OUR INTERPRETATION OR SCRIPTURE?
I guess it’s just the “preacher” in me, but I often find myself frowning when I hear the Scriptures misused. I get a similar feeling when it’s some denominational preacher; but at least in that situation, it’s more understandable. But when it is a brother in Christ (or worse, a gospel preacher) I really frown, because “we” should know better. Then, I grimace even more when I realize that I’ve done the same thing from time to time. With the above disclaimer clearly made, I will offer some specific examples of the misuse of the Scriptures. Please understand that I do not speak from a position of superior intellect (ok, you may laugh now); nor do I say these things with joy, for I’ve made similar mistakes. I’m grateful for those who have pulled me aside and explained the Scriptures more thoroughly. So I beg your understanding of this fellow-laborer – who is just as fallible as you – while we try to hone our use of “the sword of the Spirit” (Eph.6:17). Consider a few examples of misused Scripture…
1. Filthy-rag righteousness (Isa.64:6). From time to time, I hear it said that OUR righteousness is “like filthy rags,” with the application being made to the Christian’s good works or efforts to faithfully serve the Lord. How desperately we need to read the context of this passage! The reason that the Jew’s righteousness was like “filthy rags” was because they had “sinned” – and “in these ways we continue; and we need to be saved” (v.5). This is speaking of outright rebellion! Further, we must remember that “whoever fears Him and works righteousness is ACCEPTED by Him” (Ac.10:35); and, “he who practices righteousness IS righteous” (1Jn.3:7). Does that sound like “filthy rags” to you?
2. No eating in the meetinghouse (Rom.14:17). Many times I have heard brethren (correctly) teach against the social gospel. Then, they ruin it by 1.) Misrepresenting the issue (eating in the building is NOT the problem, rather it’s about respecting God’s authority in that the church treasury cannot be used for just any purpose – i.e. personal, secular, political, or social purposes); and 2.) Quoting the phrase, “the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking.” Brethren, please understand! This passage has NOTHING to do with this issue. If it did, it would be teaching that we CAN eat in the building! Why? Because, the entire context of Rom. 14 concerns things which we have EVERY RIGHT TO DO (e.g., eating and drinking) – as long as we do not violate our convictions (v.5, 22-23) – or cause another to violate his (v.13, 15, 21). This passage is often abused as an umbrella to accept or reject doctrinal error when, in actuality, it covers matters of conviction, love and liberty in Christ.
3. Christ bearing our guilt and/or penalty (Heb.9:28). Some have been tainted by Calvinistic influence far more than they realize! While the Bible certainly speaks of Christ “bearing” our sins, we grievously err when we interpret this as bearing the “guilt” of our sins. Indeed, Christ was sinless; and He HAD to be such in order to be the spotless Lamb of God (Jn.1:29; 1Pt.1:18-19). Neither did He bear the “penalty” of our sins, for that would require Him to suffer an eternity in Hell (Mt.25:46; 2Th.1:9). What Christ “bore” was the “OFFERING” for sin – not the guilt or punishment for sin. Read it carefully: “Christ was OFFERED once TO BEAR THE SINS of many.” And just what was offered? “His own body on the tree” (1Pt.2:24).
4. Reconciled through the church (Eph.2:16). With this one, I may risk accusations of “minimizing the importance of the church.” But I am willing to take that risk, because anyone who knows me knows better! The text speaks of being reconciled to God “in one body” for sure; but that reconciliation is “THROUGH THE CROSS” – not the church. The church is not the MEANS (instrument or vehicle) of reconciliation, but the RESULT of reconciliation! The church does not save; it IS the saved (Ac.2:47). Christ is Savior, via the cross; and the church is those whom He has saved (Ep.5:23). The idea that the church is the means of reconciliation comes from Catholicism, not Scripture.
Perhaps we could find many other examples of misapplied, misused and abused interpretations, but these will do for now!
With brotherly affection – Andy