The biggest lottery payout ever, and you win. There is no question about it, the announcement was to you. You are it. Your wildest dreams have just come true.
The only issue…who is you?
You is not always you. That is the insight presented in a recent chapter in Claiming Christ. Bad theology and flat-out weird ideas are commonly conveyed to Christians when the you is taken out of context.
Whenever the Bible makes a declarative statement, like “you have crossed over from death to life”, many people assume it must apply to them since it says you and they are the ones reading the statement. That is very common, but it is also poor use of language.
You doesn’t always mean you.
When speaking or writing to an audience, there are almost always more than one group being addressed. For example, when Jesus was preaching to crowds seated on the grass, he would speak one statement, but intend for it to apply to a subset of those hearing him. His words rarely were meant in the same way to everyone in ear shot.
When asked why he spoke with cryptic symbols, Jesus revealed that the words were given to a larger audience, but that only those selected by God would be able to understand. They were the only ones intended to get it, even though the rest thought it applied to them. Everyone heard him use the personal pronoun you, and they saw him look right at them, and they were convinced that he meant those words for them personally, but only later on did it become evident that Jesus wasn’t including them as his own.
As the devotional study book pointed out in more detail, Scripture is very often misinterpreted from a lack of understanding regarding to whom a biblical statement applies. Many think they are Christian, but the Spirit reveals that a large number actually deny Christ by how they live (Tit 1:16). Many think they will be saved, since they heard the gospel message, but if they refuse to “hold firmly” to scriptural expectations, then the Apostle Paul gets personal by saying: “you have believed in vain” (1 Cor 15:2).
At a pivotal point, all twelve apostles heard Jesus tell them that he was going to prepare in heaven a place for them (the Gospel’s record him saying this by using the personal pronoun you; Jn 14). However, Judas sat in that audience, and would quite naturally have assumed that such a promise applied to him. He heard it with his own ears. He was guaranteed to win the eternal lottery.
As with most of Scripture, interpretation must fit with the rest of the context. In the case of Judas, the Apostle John records in the previous chapter to this great promise, a clarification that Jesus intended to color their understanding of what applied to whom. When considering this larger scope, it becomes clear that Judas held an invalid get-into-heaven ticket, because the Lord announced “I am not referring to all of you” (Jn 13:18).
Yes, Judas heard the words spoken personally to him and to each of the others present. He thought he was the you, but Jesus never intended such a blessing to include him.
The present audience is seldom identical to the intended audience. That revelation ought to condition our embrace of scriptural statements. If the rest of the context supports our inclusion, then it likely was meant for us. If we are living in conflict with other parts of God’s word, then encouraging promises, like “there is no further condemnation for those in Christ Jesus”, may well apply to a those that doesn’t include you.
That should sober our celebrations and humble us before our Sovereign Lord. Christians have every right to rest in the promises of God and cling to their joy in the Lord. However, Christians are not all who they think they are. Some are you. Some are not intended to be you. That is why Jesus said to those who believed in him, that only those within that group who hold to his teachings are “truly my disciples” (Jn 8:31).
So which are you?
If you want more detail to help in that assessment, you are encouraged to pick up a copy of Claiming Christ, and discover the intended you as presented in Scripture.