The Bible is a big book—about one-thousand pages long. In those pages many topics are addressed: God, creation, sin, salvation, warfare, and love to name a few. Because of its size and scope, the Bible poses a challenge to those who believe it. And that challenge is learning how to balance various biblical truths. Like a coin, truth often has two side. Here are a few examples of truth with two sides.
The Two Sides of Truth
Jesus is fully divine and fully human; there is one God in three Persons; God is immanent (active within the world) and transcendent (above and beyond the world); God shows compassion and wrath, God is sovereign and we are responsible. There are also practical truths which cover the gamut: repent and rejoice, strive and rest, pray and work, love good and hate evil, be warned and be assured.
Holding on to Both Sides of Truth
So truth often has two sides, but when we ignore one side we’re only standing on one leg. And people who only stand on one leg usually don’t stand for very long. Of course, no one is perfectly balanced biblically because our personalities, interests, and even circumstances lead us to gravitate toward one side of the spectrum. But we should be aware of our tendencies and seek to remedy them by looking toward the other end of the spectrum.
Keeping Truth Proportionate
Balancing biblical truth, however, doesn’t mean bringing all truths to a state of equilibrium on a balance scale. No, some truths weigh more than others and good Bible teaching emphasizes the weightier matters. We can identify the more significant topics by noticing the stress and repetition in the Bible. The greatest commandment (Mk. 12:29-31) and things of “first importance” (1 Cor. 15:3) are two good examples. Those two items should be stressed more than other biblical teachings. So properly balancing biblical truth involves keeping things in the right proportion.
Think of it this way. If you had a hot dog, you would probably want a proper sized bun, and the right amount of condiments: ketchup, mustard, onions, or whatever else you want. You wouldn’t buy buns that are twice the size of the hot dog and you wouldn’t dump the whole bottle of ketchup on the hot dog. Keeping things in proportion is a key principle for food preparation and Bible interpretation.
Bible teachers dispense truth proportionately when their teaching emphasizes what the Bible emphasizes. Of course, there’s a time to focus on the condiments, but when the teacher’s entire corpus of instruction is considered, it should show a biblical emphasis. But some haven’t grasped this principle and they keep dumping the whole bottle of ketchup on the hot dog. These Christians ignore the more significant issues because they get all psyched up about condiments such as prophecy, spiritual warfare, fasting, divine election, spiritual gifts, or an obscure Bible verse. But in so doing they’re ignoring the hot dog. The ketchup is good but it must be used proportionately.
The Primary Truth
Now let’s move on to the hot dog. The apostle Paul wrote, “I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve” (1 Cor. 15:3-5 ESV). When he was raised from the dead, Jesus explained the Scriptures to the disciples and he showed how the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms pointed to him (Lk. 24:44-47). So let’s look for Jesus in just the first five books of the Bible, called the Pentateuch or the Law.
- Creation (Gen. 1:1) – Referring to Jesus, John wrote “all things were made through him” (Jn. 1:3).
- Joseph sold by his brothers for silver (Gen. 37:28) – Jesus was sold by Judas for silver (Matt. 26:14-15).
- God’s claim to be “I AM” (Ex. 3:14-15) – Jesus claimed to be “I am” (Jn. 6:35; 8:12, 58).
- Israel’s time of testing in the wilderness for forty years (Num. 32:13) – Jesus was tested in the wilderness for forty days (Matt. 4:1-11).
- The miraculous bread called manna that nourished Israel (Num. 11) – Jesus claimed to be the living bread that came down from heaven (Jn. 6:51).
- The rock from which water gushed out to quench Israel’s thirst (Ex. 17:6) – Paul said that the rock was Christ (1 Cor. 10:4).
- The sacrifices, specifically the Passover lamb (Ex. 12:1-13) – John called Jesus “the Lamb of God” (Jn. 1:29) and Paul called Jesus “our Passover lamb” (1 Cor. 5:7).
- The high priest (Ex. 28; Lev. 16) – Jesus is called “our great high priest” (Heb. 4:14).
- Moses predicted that God would raise up a prophet like him (Dt. 18:15) – Peter applied the fulfillment of that prophecy to Jesus (Acts 3:22).
- The cursed man hung on a tree (Dt. 21:23) – Jesus redeemed us by becoming a curse for us (Gal. 3:13).
That’s just the tip of the iceberg from the first five books of the Bible. There are thirty-four more books in the Old Testament and twenty-seven books in the New Testament and they all point to Jesus. Jesus is the hot dog and the bun. If you’re emphasizing something other than Jesus, you’re trying to make a meal out of your ketchup packet while the hot dog is sitting on the table.