Updated: Sep 17, 2020
Taking verses out of context is something we are all guilty of. However, knowing the context of Scripture verses or passages is essential to our understanding of the Word. When we do not understand or use verses correctly, we are missing the glorious and true meaning of God’s wisdom. Some verses that are taken out of context and misused have more consequences than others, such as leading to complete heresies or cults, but it is never wise or edifying to use Scripture in a way in which it was not intended.
Here are four verses I have frequently heard misused or taken out of context:
“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5
This verse is commonly used to support the belief that God has promised to heal sicknesses, diseases, etc., if we put our faith in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. However, this is not the correct interpretation of this verse. When we read the entire passage from Isaiah, we see that this was a prophecy about the crucifixion. He foretells the suffering of Christ in both His living and dying and says that it was our transgressions and iniquities that put Him on the cross. Christ was the perfect and spotless Lamb whose blood atoned for our sins, and it is by His wounds that we are healed from the consequence of sin, which is eternal death and condemnation (Romans 6:23). However, we know that we live in a fallen world that is under a curse (Genesis 3; Romans 8:22), and that, until Christ returns, we will experience suffering and trials. We will experience pain, sickness, and eventually, death. We will grieve, but Paul reminds us that we do not grieve as those without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Our unwavering hope is in Christ’s return and knowing that when He comes back, He will restore all of creation and we will live in eternity where His peace reigns. There will be no sickness, no pain, and no death. But, until then, while we live here on the earth, we will go through struggles and trials, and we have the blessing of growing more into the image of Christ through them, as well as pointing others to the same God in which our hope lies.
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” Matthew 7:1
This is one that is severely misused by believers and nonbelievers. It usually gets thrown around when people are offended that someone would call something they say or do wrong. Our culture and many in the church constantly promote the message that judging is wrong (which is a judgment by the way), and somehow, making statements like "Only God can judge me" make them feel better. While it is true that end judgment lies only in the hands of the good and holy God, this should not make someone who is living a life opposed to His Truth feel comfort. One issue is the belief that God turns a blind eye to sin and is not going to bring fiery judgment on those who reject Him. However, Revelation reveals something different. Another issue is that people believe morality is subjective and, therefore, saying that something is wrong is seen as hateful. In our postmodern culture, we are told to do whatever makes us happy regardless of the consequences. Our society promotes selfish ambition and rejects the idea of an absolute moral law, as well as just and righteous judgements. This brings me to my next point. The Bible doesn’t just say “don’t judge.” Even with this verse, if we read further, we see what Jesus was really teaching. Scripture goes on, “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (vs. 2-3). If we look at this verse in context, we see that Christ was warning against hypocrisy and wrong judgments. He is teaching us that before we call out a brother’s sin, we must first examine our own hearts. We are to be careful with how we judge because we will be judged in the same way. He echoes this in John 7:24 when He says, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” Christians are supposed to judge, but we are to do so righteously and not by superficial human standards.
For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20)
This verse is often used in reference to Christians gathering together for a church service or prayer to assure them that when they are gathered, God is there with them. While this is definitely true, it is important to not lead people to believe that God is not with them when they are alone or that He somehow hears prayers better when there are multiple people praying. But, the biggest problem is that this verse is not referring to Christians being together in worship. It is referring to how we are to deal with a brother or sister who is in sin. A few verses before verse 20, Jesus says, “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established’” (Matthew 18:15-16). Here, Jesus is actually referring back to the Old Testament law concerning sin and how conflicts were to be dealt with. The verse in Deuteronomy says, “One witness is not enough to convict anyone accused of any crime or offense they may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses” (Deuteronomy 19:15). So, we see that this verse is not referring to the gathering of Christians to worship or pray like many may think, but it is giving us wisdom on how to bring reconciliation between brothers and sisters in Christ.
“God will not give you more than you can handle.”
I can’t even add a reference to this because it is so badly reworded and misinterpreted. But, the statement comes from Matthew 7:1-3 which says “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” With very little study, we see that this verse is talking about temptation and fleeing from sin. As Christians, we have the ability to escape temptation by obeying the Word of God and by living by the Spirit.