“Have You Never Read in the Scriptures?”

“Have you never read in the Scriptures…?”

Matthew 21:42

There are some within the religious world who do not condone the practice of using the Scriptures as the foundation of what one believes, or “proof-texting” as it is sometimes called.  Granted, isolating Bible verses and using them apart from their context is not rightly dividing God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:15).  For example, how ludicrous it would be to say, “I can read in Matthew 2:16 about a king ordering his soldiers to kill babies, and so I have God’s approval to do the same!  It’s in the Bible!”  One would be ignoring the context of the verse as well as other passages of Scripture which clearly condemn killing babies.  Taking verses out of context is always wrong; it forces the passage to fit one’s agenda rather than the inspired author’s intent.  Thus, there is a proper use and improper use of Scripture.

Nonetheless, many still do not like it when the Bible is brought into a religious discussion, argument or debate.  Perhaps this is due to their distaste for having their positions proven wrong when someone shows them a passage of Scripture which contradicts their beliefs.  For example, some say that one is justified only by faith even though James 2:24 says the exact opposite.  Some say one is saved before baptism when Mark 16:16 and 1 Peter 3:21 say the exact opposite.  Some say a Christian can’t fall from grace even though Galatians 5:4 and other passages say the exact opposite.  Some say Jesus is not God, even though John 1:1-14 says He certainly is God.   Get the picture?  Proof-texting is only wrong when it is done wrong.

Yet, how do we know that any use of the Scriptures as justification for what one believes is correct?  Well, Peter did it (Acts 1:20; 2:17-21, 24-28, 34-35, etc.)  Stephen did it (Acts 7:42-50).  Paul did it (Acts 13:33-41; Romans 15:9-12; etc.).  And last, but definitely not least, Jesus did it.  The Matthew 21:42 passage cited above is just one example of when our Lord cited Scripture to prove that what He was teaching was correct; each of His rebuttals to Satan’s temptations started with, “It is written,” followed by a quote from the Old Testament (Matthew 4:1-11).  In fact, every time one finds a writer or speaker in the New Testament appealing to the Old Testament to prove the truth of what he is saying or writing, he is proof-texting, just as it was proof-texting for me to show you that Jesus and the others proof-texted.

Friends, it is right to properly use the Scriptures to justify one’s position.  In fact, such is the only kind of proof that should carry any authority whatsoever while talking about biblical issues.  What do people think phrases like “It is written” (used 80 times in the Bible) and “Thus says the Lord” (used over 400 times in the Bible) mean?  The Bible contains the only proof worth anything, the only proof to which all of us may be rightly bound.  Luke writes that Apollos, who was “mighty in the Scriptures” (Acts 18:24), “powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ (Acts 18:28).  It sounds like Apollos was proof-texting to me.

If you and I disagree on a matter I’m not going to tell you how I feel, what the Holy Spirit “said” to me, what God “laid on my heart,” or how I believe God is “leading me to” this, that or another conclusion.  We have a responsibility to prove our positions.  How?  By the Scriptures.  That’s why they’re there.

Even more importantly, each of us has a responsibility to have the open and honest heart necessary to be humble enough to decide to repent and change when an examination of the totality of God’s Word (Psalm 119:160a) proves that our belief, habit, lifestyle, or action is wrong.  That is also why they’re there, to be a “lamp to our feet and a light to our path” to eternity with God in heaven (Psalm 119:105).  May we store up God’s Word in our heart so we will not sin against Him (Psalm 119:11)!

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