The Honest Reading Canard: John 6:37-40

, posted by wrachele

Theological discussion in various venues often pits one position of belief against its opposites. Supporters of one position or another like to issue proposition statements of the form ‘If they would give _____ an honest reading’, ‘once I gave ______ an honest reading’,’ you can’t read _________ honestly and still believe’ or various other permutations that are meant to imply that your position is unsupportable in the light of clear interpretation. In other words, the veiled inference is that the theological presuppositions that you brought to the reading have colored your interpretation of the text and if you would put them aside and engage an honest reading of the highlighted periscope you would have no choice but to realize the validity of the opposing position. Let’s see if that’s a valid argument…

The Gospel of John, chapter six, is popularly utilized to proof a variety of theological tenets and often, it is suggested that an honest reading of this text, or passages within it, will prove beyond a doubt that one position or another is absolute and cannot be challenged. To test this argument, we can begin with a short passage that is the source of much discussion, John 6:37-40:

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 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.” (Jn 6:37–40)

Given the earlier promise of Jesus recorded by the Evangelist John in 3:16-17, the power of the good news that brought many to believe in Samaria recorded in 4:39, and his repetition of the earlier promise for any who believe spoken in 5:24, an honest reading of this passage leads the reader to two conclusions. First, it is the Father’s will that everyone who believes in Jesus shall have eternal life and two, that he shall hold them secure. In the context of the stated purpose of the author, clearly stated near the end of the book in 20:31–But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name—these appear to be valid conclusions.

So What Is An Honest Reading?

The definition of what comprises an ‘honest reading’ is more than likely defined by the theological framework with which you or your church identifies. A Christian with no theological training and a passing familiarity with the creedal foundations of his or her church is going to read the Bible and interpret it at face value. We might say that their interpretive guiding principles are formed by the ideas ‘Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.’ (Ps 119:105) and ‘Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what is says.’ (James 1:22). They believe, quite directly, that they can grow in their relationship with God and become more spiritually wise disciples by believing and following God’s instructions in the Bible. If they had one, their axiom would be that the Bible can be read by most people as-is and understood without reliance upon scholarly interpreters or knowledge of Gnostic hidden, extra-biblical decrees.

This reader will also approach the text in its context rather than engaging in the proof-texting practice in which a verse or passage is lifted out of its context as definitive proof of a theological point. This is not to say that Christians will not engage in the memorization of small units of thought such as a verse or passage, in itself a valuable practice of discipleship. The honest reader will not pull a small unit of thought from the text and build a theological framework upon it. To do so is to do violence to the text since the context of a verse/passage is so critical to its proper interpretation. As an example of what this means, consider this last paragraph of the Gettysburg Address:

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate…we can not consecrate…we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Proof-texting elevates a small portion of the text from its surrounding context because, in its edited form, it proves a theological point. If a presidential historian wanted to propose the idea that Lincoln believed in an eternal world, he might quote just a small portion of that paragraph, lifting it as shown here in red:

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate…we can not consecrate…we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

We would blanche at this absurdity. The sentence, placed back in its context, refers not to people but to the government of the republic. Even more important to understanding this idea is the greater context in which it appears; the paragraph, the moment in history, and the author and his speech patterns and usage of the language. Lincoln did not pen this clause as an independent thought unit nor are we readers free to create one in order to substantiate a theory we might have.

There is a more subtle form of this practice that assumes that speakers and writers will litter their corpus with inexplicable random thoughts. In other words, in a discourse on topic A, the writer/speaker is suddenly moved to insert a statement on topic B having nothing to do with her current unit of thought. To continue our ad absurdum example, it would be as though Lincoln’s address read as follows:

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate…we can not consecrate…we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. I wish McClellan hadn’t been such a failure. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

With the exception of the fevered writings of Charles Bukowski or William Burroughs, few authors insert random thought units into their writings. One sentence can assume to flow from the previous and lead into the next. When a break or change in the flow of thought is indicated, most writers will leave a transitional clue that tells the reader ‘I was talking about that and now I will talk about this.’ The same can be said for paragraphs and chapters. To identify independent units of thought in any text, let alone the Holy Scriptures, requires a full understanding and application of context.

Interpreting a portion of the Scriptures requires that we consider the ever widening circles of context in which the passage or verse comes to us. At the center of these circles is the immediate context, the sentences and paragraphs around the unit. The next circle of context is the book in which the unit appears. The books of Bible can be defined in terms of their purpose and genre and these play an important role in correctly interpreting the intent of the author in conveying God’s word. This circle is further surrounded by the corpus of that author. John may use the word ‘world’ differently from the prophet Joel but it is likely that he is consistent throughout his gospel, his epistles, and his apocalypse. We don’t say that there is not flexibility in usage but, in general, there is consistency. Finally, we must locate our verse or passage in the context of the Testament in which appears and in the unity of the entire Bible. While there are sixty-six separate books comprising the whole of the Bible, there is a unity in the story that God tells through these books that contributed to their inclusion in the bible that we read today.

“A Text Without a Context May Be a Pretext” – Klein, Blomberg, Hubbard

In our pursuit of an honest reading, let’s have a look at the context in which the study passage occurs, starting from the immediate and moving outward. The passage itself doesn’t stand on its own as it locates within a paragraph that runs from verses 35 to 40. The paragraph is notable because it is the first of the Lords ‘I Am’ statements in which He proclaims Himself to be the ‘Bread of Life.’ In an echo of the gift of God that gave life to the wandering Israelites (manna), Jesus teaches His querying followers that those who accept and place their faith in God’s gift of Him will not hunger spiritually. Does he make this proclamation without reason? No, he is answering and clarifying an ongoing discourse on the miracle of Feeding 5000 and dealing with the responses of this crowd. We notice that they are chastised for their non-belief despite being witness to the miracle. The Lord reiterates that eternal life will come from Him as people believe.

In the larger unit of thought which spans from 6:25-59 it is crucial to note the break in whom Jesus is addressing that occurs in verse 41. He is turning His attention from His disciples to the Jewish leadership assembled in the synagogue at Capernum. Caution is indicated in making both of these sections into a single unit of thought with equal emphasis due to this shift and the interpretation which each audience would bring to the message. [Many times, 6:44 is casually associated with the content of our study passage but it is important to note the difference in listener.]

Moving outward in context is the book in which our passage appears, the Gospel of John, and the intentions of the author. As mentioned earlier, John gave his objective in the formation of this gospel, “..these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (Jn 20:31) This book is persistently evangelistic and our passage can be readily understood in this context. Those that the Father gives (active, present tense verb) are also those drawn (attracted) by the divine reflection of the Father they are seeing in the Son (and His signs) with belief being the preferable outcome of that encounter. To meet the objective of the book, the chapters work over and over to associate the signs with the divinity of the one performing the miracles that the reader might believe in Him.

A fuller study of the passage requires that the reader outline the place of this passage within the next concentric circles of scope, the New Testament and the Bible as a whole. The overall message of redemption by grace that threads through the New Testament offers a consistent framework on which to organize this passage for understanding. The honest reading within all of these circles is simple to grasp; those who place their faith in the Christ will have eternal life and security in persevering.

It’s All Greek to Me

To avoid mishandling a text or inappropriately proof-texting out of context we need to recognize the material that surrounds the passage to varying degrees of immediacy. We close by turning our attention to the language used by the original author and how well our modern translations accord to the original meaning of the words used. God elected to transmit His truth through authors in Hebrew and Greek for the most part and if we are going to delve beyond our English (or whatever translated language we read) we need to dive into the original texts. Caution is advised here; words in Greek and Hebrew often have ranges of meaning just like their English counterparts and it is easy to violate the interpretation of a passage by selectively ignoring definitions that do not support our theological presuppositions. Let’s begin by looking at the passage in its Greek form:

37 Πᾶν ὃ δίδωσίν μοι ὁ πατὴρ πρὸς ἐμὲ ἥξει, καὶ τὸν ἐρχόμενον πρὸς ἐμὲ οὐ μὴ ἐκβάλω ἔξω, 38 ὅτι καταβέβηκα ἀπὸ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ οὐχ ἵνα ποιῶ τὸ θέλημα τὸ ἐμὸν ἀλλὰ τὸ θέλημα τοῦ πέμψαντός με. 39 τοῦτο δέ ἐστιν τὸ θέλημα τοῦ πέμψαντός με, ἵνα πᾶν ὃ δέδωκέν μοι μὴ ἀπολέσω ἐξ αὐτοῦ, ἀλλὰ ἀναστήσω αὐτὸ [ἐν] τῇ ἐσχάτῃ ἡμέρᾳ. 40 τοῦτο γάρ ἐστιν τὸ θέλημα τοῦ πατρός μου, ἵνα πᾶς ὁ θεωρῶν τὸν υἱὸν καὶ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον, καὶ ἀναστήσω αὐτὸν ἐγὼ [ἐν] τῇ ἐσχάτῃ ἡμέρᾳ.

Without the ability to read Greek or Hebrew, you might be stymied at this point by the inability to select the important words to study (since you don’t know what they mean.) If this is the case, the reader will have to trust in the English translation that she elects to use while being aware of where that Bible fits on the spectrum of translation methods. At one end is the literal, word-for-word translation (KJV, ESV) which directly converts words to their English equivalent with less consideration syntactically and structurally for how a verse will read through modern eyes. The dynamic equivalent translation (NIV, RSV) gives the same attention to the careful translation of words but attempts to smooth the syntax into a smoother reading form. At the other end of the spectrum is the paraphrase (NLT, The Message) where the creators are choosing to convey the ideas of the original text in modern forms so that they are best received by modern readers.

For our purposes in looking at this passage we can create an Interlinear of sorts by associating important words by color. Our passage in the NIV reads:

37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 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.”

The honest reading of verse 37 conveys the idea that everyone who the Father gives to the Son as an ongoing current activity will come to Him. We note that this is not all those who the Father gave to Jesus at some point in the past but those He is in the process of pointing to His Son. The question we want to ask is whether or not this reading is supported by the original text. The two verbs we have selected have the most theological import in this short verse and in translation, we discover that there is little dispute.

didosin [δίδωσίν] This form of didomi is in the present, active, indicative, 3rd person, singular form. Using a lexicon, we can make certain that the English translation is consistent with the way the Greek word form had been used and that it conveys the meaning we have understood.

TDNT/Kittel – Since love is depicted as a gift in the NT, didomi is a common term, especially in John. Jesus is what he is by God’s gift. God gives him his works (5:36) disciples (6:37), name (17:11), all things (3:35). Jesus himself gives his life (Mk 10:45), himself (Gal 1:4), his body (Lk 22:19). (pg 166)

BDAG – this extensive lexicon lists 17 definitions for didomi, denoting a variety of subtle distinctions in usage. How do we responsibly select the proper use in the sentence we are studying? CONTEXT! For example, one of the definitions is (9, pg. 242) to bear as a natural product, yield, produce of a field and its crops. Since Jesus is obviously not speaking about grain in the field being given, we can see that this usage is out of context for the verse. An honest reading does not read meaning into words, it extracts meaning from words. The first two BDAG definitions, to give as an expression of generosity, and to give something, seem to best fit the context of the Lord’s speech.

hexei [ἥξει ] This form of the verb heko is in the future, active, indicative, 3rd person, singular form and indicates that someone/something will come. Again, a brief examination of our lexicons offers no surprises. Those who are being given to the Son will come to Him, that is, to be present with him. What we need to be cautious in doing with a word like this is not to freight it with our desired meaning or read theological implications into it. In the majority usage within the NT, the usage of heko (and its forms) is to simply come, to be present. To draw out a theological meaning takes more than a single word, verse, or sometimes even a passage.

We’ll examine one more word in this passage which often gets loaded with a narrow meaning that might not be apparent to the honest reader. That word is everyone found in verse 40.

pas [πᾶς] – This adjective, like its counterpart in English, can modify a noun, assert something about a noun, or stand in the place of a noun. The adjective can also posses a theological importance and requires cautious interpretation. In order to understand what Jesus implies by utilizing the word everyone in this verse, we must consider the context yet again. Everyone has a scope that must be understood from the context of its usage. For example, if I say ‘everyone in class must turn in their paper’, I am not indicating application to the students in the room next to ours. On the other hand, when I say that ‘everyone should love Jesus’, I mean everyone universally without distinction.

The TDNT definitions are consistent with the English usage of the word everyone in the universal sense and without exclusion. How can we verify this in an honest reading? We simply need to follow the progression of thought in the preceding sentences (and not pull the verse out of its context):

37: God is in the process of giving disciples to Jesus and he will not turn away those who come to him

38: This is not my plan (Jesus) but my Father’s plan

39: The Father’s plan is to grant those who I (Jesus) keep eternal life

40: To restate what I just said, whoever believes in me will have eternal life.

A Brief Interlude with Proof Texting

Before we jump into the conclusion, let’s have another look at how proof-texting works so that the danger in the practice becomes apparent. Suppose we want to ‘prove’ that the horrible doctrine of infanticide exists in the Bible. [Atheist polemics use this argument all the time.] The proof-texter searches the Scriptures looking for individual verses or passages that appear to support this abhorrent practice so that they can proclaim the ‘truth’ that God approves the killing of children for pleasure or sustenance and they find these passages:

Psalm 137:9 – he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.

2 Kings 6:28-29 – She answered, “This woman said to me, ‘Give up your son so we may eat him today, and tomorrow we’ll eat my son.’ So we cooked my son and ate him. The next day I said to her, ‘Give up your son so we may eat him,’ but she had hidden him.”

God killing the first born, the Flood, etc. Okay, a quick show of hands. Who believes that God advocates or even suggests a doctrine of infanticide?

No one? Why not?

Because we know the dishonesty of pulling a passage from its context to try to make it match our desired meaning. We know that we are not free to dismiss the surrounding circles of context in the process of developing doctrine and yet, the practice continues.

The Honest Reading

This particular passage was briefly exegeted in this essay as a result of nearly being hit when the ‘honest reading’ card was thrown. The theological echo chamber that I was engaging insisted that if one would just honestly and openly read John 6:37 supported by 6:44 that my eyes would be opened and I would see the obvious truth of their theological position and abandon my heretical position. The truth that this contingent would like for us to accept is that the elect are irresistibly and forcibly drawn to Christ. Here is a but a small sampling of how this verse is handled:

Seeing such obduracy in his hearers, that his words fell upon the multitude almost without fruit, he to remove this stumbling-block exclaims, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me.” “And this is the Father’s will which has sent me, that of all which he has given me I should lose nothing,” (John 6:37, 39).
Calvin, Institutes of the Christian religion (III, 22, 7)

John 6:37 is offered as a proof text of unconditional election. Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination (pp 94) [In a similar fashion, the seminal guide The Five Points of Calvinism by Steele, Thomas, & Quinn offers the naked proof text as evidence.]

Quoting the verse 6:37, James White states ‘These are the first words to come from the Lord in explanation of man’s unbelief. The first assertion is one of complete divine sovereignty. Every words speaks volumes. The Potter’s Freedom

The question that we have to ask is whether or not these conclusions are warranted by placing the verse back into its surrounding text, book, corpus, and testament. For our final look, I’m going to place the passage back amongst the verses that surround it so that the context is more apparent. (John 6:32 – 45)

Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. for the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

“Sir,” they said, “from now on give us this bread.”

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 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.”

At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”

Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me.

The honest reader does not open their Bible to a single verse, read it, close the Bible and then interpret it on its own. The honest reader has come to see the verse in the course of reading John’s entire sixth chapter and before that, the first five preceding chapters. There is context that surrounds the verse; if this were not true the verse would stand alone on a page, emphasizing its individual nature. Tracing the flow of thought through the chapter helps the reader to grasp to whom the Lord is speaking and how he has come to this unit of thought so let’s do so.

6:1 – 15 Jesus Feeds 5000 : The one sign that is consistent among the four gospels sees the Lord miraculously feeding five thousand people on a hillside who have followed Him to see further evidence of His miracles. It is crucial that the reader remember how John utilizes the record of miracles (signs in John). They are not simply miracles without context; the signs that John records emphasize the significance of the action as they revealed the glory of the Lord and the fullness of the salvation that He brings. The feeding of the 5000 is much more than the expansion of limited resources, it is setting the stage for His proclamation that He is the bread of life, the one thing needed for life in full. Exit question: does Jesus only allow some to eat the bread and fish?

6:16 – 24 Jesus Walks on Water: After the feeding, Jesus seeks solitude from the crowds and His disciples. The disciples set off across the lake toward Capernum over rough and choppy water. When they had made a certain distance toward their destination, the disciples see Jesus approaching them by walking across the top of the water. We note the fear in disciples and their hesitance to take Jesus into the boat. (cf. Mt 14:26) As the crowd awoke the next morning, they are seeking Jesus but find him nowhere and they set off in boats across the lake to find the Jesus of Signs.

6:25- 59 The Bread of Life Discourse: “When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him..” This transition is important because it tells the reader to whom Jesus is speaking. There is an equally important transition in verse 41; ‘At this the Jews began to grumble’. John’s usage of The Jews is not a universal description of the whole of Israel; it is specific to the Jewish leadership whose education and study should make them most aware of the Christ that stands before them.

Jesus admonishes the crowd not to seek Him out just for miracles but rather, to seek out the greatest miracle of all, redemption and eternal life. He calls them to work for this eternal life which He will give to them. What is this work, the reader asks? Jesus answers in verse 29 when he says “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” Caution is required here because of the temptation to extract this interaction from its context and turn it into application. John gives us a further clue as to the nature of the crowd. Those who are following Jesus here are Jews, familiar with their heritage and beliefs and the answer that Jesus gives must be read with this in mind. To apply the Lord’s words as universal principle (as Mr. White above) must be done with the utmost caution; Jesus is addressing people whose religious background and practice should have made the reality of who He was apparent but who failed in their recognition and this deficit understanding contributes to their disbelief.

Still addressing the crowd (they) in verses 35 – 40, Jesus explains that He is the Bread of Life that comes down from Heaven. Given the context of the passage, is it possible that He is referring to the Elect from all peoples? It is possible but in context, it is more likely that Jesus refers to the faithful remnant from within Israel itself who are being given to Him. [cf: verse 45 in which Jesus quotes Isaiah 54:13, referring to the future glory of Zion] Within this pericope, the proof text practitioner will insist on pulling 6:37 out with its implied exclusivity in support of the doctrine of unconditional election to salvation. What of verse 40 then? Jesus speaks God’s will into being, that is, ‘everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life.’ Why a universal principle for 37 but not for 40?

The careful reader will note that the Lord’s attention shifts to Jewish leadership in verse 41. It is they who, to borrow Calvin’s word, are most responsible for being obdurate. John’s editorial explanation in verses 41-42 sets up the exchange that follows; Jesus has claimed divinity which is countered by their belief that He is but a man. Within the passage stretching from 43 to 51, we see a strong indication that it is by faith in Christ that the eternal life that Jesus speaks of is received. [Much attention is paid to helko, the verb draw in verse 44 but the exegete is required to look at context and usage before applying the idea of the spirit being forcibly pulled to salvation. In other NT usage, the verb describes a physical object being pulled, not the spirit. The possibility that this verb is used in the sense of attracts must be considered. cf TDNT Vol 2, p 503]

Finally, in verses 52 – 59 Jesus angers the Jews by giving them what is heard as a repulsive teaching. They eat His flesh and drink His blood in order to have eternal life. What is in view here is the stubborn refusal of the Jews to let go of their works oriented belief system in which every command is to be interpreted literally rather than understood through faith. Jesus is obviously not referring to cannibalistic behavior yet this is how it is heard through literal, works-oriented ears.

6:60 – 71 Many Disciples Desert Jesus

The reader will note that Jesus’ attention has shifted again, now to His disciples, including those beyond the Twelve. On hearing the requirements of faith in the preceding sentences, many of His followers complain of the difficulty in accepting the teaching. From their Jewish perspective they are offended and will fall away because they lack the faith to believe in Jesus and who He is. He again tells them that their inability to let go of the works of their covenant history and believe in faith will separate He and them.

The Honest Reader

As we began this exploration some five thousand words ago, our intent was to support or deny the aphorism of the honest reading. If you have forgotten, the implication is that those who do not accept a specific theological tenet of one group would be overcome if they would just honestly read, chapter x or passage y or even just verse z. It would appear that to the challenger this means to honestly read this passage/chapter/verse with certain presuppositions in mind. Sorry, but this is not an honest reading.

A true reading of the Bible does not bring doctrine to the reading, it extracts doctrine from the reading. An honest reading of John 6:37-40 includes the whole of chapter six as well as the flow of thought throughout the entire book. You cannot read 6 without considering the prayer of Jesus in chapter 17 as well. Nor are we free to read 17 apart from the final chapters either. Proof texting may gain a point in the short term, but ultimately, it is poor handling of the text. This is not to say that a single verse or passage cannot convey a truth. Context must always be the guiding force in interpretation and we are not free to extract a ‘truth’ when it is at odds with the surrounding context that the author has created as guided by the Spirit.

Grace and peace to you.