Here’s Some Verses Christians Need to Stop Taking Out of Context
The lost world often takes Scripture out of context in order to make it mean what they want it to mean. Verses are twisted and little to no exegesis is ever used in the effort to justify sin. This is completely understandable, as lost people do not have the Holy Spirit to guide them in understanding the Bible.
What about Christians that seem to do the same thing? How do we make sense of a professing Christian that holds to an unbiblical view or takes verses out of context? That’s a big conversation reserved for another day. For today, let’s focus on some of the most abused verses in the Bible and see if we can gain some clarity on their proper, contextual and biblical meaning.
Here’s a short list of some of the most misused, abused, and taken out of context verses in the Bible.
Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Christians love to share this verse. We share it with people feeling down about the path their life has taken in order to inspire and give hope. We say this verse to ourselves in the mirror to motivate ourselves to push forward. This verse, more than most others, have been printed on everything from t-shirts to mugs, mouse pads, and Bible covers. There’s just one problem: this verse isn’t a promise to modern day Christians.
When placed in its proper context, this verse is a promise to cultural Israel. God is promising that after 70 years of exile in Babylon (Jer. 29:10) He will deliver them and restore them (Jer. 29:11). The direct context of the verse is to the nation of Israel in the time of Jeremiah the prophet. Reading into this verse a promise for our lives today is misapplying the verse and taking it out of context.
Romans 13:1: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”
This verse gets abused after every presidential election as Christians unhappy with the outcome justify their disrespect for our president. Others simply refuse to acknowledge the president and advocate for rebellion or subversion of our government. These are unbiblical attitudes as we are to set an example by respecting our government and being peaceful citizens. The one caveat to this is that we are to obey God first, and our government second. If our government ever seeks to demand adherence to an unbiblical law, we have a responsibility to refuse.
For the most part however, we should use this verse as a biblical imperative to be respectful, peaceful citizens. Scott Wenig, the chair of biblical preaching at Denver Seminary, makes it clear that if this verse applies to the 1st century Roman government, it certainly applies today:
“Paul wrote this for Christians in Rome living under Nero’s regime. If it applied in that context, it’s tough to argue it shouldn’t apply in a democracy like ours. There may be times when we shouldn’t follow the guidelines, but those are rare, not the norm…Get on with the task of living out the kingdom, loving our neighbors, and praying for our leaders (1 Tim. 2:1–2). Set an example by praying for our government and all the folks who get up and go to work there, locally and federally.”
Matthew 7:1: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”
This may be one of the most misused verses in the entire Bible. Christians routinely remind other Christians not to judge when someone points out sin. But in its proper context, this verse is not telling us not to judge, it is telling us to apply the same metric to our own life that we apply to someone else. In other words, if it is acceptable for me to drink a beer while watching the football game, I have no business telling someone else they cannot do the same.
Unfortunately, many Christians have fallen into the trap of believing that we are not supposed to hold one another accountable and call out sin in each other’s lives. However, Paul makes it clear that Christians have a responsibility to judge one another:
“What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside” (1 Cor. 5:12–13).”
It is unloving, even spiritual abuse to refuse to call out sin in the life of other Christians. We should love each other enough to lovingly hold one another accountable. And, as Christians, we should willingly and joyfully receive the input into our lives from other Christians.
3 John 2: “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers (NASB).”
There’s far too many two-bit hacks on television telling people that if they just have enough faith they will be “healthy, wealthy, and wise.” Sadly, far too many people are sucked into the idea that you can have “your best life now.” None of this is biblical. Ernest Gray, assistant professor of Bible at Moody, puts this verse into perspective:
“Human beings misunderstand the place of suffering, and Christianity in the West tends to idolize success. We struggle with viewing the Christian life from a triumphalist perspective: ‘I’m a Christian; therefore I’m entitled to victory in every way.’…The idea embedded in the text is that John wishes Gaius spiritual and emotional wellbeing…promises are spiritual promises, not promises of instant gratification. Though God does bless us in many ways, he has not promised us our best life now.”
1 Corinthians 10:13-14: “No temptation has come upon you except what is common to humanity. But God is faithful; he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation he will also provide a way out so that you may be able to bear it.”
Too many Christians (and other people) have this terrible idea that we will never experience anything that we can’t handle. This verse is cited as proof that “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.” The problem is that’s not what this verse is talking about. This verse is specifically talking about temptation. This verse is the promise that when we are tempted, God will faithfully provide a way for us to escape the temptation through His leading and the power of the Holy Spirit.
The wrong context for this verse is our mortal suffering that is a result of The Fall and sin. While we live on this earth there will be trials that are hard and unfair; that’s a result of sin. This verse is not a promise that our trials and suffering are fair. Neither is this verse a support for the idea that God knows we can handle anything we experience. The Christian life is not about living in our own power, it’s about running to God and falling on His grace and admitting that we can’t do it. There will never be a verse in the Bible that assures us we can do it on our own.
What are some other verses that have been abused and taken out of context? How about:
2 Chronicles 7:14