It’s the beginning of a new year and there will be many who will embark upon reading plans designed to guide them in reading through the Bible within a year.
Now, while this is indeed a noble and worthwhile endeavor, I think, all too often, we make the mistake of reading the Bible ‘too’ quickly! In an effort to read the assigned portion or section for the day, we often fail to take the time to actually understand what we are reading. When we read too quickly and too methodically, we often miss the message in the effort to be true to our method!
As an example, I read a passage the other day that caused me to re-evaluate previously held beliefs. It was not a passage I had not read before, in fact, it was one that I had read quite often and one the preacher would call; ‘a familiar passage!’ The passage was Philippians 2:9-11, which reads in the KJV:
“Wherefore, God also hath highly exalted him and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Now the thing that arrested me the other day was the realization that most people, myself included, often misquote the passage! The common saying of most is: “That at the name of Jesus, every knee ‘shall’ bow and every tongue ‘shall’ confess! But that IS NOT what the text says! The text doesn’t say ‘shall,’ the text says ‘should.’ There is a substantial difference between shall and should! The word; ‘shall’ is about ‘what is “going” to happen,’ while the word; ‘should’ is about ‘what “ought” to happen.’ Now, while it is indeed true that eventually every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father, that is not the point Paul was making!
In the context of passage, Paul was not talking about what was going to happen, but rather Paul was expressing what ought to happen in response to the exaltation of Jesus as Lord! Therefore, when we say ‘shall’ we are, in a sense, postponing Jesus’ exaltation until the end of time, but Jesus will not just be Lord later, Jesus is Lord, NOW! He was recorded as saying in Matthew 28:18 after his resurrection; “All power (the Greek word for power, denotes ‘authority,’ not “might’ or ‘strength’ as we so often erroneously preach it!) is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” Paul wrote of Jesus in 1 Corinthians 15:25-26: “For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”
My point is that, since Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and in earth and he is presently reigning, every knee should presently bow and every tongue should presently confess that Jesus is (not will be, but right now, is!) Lord! However, we miss this fundamental truth when we misquote the passage or otherwise read ‘should’ but think ‘shall.’ As we read the Bible, we should slow down enough to read what it actually says and not what we have been conditioned to ‘think’ it says! Only then will we recognize that often, even the ‘little’ words, like the articles and definite articles; (‘a’ versus ‘the’), conjunctions, such as ‘and’ and ‘or’ can change the meaning of a text! It was only after I slowed down that I recognized the difference between ‘shall’ and ‘should!’