In my last post, I highlighted the most important words in the Bible––conjunctions!
I showed how the devil tempted Jesus
in the desert by omitting the conjunctions found in Psalm 91. In so doing, the
devil highlights God’s promise of blessing but not the precondition of
faithfulness. I summarized the devil’s strategy in this way:
Promise – Precondition = Presumption.
By paying attention to words like “because,” “therefore”, “so that”,
“yet” etc., we protect others and ourselves from various temptations.
In this post, I will continue to
show how conjunctions help us faithfully apply biblical teaching. In other
words, there is practical payoff by observing these small but critical words.
If we’re honest, we all tend to skip over them when we read the Bible.
Our life decisions are based on
various ideas and beliefs. If we don’t pay attention to conjunctions, we open
ourselves up to temptation. What happens if we take conjunctions a bit more
seriously? I suggest an alternative formula:
Promise + Precondition = Perseverance
Among various applications, we gain
the perseverance needed to glorify God as Christ’s followers. The devil tempted
Jesus to take a short cut to “ministry success.” However, Jesus knew that the
true path to blessing had a cost. He must be faithful to the work the Father
had given him.
Ultimately, Christ was faithful. As
a result, God vindicated Christ by raising him from the dead.
Many people know that 1 Corinthians
15 is all about Christ’s resurrection. People don’t always see the logical flow
that pervades the passage. On the one hand, Paul wants his readers to be sure
of God’s promise to resurrect His people in the last day. On the other hand, he
wants the Corinthians to accept the cost of discipleship.
In 1 Cor 15:30–32, Paul reminds them
that suffering follows those who do ministry. Also, 1 Cor 15:33–34 exposes the
fact that the Corinthians were tempted to flounder in their faith by immoral
living. One of Paul’s main objectives in the chapter, however, is to spur the
Corinthians to perseverance.
I think people frequently overlook
this goal when reading the chapter. He’s not merely giving a philosophical
defense of resurrection. Notice v. 58. What’s the key word? A conjunction!
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be
steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in
the Lord your labor is not in vain.
Because of a conjunction, we can
discern that Paul preaches the resurrection in order to motivate perseverance
in the lives of the Corinthian believers. He wants them to recognize that
faithfulness entails the willingness to live a different sort of life––one that
endures persecution and resists godlessness.
Link Between Thinking and Doing
I once led a study with a group of
very biblically literate people. We read John 10:26, which says, “you do not believe because you
are not among my sheep.” I immediately asked them to tell me what that
verse said. Every one of them replied, “you
are not among my sheep because you do not believe.”
Even though it was a very simple, short sentence, they
literally flipped the sentence, saying it in exactly the opposite sequence.
Why? They didn’t slow down. They presumed the Bible said something it didn’t.
How often do we do this?
People tend to read Scripture too
quickly. They rush over key logical words and consequently miss important
insights. Perhaps, we believe right doctrines but our conclusions are not the precise point of the specific
text we are reading.
People tend to read Scripture too quickly. They rush over key logical words and consequently miss important insights. - Tweet this
Conjunctions are the theological
link between thinking right and doing right. By observing the conjunctions, the
writers give us boundaries. They bound our interpretations and thus guide our
We miss out on discerning God’s will
for our lives and key biblical applications when we ignore conjunctions.
Jackson Wu (PhD, SEBTS) teaches theology and missiology in a seminary for Chinese church leaders. Previously, he also worked as a church planter. He has just released his second book One Gospel for All Nations: A Practical Approach to Biblical Contextualization. In addition to his blog, jacksonwu.org, follow him on Twitter @jacksonwu4china.