The words “sum” and “some” are homophones; i.e. words that sound the same but do not have the same spelling or definition. “Sum” is a noun used in mathematics to mean the answer to an addition problem; it denotes the totality of a set. “Some” is an adjective used to describe a portion of a set. Using the number sentence of 2 + 2 = 4 to illustrate, we can say that 4 is the sum of 2 plus 2 and that 2 is some of 4.
The importance of understanding the difference between these two homophones cannot be overemphasized, because it is essential to the proper understanding and application of God’s word and to the determination of one’s eternal state. The Psalmist wrote: “The sum of Thy word is truth” (Psalm 119:160 NASV). He did not write: “Some of Thy word is truth”; he wrote that the sum is.
Because the sum (not some) of God’s word is truth, no human guess work is even needed to determine what parts of God’s word are accurate and therefore must be believed. In other words, God’s word is not like harvesting wheat wherein a reader has to separate the grains of truth from the chaff of error. “All (i.e. the sum, not some) Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2nd Timothy 3:16); therefore, we must think and act accordingly.
In the New Testament, Jesus Himself authoritatively declared that man is to live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4). As our example of what is expected, Jesus lived by every jot (the smallest Hebrew letter) and tittle (the smallest portion of a Hebrew letter) of God’s Word (Matthew 5:18). In other words, He lived by the sum of God’s word, not some of it.
In like manner, Jesus expects His disciples to be taught to observe all things that He has commanded (Matthew 28:20). Like the word “every”, the word “all” does not mean some; it means the sum.
Because the sum (not some) of God’s word is truth, focusing on the teaching in one New Testament passage to the disregard of the teaching of another New Testament passage—like the devil did when tempting Christ in Matthew 4:5-7—is wrong. To be saved from sin, for example, the Bible teaches that the following things are necessary: God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8), Christ’s atonement (Romans 3:24-27), humanity’s response of faith (Acts 16:31), repentance (Luke 13: 3, 5), confession of faith (Romans 10:10), immersion for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21), and faithful obedience to Christ (Revelation 2:10). Tragically, there are many today who only tell people some, but not the sum, of what God says concerning the gospel’s glorious plan of salvation.
Phonetically-speaking, sum and some are the same. Spiritually-speaking, there is a fundamental and eternally significant difference between them.
Are you giving heed to some of God’s word or to its sum?