In my years of enjoying sermons, songs, and theology I have encountered many uses of scripture that have been taken out of context and twisted to mean something else. When something is take out of context the surrounding scriptures are ignored, surrounding stories are not mentioned, history is overlooked, and cross references are conveniently not used.
It’s like renting a movie you’ve never seen and only watching 5 minutes of it in the middle of the movie. You then claim to know the entire plot from just seeing 5 minutes of the movie! This is the leading cause of error in the Church.
“Calls those things which do not exist as though they did” – Romans 4:17
This scripture is used often by followers of the “Word of faith movement” when they instruct believers to speak things in to existence, declare and it will be done for you.
Rom 4:17- (as it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations” ) in the presence of Him whom he believed God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did;
With this scripture you don’t even have to read contextual scriptures to figure it out: it’s speaking about God, not the believer. We as God’s creations have no creative power, only He does. When we are in right relationship with God we can ask things of Him and He may do them but that is not what most Word of Faith or “Name it Claim it” teachings propose. We don’t convince God to follow our will, we follow His will. He originally gave man dominion and stewardship over the Earth but this does not mean that believers can speak money, cars, or health in to being. We put our faith in the Father, not in our faith.
“New Wine in New Wine Skins” – Matthew 9:16-17
This scripture has been used to back “new moves of God” or some new revolutionary thing that God is supposedly doing.
Mat 9:16 – “No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse.
Mat 9:17 – “Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”
However, the message of new wine in old wineskins and new cloth on an old garment signifies the complete newness of the New Covenant. The context reveals Jesus’s reason for why His followers did not need to fast while He was present. Fasting was connected to the law heavily and the pharisees expected Jesus and His followers to follow the Law if He was truly from God. The New Covenant isn’t the Old Covenant plus Jesus and the cross it’s a whole new deal. The Old Testament was completely finished by Christ’s life death and resurrection, not partially finished as some thought who mixed Jesus’s teachings with their Judaism.
So the “new wine” (or the New Covenant) was poured in to the “new wine skin” once and for all time back at the crucifixion, not every time a local church thinks they have something new and fresh from God.
“When you have shut your door, pray to the Father” – Matthew 6:5-6
I actually had this one used against me after sharing the Gospel with a student outside of U.T. in Austin. He said “Jesus said when you pray to go in your closet and close the door and pray to God, your religion is between you and God. It’s not a public thing”.
Mat 6:5 – “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.
Mat 6:6 – “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
This is a good example of a scripture taken out of context because if you only read verse 6 it may seem like a doctrine to only pray in secret, however reading the earlier verses and grasping the entire chapter explains this scripture. Pharisees would apparently pray in public, out loud, for the purpose of being seen by men which Jesus hated because it was religious pride. This is more about human status than praying to God and thus Jesus instructs that it is better to pray in secret. He teaches the concept of how God not only looks at your intentions but it’s what matters the most!
So here we do not see Jesus telling all believers to keep their faith private to themselves, we see a correction to a common problem of the time. My quick response to the man I witnessed to was “Well Jesus also says to go and preach the Gospel to the ends of the Earth, so that’s what I’m doing here today.” I didn’t feel like explaining the context would have been as productive as reminding him of what else Jesus said.
It is clear that to keep the good news of Christ a secret from the world is to do an injustice and is to directly disobey many scriptures. If you are living your life for Christ how can the world not see? It’s who you are thus your faith is a very public thing.
“Judge Not Lest You be Judged” – Matthew 7:1
Mat 7:1 – “Judge not, that you be not judged.
Mat 7:2 – “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.
Ever spoken to someone about their sin and they say something along the lines of “Don’t judge me! Jesus said you can’t judge people, only God can judge”? Jesus goes on to say “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Therefore if you are living in sin you should not call out your brother or sister in Christ for committing the same sin so as to make yourself better than them (Rom 2:1-3). First of all you are not better than them and secondly you are on the same level so how can you lead them when you yourself need to be led to freedom? We need to lovingly correct out fellow believers and even discipline if necessary and if you are a leader. If we were to never correct, discipline, or call a fellow believer out for a sin of theirs how would we ever get anywhere? This is not the model that the Apostles or Jesus laid for a believers conduct. Instead the Apostles and Jesus called people out for their sin when it was necessary. We are instructed in the epistles to do everything in love, not out of pride.
- Telling a friend they need to stop a particular sin is not judging
- Telling religious folk they need to get serious about their relationship with Christ is not judging
- Telling someone they will go to hell because they don’t know Christ is not judging
- Asking someone to discuss a scripture because they are misusing it is not judging
- Saying someone is sinful and needs Christs forgiveness is not judging
Considering these things there are still right and wrong times as well as right and wrong ways to bring these things up. Love for the person and The Spirit of God should guide you in the approach of this issue. If you don’t know whot o bring a tough subject up, pray about it. Noticing someones sin and helping them out of it is different than condemning them (which is commonly referred to simple as “judging”).
“That which is in part is done away with” – 1 Corinthians 13:10
This one is used most often by cessationists or those who believe in cessation which is that the gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased sometime during the 1st century.
1Cor 13:8 – Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.
1Cor 13:9 – For we know in part and we prophesy in part.
1Cor 13:10 – But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
Some believe that the word “perfect” in verse 10 refers to the Bible, so that when it came we no longer needed the supernatural ministries and gifts of the Holy Spirit. The problem with this is that the Canon we have today was not yet compiled at the time of Paul’s authorship of 1 Corinthians which was about 54 A.D. However, other books were not written until after that date such as Revelation, the Epistles, Romans, Luke, the John’s, and many more.
The greatest problem with saying this scripture says that prophecy and tounges have ceased is that they have not ceased, they still happen in verifiable ways – prophecies still happen and are fulfilled, tongues are still interpreted in ways that man could not infringe or fake, God still heals people and all 9 gifts are still operating now.
Others say since the church was established God saw fit that we didn’t need the gifts of the Spirit anymore, this however has no reasoning or explanation, we still need them and they still are a sign to the unbeliever as well as a tool for the believer.
A large problem with believing that this scripture says that the gifts of the Spirit would be withdrawn from man at some time early in the Church age is that no other scripture says anything close to this.
First Corinthians 13 is speaking of love which will never end but the gifts of the spirit will end someday when something perfect comes. What is this perfect thing? It’s Jesus Christ in His second coming. After Jesus comes back we will no longer need the gifts of the Spirit to minister to people as we do in this age.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” – Philippians 4:13
Again, a scripture often used by those of the Word of Faith or “Prosperity Gospel” group. Notice a trend in Western sermons? This scripture is not a blank check from heaven, or a “wishes come true in Jesus” scripture. In the previous verse Paul is says:
Phl 4:11 – Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:
Phl 4:12 – I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
So we see the context which is often ignored is actually teaching that stuff is not what’s important, although Paul did appreciate the help that his audience was perhaps helping him with money offerings (verse 10).
Phl 4:13 – I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Phl 4:14 – Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress.
Paul is the author of this famous scripture that is used to support personal dreams of success and material victory yet he is a failure in the eyes of those same people when considering his amount of suffering, abuse, and hardship.
Despite his struggles and suffering in his ministry He has been strengthened by Christ to do all things no matter his comfort level or quality of living. To bad the West has not had this revelation.
“My God shall supply all my need according to His riches…” – Philippians 4:19
“All my needs” does not include the new Lamborghini, iToy, or Louis Vuitton purse. It may not even include your rent or car payment if you aren’t supporting God’s ministry.
Phl 4:19 – And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Paul makes this beautiful statement to the Philippians and he actually says “all YOUR needs” though people change it to “my” for personal use which is understandable. However, this scripture taken in it’s original meaning was written to those who were funding Paul’s ministry. Paul says it’s not about the offering:
Phl 4:17 – Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.
Verse 19 was a response to the Philippians for their giving which helped Paul’s ministry.
So God provides when you sow into His work. Where your money is reveals where your heart is.
“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” – Matthew 18:20
I hear this scripture thrown out there so many times during group prayer or when a pastor is trying to convince the congregation that a certain prayer will be answered because everyone is praying together. It always seemed strange to me that if 2 or 3 (or more) gather Christ will surely be there but if 1 person prays… mmm not so much. So if we have 300 people will Christ be there more so than 2 or 3? No, this is silliness and is what happens when a scripture is taken out of context. Read the verses before and after it and you will be shocked to find out that this scripture is not about prayer, faith, or God’s presence. It’s about Church discipline! Yep, I know.. shocked.
Mat 18:15 – “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.
Mat 18:16 – “But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.‘
Mat 18:17 – “And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.
Mat 18:18 – “Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
Mat 18:19 – “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.
So what’s being bound? The agreement between the “two or three” that witnessed the person not repenting of their sin. The person is kicked out of the church because of their decision to not change (which would effect the church body negatively). And so the leaders are given authority to kick people out of Church (not God’s kingdom as Catholics believe). If the two who are witnessing the correction of the individual agree with what the main person asks who is disciplining the person, it is done in heaven.
Mat 18:20 – “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”
And this event should be witnessed by multiple people, when they do this Christ is surely there and in agreement with this decision on behalf of the Church authorities.
Mat 18:21 – Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”
This passage is further proved to be about forgiveness and Church discipline because Peter goes on asking about forgiveness perhaps thinking “what if this person then repents and comes back, but sins again, how many times should he be allowed to do this?”