PROOF TEXTING


Pretzel

Twisting is totally OK for pretzels. Twisting God’s word is totally unacceptable.

I want to introduce what may be  new phrase to you:  ‘proof texting’. Though the phrase may be new to you, the concept isn’t a new one, it’s been around forever. ‘Proof texting’ is when a preacher wants to prove his point using the bible. So he searches scripture and finds one that he feels can be used regardless of the context or topic, the Holy Spirit originally intended. I always called this ‘scripture twisting’.

The danger in ‘proof texting’ of course is that rather than presenting the Word in the way God intended, the preacher presents his own ideas instead of God’s truth.  Rather than ‘rightly dividing the word’, he makes the scripture say what he wants it to.

The Bible is God’s Word and you need to approach the study of it seriously and prayerfully. You need to ask for and rely on the Holy Spirit’s help and guidance. When you study the Bible you should consider several things:

  1. When was the passage written?
  2. Who was it written to?
  3. Where was it written?
  4. How has it been historically understood?
  5. Why was it written?

When was the passage written? This is important because you need to understand the historical context to comprehend what God was speaking to his people at that time.

For example; in Jeremiah 25 the captives of Judah in Babylon are told that their captivity will last seventy years. This was written 70 years before Babylon was overthrown by the Medes & Persians and Israel returned to Judea from their captivity.

Who was it written to? Is this a specific word to a specific people at a specific time? Or is it a timeless truth that applies to all of God’s people throughout the ages?

For example: in Exodus 25, Moses gets instructions from God about building a tabernacle. Obviously we are not being instructed to do that today. This is a specific word for a specific time. In John 3:16, Jesus says (ESV): “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life..” This is a timeless truth.

Where was it written? Was the author writing in Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek? What concept did they intend to convey? How did their native culture & language influence what they wrote?

For example Paul in his letter to Titus quotes the Greek philosopher Epimenides:  ”One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.”. Here you see Paul, in the Holy Spirit, using a cultural reference Titus would understand.

How has it been historically understood? Often modern preachers and authors in seeking to discover ‘new revelation’ have seriously erred by ignoring what the word itself says as well as what the Church has historically believed and taught.

For example: Consider Job, in Job 1:1 he’s described as ‘blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.’ James 5:11 referred to him as blessed and steadfast and uses his story as an example of God’s mercy. Down through the ages this story is used to encourage people who were going through tough times to persevere and keep their faith and hope fixed on God for the final victory. But to some today, Job is a fool. An ‘unbelieving’ believer who needlessly suffered calamity just because he wouldn’t watch his mouth and trust in God. Taking Job 3:25 out of context, ‘ For the thing that I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me’.  They ignore what God Himself had to say, and in the process blaspheme God, calling Him a liar. Ignoring that God never once blames Job for his supposed ‘negative confession’. Instead these scripture twisters join the chorus of Jobs false-friends who slandered and accused him assigning  sin and blame to Job. God rebuked them then, and will also eventually rebuke the scripture twisters of today. Their god is too small and bears no resemblance to the One True God. Seeking to establish control over their lives by manipulating what happens in their lives with their words, they replace the sovereignty of God Almighty for the pitifully inadequate sovereignty of self.

Why was it written? What divine purpose did God intend? What truth is God seeking to convey? What is the theme of the book?

For example: 3 John 1:2 has been wrongfully used to teach people that God wants them to be both healthy and wealthy. KJV: ‘Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth’.

But when you read in a modern translation like the ESV: ‘Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.’. It becomes plain that the writer in his greeting to the recipient was simply expressing his best wishes. Reading the entire letter in context it becomes clear that the letter is written as an apostolic instructions about to handle visiting believers not about the recipients health or financial situation.

In conclusion, as believers we need to hold ourselves and our preachers accountable for how we use the Word of God. Beware of anyone claiming ‘new revelation’,  or taking verses out of context. Take the time and trouble to emulate the example of the Bereans in acts 17 who listened to the teaching of Paul and then checked to make sure that what he was preaching was actually in the Word.

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