One of the most common mistakes we’ve seen, in discussing passages of scripture with people, is that they commonly “see” something in the text that isn’t there. There are a few reasons for this that must be explained.
First, they become convinced of a doctrine before they ever check the Bible to see what it says about that doctrine. For instance, there are many who believe that water baptism is essential for salvation. So, when they read Jn 3:3-7, and they come across the phrase, “born of water,” they immediately read water baptism into the verse. However, the entire context clearly says that the water birth is the physical birth from the “womb,” (v.4) and “of the flesh,” (v.6).
Second, they are weak on Bible doctrine, so when they see a doctrine, they spiritualize it. For example, leaven in the Bible is always a reference to something negative, like false doctrine (Matt 16:6-12). However, when they read Matt 13:33, and see a woman hiding leaven in three measures of meal, they immediately read that as the gospel spreading into all the world. But the verse is not about the gospel spreading; it is about worldwide apostasy resulting from the spreading of false doctrine (2 Thes 2:3).
Third, they are looking to prove something with the Bible, so they make it say something it does not say. A good example of this is Matt 13:55-56. These verses give you the names of Jesus’ four brothers and state that he had “sisters.” Yet, a man who believes in the perpetual virginity of Mary will read “brothers and sisters” as “cousins” to prove that Mary never lost her virginity.
Fourth, they don’t understand what it says so they just guess at it. A funny example of this came from a preacher while he was preaching at a camp meeting. He read from 1 Sam 8:11-12 about their sons running before the king’s chariots and some that “ear his ground.” He took those two things together and said that the men running before his chariots would bend their ears to the ground (like a person does on a railroad track) to see if they could hear the chariots of an enemy nearby. That’s amusing considering that “to ear his ground” means to plow it, which makes sense when you consider the context. They also “reap his harvest.”
Fifth, they read something into the text to justify their sin. A radio preacher teaches that Christians are not to confess their sins, since they have all been forgiven at Calvary. However, to do this, he had to read 1 Jn 1:9 differently than it is written. Instead of “to forgive us our sins” he reads “because our sins have already been forgiven.” He does that to justify his sin of not cleansing himself from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit (2 Cor 7:1). We all recognize that the soul is clean.
So, when you read your Bible, watch out for these traps. They will get you into a lot of trouble with God.
Hope this helps,
Pastor Bevans Welder