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Updated: Sep 16, 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.

Taking Scripture verses out of context is very dangerous. Even though it may seem harmless at times, we must be careful that we do not misuse the Word of God. It is imperative that we view the Bible as God’s inerrant words written to reveal to us who He is and how we are to live. If we truly believe that Scripture is “God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16), then we will be careful not to twist, change, misinterpret or misuse it. We will be diligent in our study of the Bible so that we can understand it correctly and use it to properly edify ourselves, our families and the church.

  • Writer's pictureHaley Maddox

Deborah is a very controversial character in the Bible. If you’re like me, you have probably heard various interpretations of her story. I want to look at a few false claims that have been made concerning this passage and, also, give an alternative view.

1) Deborah was in a leadership position, so other women should seek those positions as well.

This is something I heard taught at a women’s conference a few years ago. While I do think that women can be leaders in certain contexts, and always in the sense of leading by example and giving wisdom, this passage is often used to support the view of women holding pastoral positions in churches or a wife not having to submit to her husband. This is wrong for two reasons. One, the passage is descriptive, not prescriptive. A descriptive passage tells us what happened, but does not contain explicit commands for us to live by like a prescriptive passage does. Much of the Old Testament is descriptive, telling us the beautiful story of God remaining faithful to His people and keeping His promise of the coming Messiah. Now, of course there is plenty to learn from the accounts in the Old Testament. We learn a lot about God’s character, how He interacts with mankind, and how we are to respond to Him in obedience and faithfulness. But, we must remember that just because something took place, does not mean God approved of it and that it is something we need to take and put to practice in our own lives. Also, the assumption that it supports women pastors and women being heads of the household plainly contradicts what we see in the New Testament. Therefore, that cannot be something we extract as a lesson from this passage.

2) Deborah usurped power / God chose her because there was no one else available.

This is something I have heard before and there was a time that I believed it. But, after revisiting this passage, I realized that the Bible does not say how Deborah came into leadership. All we know is that “Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time” (Judges 4:4). There is also no indication that God placed her in leadership because there was not a suitable man around. These interpretations come from a narrow-minded view of the role of women in attempts to make an excuse for the fact that God used a woman in a leadership position to lead His people to victory. Maybe those who think this way about Deborah believe that her story somehow contradicts the New Testament commands for wives to submit to their husbands and for leadership positions in the church to be reserved for God-fearing men. But, this story has nothing to do with those commands. Firstly, because of the point I mentioned earlier about it being descriptive. Secondly, because once again, there is no indication that Deborah was being rebellious against her husband and was trying to usurp power. Lastly, Israel is not the church, so it does not follow that passages about church order must fit here.

3) Deborah being in power was a sign of God’s judgment.

This is another argument that is used to excuse Deborah’s leadership. The verse usually used to support this claim is Isaiah 3:12 where God is speaking about judgment on the Israelites and says that “children are their oppressors and women rule over them.” At best, this verse can only be applied here indirectly because there is no indication that this verse in Isaiah is referring to what was happening in Israel at the time Deborah was a judge. Instead, we need to look at what was happening then. In Judges 2: 16-19, we see that it was God who “raised up judges who delivered them” (vs. 16) and when the judges died, the people turned away and did evil in the sight of the Lord. As judgment, the Lord then delivered them into the hands of their enemies and it was not until they repented, that the Lord appointed another judge to rescue them from their captivity. So, it is true that Israel was under judgment at this time, but in verse 3, it says that the people cried out to the Lord for help. And Deborah was instrumental in the Lord’s response to that prayer. After their victory over the Canaanites, there was peace in Israel for forty years (Judges 5:31). There is no evidence that Deborah was a sign of God’s judgment on Israel. On the contrary, it seems that she was one who the Lord used as a blessing to His people.

The importance of this passage is not how Deborah found herself in this leadership position or how much authority she had, but what she did in the place God had her. The Bible does not say why she was a judge or how she got there, or that other women should try to find roles like she had. What we do know is that she obeyed and honored God, and that is something that we clearly can learn from and implement in our lives.

Deborah reminds Barak, the commander of Israel’s army, of what God had said (Judges 4:6-7). She gives him wisdom and is a source of strength to him as she goes to call the troops alongside him. When Sisera, the leader of the Canaanite army, comes to meet the Israelites, Deborah exhorts Barak and says “Up! For this is the day in which the Lord has given Sisera into your hand. Does not the Lord go out before you?” (Judges 4:14). Deborah is a woman who knows what God has said and has faith that He will keep His promises. And after the victory is given to Israel, it is God who Deborah praises: “Hear, O kings; give ear, O princes; to the Lord I will sing; I will make melody to the Lord, the God of Israel” (Judges 5:3).

Instead of bringing our own opinions, biases, and preconceived notions to Scripture and reading with those blinders on, we need to read it objectively and let the text teach us. When we see Deborah for who she truly is as described in this passage, we see a woman of strong faith who sought the Lord and obeyed Him. She does give Godly wisdom to a man, but she does it with humility, not trying to assert her dominance over him. She recognizes his position as leader of the army and encourages him to do the right thing. She does not mock him or decide he isn’t fit for a leadership role when he is experiencing fear and doubt, but instead, she exhorts him, comes alongside him, and they both prepare for battle. They are partners in doing what God has called them to and they work together to bring about peace in their land.

Now when I read the story of Deborah, instead of boiling it down to an issue on women and leadership, I see it as a beautiful picture of someone trusting and obeying God and doing her best to follow Him. And that is something that any and every Christian can learn from, regardless of sex, age, culture or time period.

  • Writer's pictureHaley Maddox

I really began wrestling with this topic last year after I found out I was having a little girl. I was concerned by some of the views about women I saw that I knew were not Biblical, but I wasn’t sure what viewpoint I should have. I wanted to be able to teach my daughter what it truly means to be a woman of God, but to do so, I had to first understand it for myself. That is when I began to pray for the Lord to give me wisdom and understanding on this topic. As I prayed, I also got proactive and began researching and studying. I prayed for discernment as well because there are plenty of unbiblical sources out there. I didn’t want to go down a path that was taking me further from the Truth, but instead, I wanted input from multiple, Godly men and women who could help me grasp what Biblical womanhood really looks like. God definitely answered my prayers and is still doing so.

These are some of the resources I have found to be very helpful in understanding the role of women and how God sees women. These teachers are all believers who God has used in different ways, however, it does not mean I will agree with everything they say. I'm sure they would all disagree on some things, but I believe they all love the Lord and have sought Him for wisdom on what they teach. You fill find perspectives from laypeople, an apologist, and pastors and can learn something from each of them!

This book has by far been my biggest source of wisdom on the topic of women. So many of the questions I was asking, Aimee addresses. She brings such a new and fresh perspective on the matter and I needed that so badly. Her book is full of Scripture references and footnotes to other resources. She has definitely done her research and has spent a lot of time studying.

The verse she bases her book off of is 2 Timothy 3:6-7 which says, “For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.” Her whole goal in writing No Little Women is for “equipping all women in the household of God.” She challenges women to be diligent stewards of the Word and to be wise and discerning. She also challenges church leadership to evaluate their women’s ministries and their discipleship of women.

Byrd has been labeled a feminist and an egalitarian but she says herself that she is neither. However, she also says that she does not label herself as a complementarian because of the baggage that comes along with it. She does uphold the teaching of male authority in the church as well as the headship of husbands in the family. But, she questions some of the teachings taught in what I would call hyper-complementarian churches that reduce biblical womanhood to the issue of submission.

This lecture is incredibly insightful. He brings so many Scripture passages and examples from women in the Bible to strengthen his claims. It is $4 but I promise it is money well spent. I highly recommend reading this if you want more clarity on the term "helper" in the Bible. I will be pulling from this lecture in my blog post on this term.

This is one I have found recently so I haven’t been able to listen much, yet. But they have many episodes on biblical womanhood and they have actually had Aimee Byrd on about four times. They cover other topics as well, not just things pertaining to women. What I have listened to thus far has been excellent.

This is an article I found helpful when trying to figure out what submission should look like on a daily basis. Sometimes an easier way to explain something is to explain what it is not. I think he covers many of the misconceptions about what it means for a wife to submit to her husband. It is also short and sweet.

Ravi Zacharias “Does God favor one gender?” (video)

Ravi Zacharias was one of my favorite people to listen to and due to modern technology, thankfully, he still is. He had a way of drawing people in and answering questions with such humility and compassion while also speaking the Truth.

In this video, he is answering a question from someone who is asking if God favors one gender over the other. He clearly communicates God’s view of women and talks about how Jesus treated women while here on the earth. In the last part of the video, he tells a story of the strength of his mother that is so beautiful and paints womanly strength in such an admirable light.

Ravi Zacharias “And the Two Shall Be…. Equal

Here he deals with the issue of authority and submission. I love his answer and agree when he says “issues of headship and leadership only come when there is confusion about essence and responsibility before God.” He challenges men to lead with humility and says that the “man of God is a humble person first and is teachable.” That is such a powerful statement. Some view headship as exerting authority over the wife, making all of the decisions, and always having the final say. However, this is not loving the wife as Christ loved the church. Ravi speaks so highly of his wife and says, “The best compliment I can pay my wife is to let my children know that I love her the way Jesus loved the church.”

If you are a lover of knowing context, you will love John MacArthur. There is really no one who preaches the way he does. He speaks God’s Word with authority and is unashamed. Some think he is arrogant, but that could not be further from the truth. He is unconcerned with inserting his opinion, but is very straight forward with what the text says. His style is very expository, which I appreciate. Never have I known anyone to have as much knowledge of Scripture as he does. During this series, he goes into a lot of context surrounding some difficult passages like 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinthians 14 and brings such a fresh perspective. I honestly don’t know how I ever thought I understood those passages before listening to him teach about what was going on in the culture then.

All of these teachers assert what Scripture says and do not try and explain anything away or make it more “culturally acceptable.” But, each one has a different way of communicating the truth and does so with clarity. Also, their applications may look slightly different, which is encouraging. Being concerned with the application of a truth more than the truth itself creates dogmatism and self-righteousness.

We should not be disciples of Aimee, John or Ravi, but disciples of Christ. That is why it is so important to have multiple, Godly influences and teachers so that we can be well-rounded and our views and opinions can be shaped by the Truth we are being taught, rather than by the teacher.

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