Whether it’s Tim Tebow, Steph Curry, or any other any other outspoken Christian celebrity, so many Christians continue to take verses out of context or insert phrases that sound pleasant into the Bible. This is not to say that dudes like Tebow or Curry are false prophets or phonies or anything like that. In fact, I think both of those dudes follow and represent Jesus well. What I am saying is that even they have been guilty of taking a verse like Philippians 4:13 out of context because of how nice it sounds all by itself. I don’t think I’ll directly address this specific verse in this post, but it’s a miracle no one has tried to fly off any buildings screaming “PHILIPPIANS 4:13!!!!” because of how horribly that verse is taken out of context.
Before I continue with this list-style post (like all the trendy viral blogs do), I’d like to remind you that I have no formal seminary training in apologetics or Christian theology 1, but I would like to equip you with just two basic words that biblical scholars keep in mind when reading the Bible ***GREEK WORDS INCOMING***: exegesis and eisegesis.
Exegesis is reading a passage in its context and then making judgements as to how it should be interpreted.
Eisegesis is reading a passage in order for that passage to support a preconceived interpretation of the passage.2
Still with me? I’m proud of you if so, Greek words are messy business. However, it is absolutely vital that Christians read the Bible exegetically. Here are some of the stories, verses, and phrases that are constantly misconstrued, some of them outright fallacies:
- “Do what you feel most at peace about/Do what you’re passionate about.”
This is a phrase that comes from modern spirituality, and Christians have allowed it to bleed over into their own doctrine. The idea of relativity in terms of discerning how one should act on the will of God is simply inaccurate. God’s will does not change. It’s all expressed in the Bible, and there’s a good chance that if you’re looking for what God’s will for you is outside of the Bible, you’re looking for a fortune teller. In Revelation 2, Jesus says the following to the church in Thyatira:
To you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets, ‘I will not impose any other burden on you, except to hold on to what you have until I come (Revelation 2:24-25).4
Essentially, Jesus selectively reveals wisdom or knowledge of events to us because He’s trying to protect us, not keep us down. He tried to let us have the choice of trusting in His omnipotence versus taking things into our own hands once before, and the first two humans ever selected the latter option. All of this is to say that if you are trusting in God to reveal his will for your life through a feeling, something that constantly changing like our peace and passions, then God’s will shall also fluctuate, which is completely contradictory to the character of God. Brother John Bisagno, the longtime pastor of Houston’s First Baptist, says this in one of his books:
IF a person says to me, “God told me,” I am going to walk away. If they say, “God told me to tell you,” I am going to run. If they say, “I sense the Lord leading me,” I will listen.
This entire line of thinking didn’t even exist until the last 20-30 years. I mean, do you think Paul was “at peace” about allowing the Holy Spirit to lead him to Rome, where he knew he would almost certainly be killed? Yet here he is in 1 Thessalonians 5:
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thes 5:13-15).
2. “Times are tough for you now, but you must have faith like Joseph! God will not forget to reward you.”
Ok, so I’ve never actually heard someone say this EXACT thing. Bear with me here though, because I think that so many of us, myself included, who grew up going to Sunday school were taught the story of Joseph completely improperly. On the surface, Joseph’s story is the perfect story for the American Christian capitalist: a guy receives vision of future success from God, everyone is against him, he faithfully waits for “his time”, and in the end God rewards his faithfulness through worldly prestige and possessions bestowed on him by secular authorities. Don’t get me wrong, God certainly put Joseph in that end situation to save the people of Israel from starvation, but all the stuff in between is not biblical, but all the prestige and possessions are in no way from God. Joseph came from the people of Israel, a people who God made a covenant with, making Joseph a man of the covenant people that was to be set aside from what the world had or did. But instead, as Voddie Baucham says:
Joseph is taken away from his father & the covenant community into a pagan land where he has pagan power (2nd in command of all Egypt), pagan wealth, a pagan identity (given the Egyptian name Zaphenath-Paneah by Pharaoh) , and a pagan wife (Asenath daughter of Potiphera, a pagan priest) and we say “JUST HOLD ON, children, you can have all of that, too.” If that is the way we interpret Genesis 41, why do people get angry if a young man grows up, leaves the church, marries an unbeliever, and gives his entire life to a corporation living to attain material wealth, and completely ignoring the spiritual side of his life? Because if you challenge him on it, all he has to do is go back to what he learned in Sunday school in Genesis 41. He can say, “Why are you angry? Shouldn’t you instead be telling your friends, ‘Look at what happened to my son/my friend because he endured hardship’”?
Still not convinced? Think about how, for some reason, we’ve been told to praise Joseph for all this, yet also told to praise Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah because they REFUSED pagan food, names, power, and gods? Christian, we must understand that the purpose and the reward of our lives are the same exact thing; our purpose is to glorify God & advance His name on Earth, and our reward is that He allowed us to do so! THAT’S IT. That’s it, but it’s more than enough and, quite frankly, more than we deserve (Romans 6:23).
3. “Yeah, I’m a part of a church. I go to _____ on Sundays.”
This is one that really gets me goin’. The type of person I am referring to here is the person who shows up at whatever mass or church it is they choose on Sunday, and that is the extent of his or her relationship with the church. I can condemn this action because I found myself guilty of the same thing for a while, so I’ve been able to “take the plank out of my own eye” by turning over this inequity to the Lord and turn from it. It is imperative to understand that, for the Christian, the church is the ONLY group that matters. School, government, organizations, and jobs are all man-made institutions that get in the way of participation in the body of Christ.
Are we required to work hard in the place he has put you? Of course. Are we required to respect governing authority? Of course. Are we required to provide for our families? Of course. But these truths have been taken too far.
Technically, the bolded statement is not wrong. People who simply show up on Sundays do go to a church on Sunday, but despite what they may think, it does not answer the question. In no way does just showing up make you part of the church! Ephesians 5 is brought up typically when marital roles are discussed, but along with various parts of Revelation, the church is alluded to as the bride of Christ. As Dr. Baucham says:
To say that you love Jesus but don’t love the church is to say that you love me but you don’t like my wife so much. That just ain’t gonna work out.
Just as the wife is an extension of the husband, the church is to be an extension of Christ. Being part of THE church5 means attending, serving, discipling, being discipled, participating in biblical community6, praying communally, worshiping communally, and supporting it financially. And friends, here’s the thing: until you have done all of these things, you CANNOT critique the church like some sort of movie critic. I hear it all the time.
“Yeah I’ve been going to _____ church, but the worship is just alright, the pastor is just kinda ok, and not a bunch of my friends go there, so I think I might go somewhere else.”
You can be offended by this if you’d like, but I am just going to lay down some biblical, expository truth: these issues you have with the church are just as much on YOU as they may or may not be on everyone else. David Platt refers to this as the meChurch versus the weChurch. It is not about you. Your tastes and preferences are irrelevant. Don’t believe me? Here’s some more authoritative support:
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, NOT neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (Hebrews 10:24-25).
The Day is drawing near!!! Stop pretending like you’re going to wake up tomorrow, because you might not (James 4). And that’s not empty rhetoric either. You do not have time to wait around for the church that has just the perfect amount of whatever it is that you think you want in a church. In fact, if that is your approach to finding a church and you actually find that church, I would question the legitimacy of the gospel preached in that church. Don’t believe me there? Check out Amos 5, Malachi 1, and Revelation 1-3.
I hate, I despise your religious festivals;
your assemblies are a stench to me.
Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
I will have no regard for them.
Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream (Amos 5:21-24)!
4. “I think I’ll get married one day, but I want to do X, Y, and Z first.”
Statistically speaking (don’t have a link, but you could find it), the average marriage age is older than it’s ever been in human history. I have a variety of personal theories as to why this is7, but the thing about it is that even Christians are getting married later and later. Now, by no means am I saying that Christians MUST get married earlier or by a certain age, in fact quite the opposite; age (this is super meta, I know, just bear with me) and numbers are identifiers created by humans, so for Christians to use age as an excuse for their decision to not focus on preparing for marriage is simply not biblical. I’m going to draw a line here, and I think there is more than enough biblical support for this line. As someone who identifies with reformed theology the more I read up on it, drawing definitive lines on different issues in the faith is not typical for reformed theology, but I feel it’s necessary:
If and ONLY if you feel the Lord has given you the gift of singleness (1 Corinthians 7:7), then Paul says it is good for you to remain that way, meaning that you should not be pressured or guilted out of your gift. However, since the Bible clearly states that each member of the body is given different spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:4-6), everyone who has not been given the gift of singleness possesses the gift of marriage (and it is a gift, God says man being alone is the first not good thing ever in Genesis 2:188), which means that he/she should spend his/her entire single life serving the Lord AND preparing for marriage9.
I know I talk about Voddie Baucham constantly, but I truly think he lays out biblical manhood and womanhood more effectively and accurately than anyone. Concerning the bolded line above, here’s his view on wanting to do a laundry list of things before considering marriage:
Let me just put it in plain English. What we’re saying to our young men today, when it comes to marriage: Young men, this is the attitude you ought to have toward a woman someday. You walk up to her, you look her in the eye, and say, “I have sucked all of the joy out of life, now I’m ready to give you the leftovers.” That’s what we’re communicating.
If you can’t say “amen” to that, you ought to say “ouch” (another Voddie-ism), because no matter how people want to justify it in their heads, that’s essentially what they’re saying. As Christians, our perspective on marriage cannot be affected by the world’s view of marriage because marriage is a bonding relationship that God created for his covenant people to have since the beginning of time, both with Himself and with his or her spouse. Thus, we cannot expect the world to have any sort of understanding of it because they are not people of the covenant relationship. It’d be like playing a card game with your friends playing basketball, a game with already established rules, and a person who has never played the game or seen its rules telling all your friends that the game should be played with your feet. Sure, his way may work, but the point is that he’s playing an entirely different game altogether. Voddie goes on to explain that our generation is the first generation of which the overwhelming majority views marriage as a “cornerstone rather than a capstone”, meaning that so many see marriage as the thing you do once you’ve done everything else. For the rest of human history, however marriage was done so that you could do everything else.
Does this mean that if you have the gift of marriage, and if you are not preparing for this stage in life, then you are sinning? I’m not quite sure on that one. Christine Caine said at this past Passion conference in Houston that the highest possible title that anyone could possibly receive in this life is a servant of God as seen through the life of King David, who constantly refers to himself as such in Psalms. The second highest title, no matter what the culture may believe about jobs or the insufficiency of marriage, is that of a husband or a wife. That higher position in your organization or job that you’re gunning for is utterly and completely irrelevant in comparison to being called a servant of the Lord and a husband or wife.
Hope some of these things made you think. We must constantly request of God for the revealing of sin in our lives, just as David did in Psalms 139.
Thanks for tuning in.
1I do hope to eventually go to seminary, however. I do think that it would be best if every person received some formal Christian training in seminary, regardless of his or her occupation. Again, 1 Peter 3:15 demands that making an apologia is not for a select few Christians, but rather it is for all Christians.
2N.T. right speaks more extensively and more effectively on this. Be careful listening to ol’ Tommy though, he’ll tie your brain in knots.
3From a non-theistic perspective, I can see how a verse such as this one would seem like a convenient verse for the writer to add in as if to say, “if there’s anything we didn’t cover…uh…well you wouldn’t understand it anyways.” I can understand this feeling, but we are approaching this verse from an expository, Christian perspective, which requires the believer to trust and be satisfied in the fact that Jesus knows best.
4I hope to do a post on biblical manhood in the foreseeable future. There’s too many guys out there that need a solid apologetical kick in the pants to wake up.
5Yes, THE church. I think we need to be much more careful about using the article “a” when referring to church. The church is supposed to be united, but right now it is not. We have divided ourselves based on doctrine, with the most obvious of these divisions being Catholics and Protestants. I have a theory that both Catholics and Protestants in this generation of radical Christians will bring us closer together than we’ve ever been, and it can’t happen soon enough. One thing we’ve lost in this idea of “the” church becoming this “a” church or that “a” church is that really the word “catholic” does NOT refer to a group of people, but literally just means “unity”. Do we meet in different buildings? Yes, and we should because church planting is absolutely vital. Do we sometimes disagree on doctrine? Of course, BUT doctrine disagreement IS NOT a reason to divide the church. That was never Martin Luther’s intent with the Protestant Reformation.
6And no, you hanging out with some of your friends who happen to be Christians is NOT Christian community. Christian community is about teaching, discussing, praying, and actually doing life with one another, growing that community, and finally pointing the new parts of that community back to the church in which the community comes from.
7One of my favorites is the Disney Movie Theory (I capitalize those letters to make it look like it’s a real theory). Quite frankly, love cannot exist outside of Christianity because it has no reference point, but Disney’s movie themes of “one true love” have saturated my generation and my parents’ generation for over 50 years. I haven’t enjoyed a lot of my time as a Communication major, but one thing that is definitely clear is that a good marketing campaign can sway anyone without a strong nose for what propaganda looks like. In the secular humanist’s desperation to define love, which Christians know God has programed in our souls as a reflection of His character, Disney romanticized it and has loaded their wallets because of how effective it’s been. Like I said, just a theory though.
8I think a good argument can be made that Genesis 2:18 is God revealing his plan for Him to live as one with mankind through the Holy Spirit. The whole “Jesus dying for our sins and the Holy Spirit taking things from there” thing wasn’t just some audible (that’s a football term) God called when he saw that the whole mankind thing wasn’t going so well. God knew about Adam’s original sin when God created him, but He always planned to be with us, which is why He said it’s not good for mankind to be alone.
9Those two ways of living should be synonymous. Serving Jesus with your life will prepare you for serving another person.