Some Misapplied Passages

Dean Bullock

THERE IS, AMONG RELIGIOUS groups, wholesale misunderstanding of Bible teaching. Anyone conversant with truth recognizes this fact. The average person has subscribed to traditional ideologies and practices. His concept of many Scriptural themes is distorted and far removed from the doctrine of Christ. But misapplication of spiritual matters is not confined to members of cults and sects of the denominational world. There is unimpeachable evidence that some brethren have been influenced by street-corner philosophy. Careful Bible investigation is sorely needed among citizens of the kingdom of God. This is an effort to cite some verses that are often misapplied even among us.

1. "And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of war: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet" (Matthew 24:6). This verse is sometimes construed to mean that there will be wars and rumors of war until the second coming of Christ. There may be, but such is a misapplication of the passage. The context shows that Jesus was telling of events that would happen before the destruction (end) of the temple. History records that the Jewish temple was destroyed about A.D. 70. To talk about and pray for world peace is not contrary to the statements of the Lord here. The matters mentioned here actually characterized the period immediately preceding the termination of the Jewish nation; they have been literally fulfilled.

2. "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come" (Matthew 24:14). Does this text indicate that Christ will not come the second time until the gospel is proclaimed to the present nations of the world? It is often given this application; but to handle the verse in this manner is to mishandle it. This passage must be considered in the same context as the above example. The Lord was enumerating things that would occur before the downfall of Jerusalem. The prophesy here was announced about A.D. 33; it came to pass before A.D. 70. The kingdom was set up on the day of Pentecost; within a period of about thirty years congregations were established throughout the Roman world; every nation received its testimony before the end of the temple. The apostle Paul wrote the following words about A.D. 62: "For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; which is come unto you, as it is in all the world" (Colossians 1:5-6). We have here and in similar verses an account of the fulfillment of the Lord's prophesy. Remember that times and seasons regarding the return of the Redeemer are unknown. Each day, for the child of God, is to be one of vigilance, preparation, watchfulness, wakefulness and readiness.

3. "Thou shalt not kill" (Ex 20:13). This is the sixth commandment of the decalogue and is adduced by some to prove that capital punishment is prohibited in the Bible. Such an application is far from the truth. When God said, "Thou shalt not kill", He then said what would be done to the one who violated this law. "He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death . . . But if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbor, to slay him with guile; thou shalt take him from mine alter, that he may die" (Exodus 21:12-14). The sixth commandment referred then to murder; Jesus plainly said that it did (Matthew 19:18). To make it refer to civil government punishing the evil doer is unwarranted. When Noah came out of the ark, God told him that no one should kill his fellow-man and announced this law: "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man" (Genesis 9:6). Relative to civil power the New Testament says: "For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain" (Romans 13:4). The sword was an instrument employed to inflict the death penalty.

4. "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men" (1 Timothy 2:1). Occasionally the contention is made that this teaches that public worship must open with a prayer. The argument is that "first of all" means first in order or from the standpoint of time in the service. Hence, once in a while someone will object when the worship does not begin with a prayer. Is the objection scripturally valid? It seems to me that Albert Barnes strikes at the real meaning of the passage in these comments: "First of all. That is, as the first duty to be enjoined; the thing that is to be regarded with primary concern . . . It does not mean that this was to be the first thing in public worship in the order of time, but that it was to be regarded as a duty of primary importance."

5. "For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not; lest there be debates, envyings, wraths: (2 Corinthians 12:20). This verse is frequently used to prove that it's wrong to debate religious questions. But Paul is not here condemning public discussions of spiritual matters. The American Standard Version omits the word "debates" and gives instead the word "strife." Quarreling and wrangling are condemned; but public discussions for the purpose of learning truth and maintaining propositions are in harmony with Bible teaching. Jesus engaged the religious leaders of His time in controversy (Matthew 22); Stephen was involved in "dispute" with certain synagogues (Acts 6); one of the qualifications of an elder is "that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers" ( Titus 1:9). Our attitude and deportment must be, at all times, in accord with Bible principles; but let's be "set for the defense of the gospel." Such is the will of God.

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