People have a tendency to make Scripture say and prove whatever they want it to mean. It doesn’t matter whether they’re talking about homosexuality, the character of God, social justice, socialism, or any of a number of other ideas that permeate the world. Of course, just because someone takes verses out of context doesn’t make the interpretation correct. God enabled the writers of the Bible, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to convey His truth. Readers of the Word have the obligation to seek His intent in the text, not to read into it their own biases.
We talk about this manner of understanding Scripture by describing these two processes of reading God’s Word as exegesis and eisegesis. The idea behind exegesis is that the text informs us of the meaning. We read passages in context, not just a single verse, and we allow God’s meaning to come out of that. Preferably, in exegesis we’ll also read through the eyes of an ancient Israelite rather than from our own western, Christian (or secular) viewpoint. In contrast, eisegesis occurs when someone has a predetermined concept and wishes to force the Bible to correspond to that. They read into the text what they want it to mean and use it to justify their position. They assume that the way we live and think today was exactly the same as it was in ancient Israel. As a result, they force into the text our customs and conventions that people living then had no idea about nor would necessarily have approved.
There are many such instances we could point to, but in relation to our text for today, we’ll just highlight one. Following the remarkable events at Pentecost, with the power of God resting mightily upon the apostles and even those who converted to following Jesus Christ, a sense of unity encompassed this early church. They were filled with the love and compassion of Christ. This caused them to desire to operate according to His character. One of these virtues was empathy for the plight of others and thus providing for those in need. This resulted in acts of generosity as recorded in Acts 4:32:
Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.
In other words, those who had been born again through the power of the Holy Spirit wanted to share everything because they innately knew that nothing belonged to them. They truly understood the idea that God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10). What we have comes from His hand. Our deeds and what we think is ours result simply from the good graces of God. This had the outcome as noted in Acts 4:34-35:
There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
The important lesson here is that everything was voluntary on the part of those contributing. Nothing was demanded or forced; there was no coercion. People gave because God laid it on their heart to do so.
An evil concept that has been around for far too long is that of socialism. Many socialists will proclaim that they don’t believe in God; then they will say they hate Him. Even though they don’t believe the Bible is God’s Word, they’ll steal ideas from it and say that the Lord approves of how they’ve twisted His intent.
These passages noted above fall into that theft. The socialist will convince himself, so as to convince others, that having everything in common is the way that God designed mankind’s interactions. All the possession and income earned in their thinking must be shared so that all people have exactly the same amount of money and possessions as everyone else. To accomplish this, they go a step further in declaring that society must be based on equitable principles. This idea says that because some people have been given certain privileges in life, those advantages must be lessened. On the other hand, those who have less than their privileged neighbor must be given what was taken from the one with more.
This kind of “equality” can only be attained through coercion. The one entity that can force taking and giving is government. Socialism assumes the government owns everything and that people have because of what the State gives them. If someone doesn’t like the way the system is set up, those running it, i.e. the elites at the top of the food chain, have the power and authority to forcibly take from and to punish those who disagree and resist. This is a very different approach from what occurred in Israel long ago and what God would have His people do when He lays it on their heart.
This is why reading the Word of God prayerfully and asking for Him to help us to understand it is critical. We must be wary of those who quote the Bible for their own purposes. The likelihood is that they don’t know God or His ways. We should ask the Lord for discernment to know truth from falsehood. In these last days, there is great deception, and more is coming. Only by the wisdom granted by the grace of God can we maneuver through the morass around us and emerge victorious in Christ Jesus.