Monday, 1 June 2015

The Most Misused Verses in the Bible

I have been following Gospel eBooks on twitter for sometime because I am cheap and on occasions they link to free kindle books. I have to admit, since the amazon kindle store has been released in Australia, their free deals are getting few and far between. Anyway, this book came down in a free deal awhile ago, and I though it was worth adding to my kindle library which is made up of other "interesting" free book (you get what you pay for I guess).

If you have been in Christian circles for any amount of time, you surly have heard some phrases that sound good and warm and fuzzy (and are even Biblical), but in the context it was given you might be left scratching your head. I bet you could probably list about five or so of these on the spot right now... You could also scroll through some "Christian merchandise" to see what they have printed on to see what I mean.

This book has a chapter on 17 verses that have been misused. This may sound heavy, but all the chapters are quite short and they tell a story about the author and how he first heard, or use these verses before really knowing what they meant. The author then explains the context of the verse and possible application.

While the cover shows that this author has a PhD, I'm not sure that is needed as it is written in simple non-technical language (nothing about cases and root word stems in Greek or Hebrew or over technical historical details). Also pretty much most of the misunderstanding of these verses are resolved by just reading the context, which the author points out. This is a good simple lesson to know: if you want to know what a verse means, read the bits around it as well to get a fuller picture. We do this with other texts, why not do it with the Bible?

Mostly for my own reference, below are the verses dealt with in this book with my quick comments about each one (some points are my own and not exactly from the book). For more detail you will have to read the book (and I don't think you can share kindle books with other people, sorry).

"Do not judge, or you too will be judge" (Matthew 7:1)
Sorry but this is not a wide sweeping statement about judging, it is in the context of not being a hypocrite. Read the next few verses. Besides, Jesus judge the Pharisees and Scribes all the time, and Paul told the Corinthian church to judge the people in the Church (1 Cor 5:12-13), that they will judge the world and angels (1 Cor 6:2-3) and to judge for themselves what he says (1 Cor 10:15).

"Plans to prosper you and not to harm you" (Jeremiah 29:11-13)
This was not aimed at us for the hear and now. This was for Israel (well really Judah) just before their Babylonian Captivity. It was a hopeful message, that although they are going to be conquered by their enemies for 70 years, God has not forgotten them. This has nothing to do with immediate prosperity for us today, but maybe of our heavenly hope in the future.

"Where two or more are gathered" (Matthew 18:20)
This is not for some self justification for prayer meetings that are lacking in attendance, but about how God will enforce the decisions of Church disciple; assuming they are following the instructions in Matthew 18 about pursing reconciliation and forgiveness with an unrepentant church member.

"Ask for anything in my name" (John 14:13-14)
Sorry but this is not a blank check, if it was, then why aren't Christians rich, living in big houses and having great overseas holidays if they know what the secret method to get "anything" they wanted from God? The phrase "in my name" isn't just some magic words, it means more to do with what aligns with Jesus' being, his character or in a manner consistent with Him. This ties in with John 14:12 (the previous verse) about the "greater works" (conversion of Jews and Gentiles) they will do. This will be done by the power of prayer.

"All things work together for good" (Romans 8:28)
Before you buy the mug or the plaque and expect that you will never loose your job, or get divorced, or be hit by a car, it might be best to work out what the "good" or ultimate goal this verses it talking about. This promise if for believers and that they will "be conformed to the image of his Son" (the very next verse, Rom 8:29). Being made like Christ will mean our pride, lust, gluttony, self-comfort etc will have to be dealt with, some may not like that. There could even be other terrible events in your life that may mean other see your faith in the face of it and believe Jesus is Lord, or those terrible events may bring you back to God.

"If my people who are called by my name...I will hear [them]" (2 Chronicles 7:14)
This is given specifically to Solomon about his people, not us. It is in relation to God holding back rain and sending plagues due to their sins (the previous verse, 2 Chr 7:13). If Israel repents, God will forgive them and heal the land (make it rain, get rid of the plague). Lets not hijack this verse for physical healing when it is about "healing" the land.

"[Jesus is] the firstborn over all creation" (Colossians 1:15)
Sorry Jehovah’s Witnesses, this doesn't mean Jesus was created because He is "firstborn". "Firstborn" here is more about position or rank ("first") or prominence rather than somehow being "born" (see Ps 89:27, Ex 4:22). This idea goes against the very next verses where is says that Jesus actually made all of creation. Jesus is not part of creation, but is creator. JW's don't like this idea, and have even change their own translation because they can't handle it.

"Money is the root of all evil" (1 Timothy 6:10)
Sorry, the text doesn't say this, it actually says "the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils." The Internet is the root of all kinds of evils. But it also can be used for good. Same with money. The point of the text is the love of money, not money per se, is a bad thing (like all other idols).

"[You will be given] no more than you can handle" (1 Corinthians 10:13)
God will give you more than you can handle (see Paul in 2 Cor 1:9) so you can rely on Him. This verse is not talking about hardship in general, but temptation in particular, the verse actually says it.

"Train up a child in the way...[and they] will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6)
You need to remember that this is a proverb, a truism, some good advice or a general rule. This is not a rock solid guarantee or promise, but a general principal. If this verse was a guarantee then I am sure by now there would be a method or curriculum for us to know the exact things to say and do to train a child and so they will automatically grown up to be a Christian, regardless of the child's own free will.

"I can do all things" (Philippians 4:13)
Sorry, you can't fly or be immortal in this life, nor can you make a circle with four sides. Closer to home it means you may not win every sporting event, business deal or buy that nice house. Paul (who is the "I" in this verse) is talking about the gift of contentment in all things, see the three verses before this one (Phil 4:10-12). Paul is saying that he has learned to be content in all things, having faith in God's sovereign control in the face of situations that doesn't look like God is actually sovereign to us.

"An eye for an eye" (Exodus 21:23-25)
This is a saying that the punishment needs to fit the crime. Lets not over punish someone for a minor offence, nor should we under punish someone for a great offence this is a principal of retributive justice. This law was given to Moses for the nation of Israel, this is not about people being justified for personal vengeance. Jesus comes later and corrects people's personal misuse of this verse in Matthew 5:38-42, telling people to not retaliate and instead to still respond in kindness and leave the punishment to the courts (Romans 12:14-13:7). 

"The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well" (James 5:15)
We had a guy in our Bible study who died of cancer last year. We prayed that he would get well, and he didn't, we also were studying James at the time. Did our group not have any faith because our friend died? Paul must not have enough faith to have removed that thorn in his flesh in 2 Cor 12. The verse in question actually says that "the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven." (Jam 5:15). In this verse we need to work out what "saved" and being raised up means. It is quite possible James is talking about spiritual salvation and being spiritually raised up because he is also talking about sinning, forgiving and confession to each other to be healed (Jam 5:15-16), which have nothing to do with physical alignments.

"Repent and be baptized...for the forgiveness of sins" (Acts 2:28)
While baptisms is mentioned, it doesn't mean that you have to necessary be baptized to be saved. To add a second step to salvation, done by you, is discrediting the work of salvation done by God. We are saved by faith alone (Joh 1:12; Gal 2:16; Eph 2 8-9; Phil 3:9). Take the thief on the cross, or converts in drought stricken areas, or ones in the Middle East where it is a death penalty to publicly disclose your conversion or people who convert in hospitals before they die; they are all saved if they repent. Baptism is a sign of their repentance, its an outward sign of something internally. It's not a condition of salvation, but a sign of it, see later on in Acts for this (Acts 10:47-48)

"Guarding your heart" (Proverbs 4:23)
Does this proverb means we shouldn't let anyone get close to us, we shouldn't "let people in", or that we should "hold our cards close to our chest"? No. This verse is about protecting your heart (which in Jewish thought means your mind, emotions and will), not from people, but from sin or unhealthy influences. This is not about hiding your feelings from people or avoiding that nice neighbor who is really asking how your week was.

"Where there is no vision, the people perish" (Proverbs 29:18)
This is the KJV translation which uses archaic language. The ESV renders the whole verse: "Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law." This is not a rebuke to our modern day leaders and churches who do not have a well defined vision statement, or that you should have plan for the future (or that you should ware glasses). These may be good things, but this verses doesn't say that. This instead is saying that without God's revelation our moral compasses may go off track (this is a proverb, so I say "may", not that "it will").

"Lifting up the name of Jesus" (John 12:32)
"Lifting up" may mean giving glory to Jesus' name, but this is not the verse for it. In this verse Jesus is talking about His death (this is explicitly stated in the very next verse John 12:33!). This is about how His body will physically be lifted up and crucified. Not really what a music leader at church may have in mind when encouraging the congregation to be "lifting Jesus up"!


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