For those of us who are at times tempted to focus too much attention on the Bible, or to believe that it contains all the answers and solutions to all problems, this verse is a helpful reminder that an author of a letter that is now part of Scripture thought some things were better said face to face – that there were things that could not be accomplished as well or as effectively or simply as joyfully through written words as through personal interaction. (McGrath)
Sometimes the Bible says what people think it does. Often it does not. Sometimes it presents multiple perspectives on the same issue. And on some issues it says nothing at all. The Bible is frequently mistranslated, misquoted and misunderstood. Why? For one thing, people usually read it in translations, and without knowledge of its original literary or historical context. And they rarely read it in its entirety, so they end up pulling out small pieces: quotations and passages that seem to say what they want them to. Sometimes they are well-meaning. Sometimes their motives are not so pure.
But this does not mean that we can’t use the Bible. It doesn’t mean that we can’t find what it has to say about the big issues. The Bible’s value, above all, is as a guide to lives. And we mean to all of our lives, whether one is religious or not, whether one is Christian, Jewish, or from another religion or no religion. Some people think of fundamentalist Christians and Orthodox Jews as the ones who connect their decisions to the words of the Bible. But that is not correct. One finds scholars, clergy and just folks, from all across the religious spectrum, who read, study and care about what the Bible says on things that matter to them. And one finds many who have never read or studied the Bible who still share a cultural sense of its importance as a foundation for morality and virtue. (Friedman)