absolutely for everyone! This also reminds me of what Jesus said that when he is “lifted up,” he will draw all men to himself (John 12:32)!

And again, the immediate verses (after verse 16) in verses 17 through 19 would show that the whole world is what is meant and not just a few.

Larger Context: Who is Jesus Christ?

And of course if we check the larger context, what do we find? The same author of the book, the apostle John in his epistle says the same thing in 1 John 2:2.  It says, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world (Greek, cosmos).”

God truly loves the whole world. Not just some.