(April 26, 2020) Dr Jim McClure, straight shooting theologian, shares a warning…
I have been reflecting in recent days on the worldwide distress being caused by the Coronavirus (Covid-19), I’ve read so many articles and watched so many YouTube videos in which some preachers have strongly stated that God has clearly promised protection for his people in the midst of plagues and diseases.
Christians should not be concerned or stressed by current events because we live in the assurances of God’s promises found in various verses in the Bible – particularly Psalm 91 which is frequently mishandled – but it is crucially important to understand what those verses are actually promising! (See my March article Link: Is Divine Protection Guaranteed?)
I have watched well-known preachers on video as, with great passion and animation, they loudly remind the virus that it has no claim over Christians. And yet a large number of Christians worldwide have been victims of the pandemic and many have died – including many who had boldly declared that such a thing could not happen to God’s people!
There is a dissonance between the declaration that God will save his people from plaques and illnesses and the reality of what is actually happening in the world.
This links with two important questions – Can we trust the Bible? Can we truly believe the promises God makes in his word?
So what are we to believe?
My answer is that…
- Yes! We can firmly believe the promises God gives us in the Bible.
- But… we must not confuse those promises with what we mistakenly think the Bible says either because we have misunderstood the words or because we have read them out of context.
- This is a common mistake many people make and it’s a serious one. To merely use the argument that ‘This is what the Bible says’ does not therefore settle the matter.
Let me give you an example…
‘Push off.’ Most people would say that it would be incredibly rude to tell someone to ‘push off’ – yet one day Jesus told Peter to do precisely that! But does that fact therefore give us a right to give that directive to others?
It may appear so until we look at what the statement was in the context in which it was given. In Luke 5:3GNB we read, ‘Jesus got into one of the boats – it belonged to Simon – and asked him to push off a little from the shore. Jesus sat in the boat and taught the crowd.’
Did Jesus tell Peter to ‘push off’? Yes… but the context shows that they were in a boat and Jesus asked Peter to ‘to push off a little from the shore.’
Knowing the context of Jesus’ apparently rude comment to Peter makes perfect sense of the request. Likewise the ‘promises’ God makes in his word must be read and understood in the context of the passage in which they are found.
Sloppy contextualisation and bad exegesis (interpretive methods) leads to misunderstanding at best and heresy at worst!
Sadly there are some people who take the act of misrepresenting the Bible a step further by deliberately manipulating the text to make it say what they want it to say! Let me give you a current example of this…
Recently a popular Singaporean preacher distorted a text to make it say what he wanted it to say by elevating his ideas above the actual truth of the scriptures.
In a recent sermon he maintained that Proverbs 18:14 was a prophetic statement regarding the present coronavirus pandemic!
Now Proverbs 18:14 says, ‘A man’s spirit sustains him in sickness… ’ but with fanciful imagination the preacher claimed that this is really saying, ‘The spirit of a man will protect him from corona!’ He came to this conclusion in the following way. He –
(i) Stated that the Hebrew word for ‘sustains’ is kul which he wrongly claims means ‘protect.’
(ii) Quoted a 2nd century translator who, in writing out Proverbs 18:14 replaced the original Hebrew word for ‘sickness’ – machaleh – with another Hebrew word, qaran, which means ‘radiant’ and was used to described the glow on Moses’ face after he had met God on Mount Sinai.
(iii) Replaced the Hebrew word garan with the Latin word ‘corona’ (which means ‘crown’) on the basis that the two words sound a little similar!
(iv) Then stated, ‘I believe that this one is accurate.’
Please note that he is setting his own bizarre translation and interpretation above the actual original Hebrew scripture.
Such exegetical (interpretive) contortions in order to make the scriptures justify an outrageous theory are thoroughly reprehensible! Yet sadly there are many who embrace such fanciful ideas because an admired preacher said that it was true!
- In these days there are many Christians who have been misled by teaching that has wrongly interpreted the Bible.
- Some of those, who have sincerely propagated those mistakes regarding God’s promises concerning sickness (including protection and healing), have done so because they are unaware that they have misunderstood the context of the verses they quote.
- However, there are also preachers, many of whom have a high profile, who propagate heresies and deviant teachings and mislead those who unreservedly trust them.
Paul’s unflattering ‘pack animals’ warnings
The church has always had to contend with those sowers of fabricated teaching. It is interesting to note how often in his letters Paul warns the Christians in the early church about false preachers, indeed, in Philippians 3:2 he described them unflatteringly as ‘dogs.’
In those days dogs were not seen as family pets but as pack animals that were constantly on the lookout for prey. We really must hear and heed the warning Paul was giving to the church in his day – a warning that is still so very relevant to the contemporary church!
Paul’s advice to Timothy holds good for every Christian preacher and teacher today, ‘Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth’ (2 Timothy 2:15).
Concerning his own approach Paul stated in 2 Corinthians 4:2, ‘We have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.’ And in 2 Corinthians 2:17 he wrote contrasting his own approach to sharing God’s word, ‘Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit.’
God’s does not promise us protection from plague, persecution or poverty in this life! But he does promise to be with us if and when such times come to us!
Paul’s advice in troubling times
- ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:6-7).
- ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows’ (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).
- ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 8:35-38).
What wonderful promises from God’s Word. Can God be trusted? Emphatically Yes! ‘Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him’ declared the prophet (Jeremiah 17:7).
But… that other pertinent question: ‘Can God trust us?’ Can he trust us to –
- Correctly handle his word
- Understand his word
- Share his word and
- Live according to his word?’
May it be that God can so trust us!
With that hope in mind, I again emphasise that Jeremiah scripture above – ‘Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.’ But… in these days of worldwide pandemic distress and dubious interpretations, I also warn again…
Dr Jim McClure, author of several books such as the enlightening Grace Revisited and Bible study series, welcomes questions from Christians seeking enlightenment on biblical perspectives. Grace Revisited is highly recommended – as are The Masonic Deception, Looking for Answers in a Confusing World, Overview of the Old and New Testaments, Love, Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage, Word of Life in the Old and New Testaments and Interpreting the Letter of James. All are available in electronic version in EPUB, Kindle and PDF formats with hyperlinks and offered free. Link for orders and questions: firstname.lastname@example.org