(June 18, 2018) Stuart Reynolds challenges all Christians – preachers, church leaders and church attenders…
Here’s a sign giving good advice re punctuation – and a grammatical warning!
Contextually misused scripture misquotes
If misused punctuation can cause misunderstanding and trouble, so can misused context… particularly in respect of reading and quoting Bible verses out of context!
Here’s an example. You can read in the Bible that ‘There is no God.’ However, when read in context, here’s what the Bible actually says: ‘The fool says in his heart, “There is no God”’ (Psalm 14:1).
In being prepared for ministry, it is rightly and repeatedly hammered home to prospective preachers – and needs to still be remembered by those more experienced – ‘a text without a context is a pretext!’
It is context that sets boundary, direction, even definition to a word, phrase or statement. Context is the vital link to confirmed truth and the disastrous missing link – singular – to heresy. How the West was Won is an epic tale, but ‘How the Text was Conned’ is a tragedy.
The church – pillar of truth!
From politics to the news and advertising media we are a generation of the:
- ‘sound bite’
- ‘tag line’
- ‘attention grabber.’
Such is now to be expected from the world around us… but in the church? The church is, among other things, what the apostle Paul describes as being ‘the pillar and foundation of the truth’? (1 Timothy 3:15).
Time and again my heart sinks when I hear a preacher say in reference to the Bible-based sermon at hand, ‘To save time we’ll not read the whole passage.’ Or ‘Now we don’t have time to read the entire chapter we’re going to study, so I’ll just paraphrase it.’
I encourage all preachers: Make time for the public and full reading of the scriptures relating to your message/study. Is it not more important that the Bible be allowed to speak for itself even more so than our speaking of/for it? The Bible is its own context and thus will never contradict or confuse, but when given room to speak and be heard, will never lead to error.
I would urge readers… preachers or not, to consider and reflect on…
1) Was the text not conned when theology was doctored?
What I mean is the amount of popular scripture verses, even popularised biblical promises, appearing below calendars, on mugs and key-chains, and endlessly quoted, which are, in truth, misquoted because they are claimed without condition or explanation, that is, with no context. Some examples:
a) ‘Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart’ (Psalm 37:4). While this verse is quoted in full, many misapply it as a blank cheque for God to give whatever is ‘desired.’
That is not the promise here. That which we ‘desire’ is surely that which we ‘delight’ in. This is not an unconditional promise that God will give us everything and anything we ‘desire,’ but that when he is our ‘delight’ our ‘desire’ for him will be more than satisfied, in the giving to us, not of stuff, but of God himself.
b) ‘I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…’ (Philippians 3:10). How many quote and want the first part: ‘knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection…’ but not the latter part of: ‘the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…’?
However, the Greek construction of this verse presents the whole verse as a complete whole, the one idea, unable to be separated. Good Bible teaching needs to bring out this and other like truths plainly, practically and fully.
c) ‘For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’ (Jeremiah 29:11).
In my experience, this is the biggest victim of abuse, where this one verse – with no context – is frequently, readily and easily offered to any and all, no matter the condition of soul, as God’s promise for every one in every situation.
Jeremiah 29:11 not only needs to be taken in the wider context of a historical letter to Jews in exile, but also in the immediate context of the verses which follow: ‘Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you…’ (Jeremiah 29:12-14a).
In proper context the baseless presumption of many is removed and with it the disappointment of unfulfilled and disappointed expectation, not to mention putting words into God’s mouth in a way he never spoke them. Which brings us on to….
2) Was the text not conned when heresy was dignified?
The kings and queens of the pretext – which results from a text with no context – have to be the false faith teachers who are often accepted by the mainstream church. Have you noticed they never preach systematically – in verse by verse exegesis and exposition – through a passage, but lead you on a quick-fire, bewildering, dizzying jump around the scriptures from one isolated out of context verse to another.
Yet, far from being confronted and rejected until they will be corrected, their ‘hired-hand’ bungling of the Bible is quietly ignored! Christian book stores prominently place and sell their resources, Christian radio and television broadcast and award their programs, and sound Bible teachers guest and genuflect on their ministry networks, thus bringing to these ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’ an identity, dignity, validity and legitimacy they do not deserve but should be denied.
Warning and wake-up call
This needs to serve as a warning and wake-up to us all. Sound biblical truth and its trusted teachers should not only be measured by what is said and what is not said, but also, and just as crucially, by what and who is endorsed, sponsored and partnered with.
‘There are a lot of smooth-talking charlatans loose in the world who refuse to believe that Jesus Christ was truly human, a flesh-and-blood human being. Give them their true title: Deceiver!
And be very careful around them so you don’t lose out on what we’ve worked so diligently in together; I want you to get every reward you have coming to you.
Anyone who gets so ‘progressive in his thinking’ that he walks out on the teachings of Christ, walks out on God. But whoever stays with his teachings remains faithful to both the Father and the Son.
If anyone shows up who doesn’t hold to this, don’t invite him in and give him the run of the place. That would just give him a platform to perpetuate his wrong ways, making you his partner’ (2 John 7-11).
Selah! (Eg: Pause and calmly think about these things).
Stuart Reynolds, Ears 2 Hear Ministries, is an itinerant preacher, teacher in evangelism and revivalism in the UK and USA. UK links: email@example.com / mobile +44 (0) 7816 853 551 / http://sdhareynolds.wixsite.com/earstohearministries.