WARNING: ‘A TEXT OUT OF CONTEXT IS A PRETEXT!’

(June 16, 2021) Robert McQuillan reflects on the above…

Personally, I will never forget these words of wisdom above, made decades ago by an outstanding pioneer of Pentecostal truths. There’s always something that sticks in one’s mind when a great preacher declares something profound, and this certainly did… has, and always will!

Now, it’s a warning that has been highlighted in different ways by others over the years, but at the time it linked perfectly with scriptures the Holy Spirit had burned into my heart three years previous when out-of-the-blue he had spoken to my spirit.

I well recall that wintery night when he stunned me by saying clearly that he would use me to teach God’s word simply but in-depth, challenging Christians and leaders to understand what scripture is really saying, not what they think or suppose, or declaring as being ‘the latest thing in God.’

Dangerous spiritual junk food
The Holy Spirit strongly impressed on me to deeply study the Timothy epistles, to wholeheartedly devour Paul’s warnings about end time lack of hunger for truth in some Christians.

Influencing me about a coming lack of desire for God’s word, a careless Christianity,he burned 1 Timothy 4.7Message into my heart: ‘Stay clear of silly stories that get dressed up as religion.’

Then, especially 2 Timothy 4:3-4, ‘You’re going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching but will fill up on spiritual junk food – catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They’ll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages.’

Sadly over the years some Christians have done just that – ran after ‘the latest thing’ and in many cases have been deceived because they themselves haven’t taken time to read and study the word of God. Falling for weird so-called doctrines, they haven’t sought a sound Bible-based shepherd’s guidance and have become entangled in wackiness. Unfortunately, many end up totally confused and losing a grip on their faith.

‘Eisegesis’ deception
Regarding scriptures taken out of context, Dr Jim McClure warned about this years ago. In a nutshell, he pointed out that ‘Such false teaching is a result of “eisegesis”, that is, reading one’s own ideas into the biblical text, rather than exegesis, that is, understanding what the text actually says!’ (See his current article on this subject, link below).

Exegesis means seeking the correct explanation of scripture. Really understanding doctrine, linking and balancing relevant passages and verses before trying to expound that subject, is to be taken seriously by anyone desiring to teach the word of God!

I recall in Bible college days, we were often reminded that ‘historical background and context checking’ ie ‘What did the scripture mean back then, what does it mean today, and what will it possibly mean in the future?’ was important too!

But I don’t want to get too involved here, instead keeping this perspective easily grasped.  No wonder James warns in James 3:1, ‘Not many of you should presume to be teachers… because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.’

Over the years – and even recently – some Christians have unfortunately been grievously deceived and wandered away from biblical truth through erroneous grace teaching. We pray that some friend, soundly balanced in the word, will come alongside and patiently help them back to reality and that they’ll find a church with a quality teaching ministry.

Recent concerns
Recently I’ve been approached me by some concerned Bible-reading Christians who have sensed that what they were being taught from the pulpit didn’t ring quite true, that they felt was scripture was being taken out of context.

For example, that old chestnut, that misused ‘hammered home’ interpretation of Malachi 3 that we must tithe to our local church (or a particular denomination) or else God won’t be pleased!

Yes, we should willingly contribute to God’s church and/or kingdom genuine ministries as we’re led and are able… but not because we’re being pressurised by any pastor or pastoral team member. God isn’t going to blast us if we don’t or can’t!

Maureen and I both wrote about this in April’s Questions 1 and 2. Then Maureen was asked similar questions about that other chestnut – ‘God must do as he’s promised’ misuse of 1 Peter 2:24 last month and responded in Questions 2.

What’s causing some people to be upset is repeatedly hearing scriptures quoted in a way that sounds like we can demand that ‘God do it (whatever) because your word says…’ (some scripture is then quoted, or shall we say misquoted).

Of course God is love and loves his born-again children… but we mustn’t treat him as some kind of slot, pinball or casino machine! After all, he’s Almighty God the great superior one and we, although saved and his children, are so inferior! No right to demand… but, hallelujah, the right to ask through the great gift of prayer! (And patiently await his answer, in his timing).

Blessings… and cursings
Another somewhat off-key matter I’ve been hearing about is constant preaching about ‘blessings’ only, yet another God must do as he’s declared in scripture.

This one is to do with the Deuteronomy 28 blessings promised to the Hebrews released from slavery in Egypt. I’m told the first 13 verses are being ‘hammered’ as for us saved by grace Gentiles and can be demanded. But the prerequisite to obey, strongly mentionedin the rest of the chapter and dealing with ‘the curses for not obeying God’ isn’t highlighted!

In reality these other verses about disobeying God yet still expecting ongoing blessings are not to be taken lightly. Reverend Matthew Henry has wisely commentated that although it is God’s delight to bless, both the promises and the threatenings are designed to bring and hold us to our duty.’

He writes ‘We have here the conditions on which the blessing are promised… that they diligently hearken to the voice of God (Deuteronomy28:1-2). He then talks about the need to know and observe God’s ways and conditions and to observe and walk in them… always.

Turning a ‘blind eye’
Of course (some) preachers know that we humans don’t want to learn that our great God of love has some conditions! Hence, they only talk about blessings and omit what could happen if we neglect obeying God’s commands!

In the simplest of terms, ‘our duty’ is to obey our heavenly Father (the supreme one) and he will look after us, giving us (the inferior ones) many promised blessings. In all this, it’s good to know that our loving Father knows we will make mistakes, yet he will still love us and care for us.

I find today’s scripture reading relevant and precious… ‘Keep the Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful’ (Joshua 1:8).

As converted Gentiles we too must be obedient to God’s laws. Israel (the Hebrews) failed again and again with this important demand, as even a cursory reading of Judges, Chronicles and the prophets’ books as well as other biblical historical books tell.

Paul writes about obedience, for example in Romans 1:8NLT he tells that he’s been called to tell ‘Gentiles everywhere what God has done for them, so that they will believe and obey him, bringing glory to his name.’ The word obey is hupakoe comes from a source that indicates not just hearing but attentive hearkening and submission!

Paul also uses this word in 2 Corinthians 10:5, ‘…we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.’

Jesus himself ordered obedience if we really love him! In John 14:15, we read ‘If you love me, obey my commandments.’ The Greek word here is tereo… ‘to keep an eye on’ (Not turn a blind eye!). Then he goes on to say that he will pray for certain blessings to be ours as we pursue kingdom matters. Verse 21Message is notable: ‘The person who knows my commandments and keeps them, that’s who loves me.’

Do a quick Google check… you’ll find so many, many scriptures plainly saying that we must obey God (just as you’ll find many telling us he so loves us!). in short there’s got to be a balance in this… yes, God loves us, but he expects us to obey his laws. Honouring our parents includes honouring our heavenly Father!

Sad results
The sad thing is this… because of wrong teaching and a lack of biblical knowledge among Christians, Satan, that old wolf in sheep’s clothing is able to sneak in with destructive corrupted ‘doctrine’ and bamboozle uninitiated churchgoers.

A few years ago an erroneous ‘blessing’ teaching going around stupidly stated that once you accept Christ as Saviour you are so under God’s grace you are free to do whatever you want and never have to repent again!

Some naive Christians foolishly embraced this false teaching. They were even told it’s all right to be worldly, have extramarital relationships, smoke, booze and just enjoy life to the full. And ‘Don’t worry – you’re under grace. You don’t have to ever apologise to God or ever repent again. God will overlook everything because you’re under grace.’ More like being under a spell!

Without God’s grace we would really be lost, not blessed! We’d be condemned by God virtually every day because of wrong thoughts that slip in never mind wrong actions and words spoken in haste, as even the noblest but most honest leader will admit.

Again the warning title of this article…Dictionaries inform us that a pretext is an excuse to do something or say something that is not accurate. May we never make excuses and dishonour God’s holy word and take texts out of context… causing mockery of our Lord!   

Remember…

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Dr Robert and Maureen McQuillan’s links are
OnlinerConnect@gmail.com and Facebook (Scriptures mainly NIV/all emphases in this Onliner ours. Appreciated images/pics: various general sources). Link: Dr Jim McClure’s Blue and Black or Gold and White
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3 comments

  1. Good morning Robert. Thank you so much for a very timely article, so desperately needed for the times we’re living in. My prayer is for all the Christian parents who are going to read and dwell on this article that you’ve so prayerfully and thoughtfully prepared. They and their children are becoming increasingly ‘bombarded’ with state sponsored garbage on such issues as ‘gender engineering’ and the like, which quite frankly originated straight out of the pit! These parents and their children don’t need a ‘divine sugar daddy’, they need to be encouraged that there is a full and COMPLETE LIFESTYLE to be found in God’s Word! That there are both blessings for obedience and consequences for disobedience. Robert, you have successfully pinpointed many of these issues in this article, and hopefully whetted many appetites for all the successive articles that you’ve got in ‘the pipeline.’
    May the presence of our mighty Holy Spirit be with Maureen and yourself, as your ‘itchy fingers’ continue to reach for the keyboard!

  2. I have been reminded recently, Robert, of what you share here, about the importance of Holy Spirit ministry of God’s word — not that which comes only from being informed by the speaking and writings of others, but breathed by the Spirit to and through the speaker.

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