Bible Teaching by Addition and Subtraction

In the last chapter of Revelation, we learn not to add to or subtract anything from the Bible. Some may think their teaching or writing might improve the Bible and others may seek to delete or omit verses they do not like, or teachings their culture or their Bible class might find offensive.

As teachers, we need to be careful that we do not change the Bible by addition or subtraction as we teach; therefore, we need to make every effort to distinguish our speculations from what the Bible says.

As we study to prepare for teaching the Uniform Bible Lesson Series [ISSL], we can (and probably should) read the selected verses and some of the verses before and after the selection. We can ask ourselves why these verses were selected by the Uniform Lesson Committee and the verses before or after not selected. Perhaps the answer simply rests with space limitations in a printed Bible lesson quarterly or the theme the writers want us to study. 

With all the study materials that are available to us, some verses immediately before or after the verses selected by the committee can (and probably should) be studied and taught to benefit our class and us. Sometimes I will add some particularly meaningful verses to the International Bible Lesson Commentary; but to avoid confusion, I do not include these verses in the International Bible Lesson or other class and study materials.

When we teach the International Bible Lessons, we usually emphasize what we think is most important and spend less time on what we consider less important. What we need to prayerfully avoid is adding to the Bible or subtracting or ignoring Bible Lesson verses we do not like or find offensive. 

We can pray and think carefully about God as we have come to know God from the Bible and our earlier Bible studies and our experiences with God. Then, knowing the loving, just, and merciful character of God, we can ask the Lord to show us why the verses we may not like are in the Bible. Sometimes only after years of study and experience will we learn why the Bible teaches some of the truths it does. Our background study of what we may consider “troubling verses” can also be used as a basis for interesting and helpful class discussion. 

In a class discussion, a teacher can always say something like, “Based on my understanding of God and Jesus Christ from the Bible, I believe this verse is true and may be in the Bible because . . . but I am still trying to understand what it means and how best to apply it.” 

Our challenge is not to add unbiblical teachings to or subtract biblical teachings from the Bible as we teach, as well as help our students avoid the same problem.

What about you? Are there some Bible teachings or verses that you simply could not understand at one time but understand better now? What made the difference in helping you come to a better understanding? What can you say to someone in your class who says, "I just do not believe that . . . "

For the Love of God’s Word, 
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