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Does the Bible relate to individuals or groups of people?
Thank you for your interesting question about how the Bible relates to both individuals and groups.
Your question is important because if the Bible only applies to certain individuals, then entire groups of people may be mislead in believing the Bible applies to them. Similarly, if the Bible relates to groups of people, then individuals who use the Bible for their personal life are misusing the word of God!
The simple answer is that the Bible applies to both individuals and groups of people.
First, let us understand what the Bible is. Paul writes that all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). This helps us to understand that the Bible is for all areas of our life to help us know more about God and live for him. If we want to know about God, we go to the Bible! However, there is no indication here as to whether the scripture applies specifically to groups or to individuals.
There is a hint in 2 Timothy 3:16 that the scriptures must be for personal development. Paul wrote this letter to Timothy with personal guidance on leadership, spiritual development and the Christian life.
From this however, an important question arises: are the instructions given to Timothy by Paul, and indeed any other personal instruction found within the Bible, applicable to us today?
The simple answer is yes. Where there is a promise, instruction or blessing that was not restricted to a specific time period, then they apply to us today.
For example, when Jesus told the disciples to "go therefore and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:20), this instruction was not just for them for a specific time, but is still on us today as followers of Jesus Christ. We are commanded to make disciples just as the first disciples were told to do so.
There are exceptions to this general rule. For example, the instruction by God to launch war and kill the evil tribes of Canaan were for a specific time and are not an instruction for today. However, even here, there are lessons that can be learned which include about God punishing sin and walking in obedience of God.
So far we've looked at the Bible applying to individuals. However, are there cases where the Bible applies to groups?
We must remember that every group is made up of individuals. Therefore, where there is a promise, for example about God pouring out the Holy Spirit on people (Joel 2:28-29), this applies to the individual but affects the whole group.
As individuals we are called to work together for the good of the gospel. I'm sure you have recognised that some individuals have strengths in some areas and weaknesses in others. Some people's strengths are other's weaknesses and this means that where we need help we can rely and call upon other people to help us. Likewise we can help people with our strengths.
In 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, Paul writes about the fact that we are all individuals working together. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12). He goes on to talk about the individual strengths of some parts of the body, and the fact that all parts are just as important as the others.
When thinking about our salvation, we are saved individually through the blood of Jesus Christ, but we are also saved into the body of Christ, that is, the church. There is both an individual and corporate nature to our salvation.
In summary, the Bible speaks to individuals and to groups of people. The Bible is God's word to us and contains instructions and guidance on how to live our lives. All groups are made of individuals, and therefore when the Bible speaks to individuals, it is also speaking to groups of people. Where the Bible spoke to specific individuals, the blessings, instructions and commands that were given are also for us today because the work of Christ continues today.
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*All Scripture references are taken From The English Standard Version of the Holy Bible unless stated otherwise
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