Bible Misunderstanding 2 Pet. 2 CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
How can I prevent Bible misunderstanding? This lesson is, in effect, a continuation of the previous broadcast on Bible Understanding. The two broadcasts together will help you with your Bible study.
To prevent Bible misunderstanding, it will be wise to follow some simple guidelines. These principles will help you in your personal study and they will help you when listening to someone else teach what they have studied, as well. Keep in mind that there is, by far, more false doctrine being taught today than there is true Bible doctrine. You surely don’t want to fall prey to a false teacher (2 Pet 2:1). Follow these simple rules:
Never take a verse out of its context. This is an extremely important rule. For instance, the Church of Christ teaches you that water baptism is essential for salvation. They point primarily to Acts 2:38 for their proof text. While there are people, in Acts 2:38, who are receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost because of being baptized in water, the entire audience is Jewish (Acts 2:5, 14, 22, 36). Furthermore, the question asked by the audience was “what shall we do?” (v 37). They did not ask, “What shall we do to be saved,” (as in Acts 16:30-31). Peter’s answer was a very specific command given to those specific Jews who were responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus (v 36). By contrast, notice that Cornelius, and his Gentile household, received the same gift of the Holy Ghost before their water baptism, showing that water baptism is not essential for salvation (Acts 10:44, 48; 11:15-17). Bible misunderstanding is the result of removing verses from their contexts.
Never quote just half the verse. This rule is true primarily for doctrinal studies, for it is common to quote part of a verse when applying spiritual truth. For instance, let’s use the example of the Church of Christ’s teaching that water baptism is essential for salvation. They will quote only the first half of Mk 16:16 as a proof text. The last half of the verse says, “but he that believeth not shall be damned.” For one thing, this shows that belief is the key to salvation, not the water baptism (Rom 10:9-10, Acts 16:31). Furthermore, the context of Mk 16:16 shows these same believers casting out devils, speaking with new tongues, taking up serpents, drinking deadly things that don’t hurt them and laying hands on the sick for their recovery (Mk 16:17-18, and they all recover). The Church of Christ is not involved in any of these activities.
Never build a doctrine from just one verse or passage. Doctrines in the Bible are generally revealed in several verses, not in just one verse alone, and they don’t contradict. For example, Roman Catholics are taught to believe that they must literally eat Jesus’ flesh and drink his literal blood to have eternal life. They get this doctrine from Jn 6:53-54. However, no one in John 6, or anywhere else for that matter, ever ate his literal body and blood. When he served the cup at the last supper, the cup contained the fruit of the vine (Matt 27:29), not his blood. For his disciples or Roman Catholics to drink his literal blood is a violation of the specific doctrine forbidding anyone to drink blood (Gen 9:4; Lev 17:10; Acts 15:20). Bible misunderstanding is the result of creating doctrines on a single verse or passage.
Never take something literally that is obviously spiritual. For instance, let’s go back to the example in John 6, where Jesus told his disciples that they had to eat his flesh and drink his blood to have eternal life. They had come looking for food again since Jesus had just fed the 5,000. He explained to them that he was the bread of life and contrasted himself to literal bread and the manna that the Jews had eaten in the wilderness. After stating that they had to eat him to have eternal life, he presented them with a dilemma in Jn 6:62. What were they going to do when he ascended to heaven? He solved the impasse by explaining to them what he meant in Jn 6:51-58. He said, “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life,” (Jn 6:63). Hence, salvation is not in eating his literal body and drinking his literal blood. No one can do this anyway; he’s has ascended into heaven.
Never spiritualize something that is literal. This rule is particularly true when dealing with prophecy. Teachers love to spiritualize anything in the Bible they don’t understand or believe. For instance, Jesus told us about a man who went to hell in Lk 16:19-31. Because many Bible teachers don’t believe in hell, they say that this passage is a parable and they do not take it literally. It is literal; you can be sure. Bible misunderstanding is the result of spiritualizing literal verses.
Never subject verses to private interpretation. There is an explicit command against this kind of interpretation in 2 Pet 1:20. Many teachers try to make verses mean what they want them to mean rather than believe what the Bible says. This is private interpretation. For instance, the Roman Catholic Church teaches that Mary is the Mother of God. They say that she is the mother of Jesus and that since Jesus is God, Mary therefore is the Mother of God. They do this to give her elevated status so that she can be co-mediator with Jesus, contrary to 1 Tim 2:5. The Bible will teach you what it says when you correctly cross reference scripture with scripture (1 Cor 2:10-13). Many Bibles have marginal cross-references to help you with this. Bible misunderstanding is the result of private interpretation.
Never presume that a doctrine is true and then try to prove it in the Bible. This is one of the greatest ways to mess up your Bible. For example, some men believe in predestination (i.e. that God determined from the foundation of the world whom he would save and whom he would send to hell regardless whether they wanted to be saved or not). A man believing in predestination will go to the Bible looking for verses to prove that he is right. Consequently, when he sees the word predestination, he presumes that it means salvation for the elect (those whom God has chosen from the foundation of the world to be saved). He cannot see that every time the word predestination shows up it never has anything to do with God predestinating a man to be saved. Bible misunderstanding is the result of forcing a doctrine into the Bible that’s not there
Conclusion: Now, there are other rules that will help you. Nevertheless, these are the ones that will keep you out of the most trouble. God speed in your studies.