Wrong Bible text… part 1

huh? Thats a strange title. That’s right because not one Bible text is wrong. But…. as long as you read it in the right context… and not just take one text out of context because then things will go terribly(!) wrong. And that is not because of that text… but because of us as human beings.

We may not have intentionally misinterpreted many of those verses. We have heard the explanation from others and that sounded so logical! With (unfortunately) sometimes devastating consequences…

In our work we often come across the consequences of this and those consequences are not “great” to put it in a northern Dutch way. This week it was again “bingo”. Sigh.

For this series, let’s start with the following Bible verse that I often use when it comes to these kinds of spicy topics:

Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.

I Thessalonians 5:21-22

This piece is in a chapter (written by Paul) which could have the title “Call to watchfulness”. And we sometimes give that “message of watchfulness” quite brutally: “Don’t believe anything I tell you, listen, read your bible and study what we discuss”. And studying is VERY different from just listening or just reading. Studying takes time and effort…. and is well worth the investment.

That sounds strange, almost brutal! But with that, we clearly indicate that not everything you hear somewhere is always right. The cute explanation we give is: “we are also human and can make mistakes”. The hard truth is that there are also false prophets around…. Some know they are false, others are convinced they are doing the right thing, but are real wolves.

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

Matthew 7:15

And yes, that message is quite harsh. But why are we so upfront about it? Let’s take a look at the first example of a text we encounter (too) often with a terribly bad effect:

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

1 Corinthians 10:13

Freely translated, this is what comes out:

God Will Never Give You More than You Can Handle

And then things go wrong. Very wrong. Because the second is NOT a Bible text. We repeat: that is NOT a Bible text.

Where do we often see this terrible quote? With people who HUGELY doubt their faith, in all their misery. We hear this too often: (just one example)

God has promised I’ll never get too much to wear, but it’s really killing me now. (hunger, war, terminal illnesses) God’s word is good, so that’s not the issue. Then it must be me and my faith is not big enough! Pastor X says my faith is too small and that’s why I’m hungry… how do I increase my faith? Because then God will make sure I’m not hungry any more.

wow….

And they are so right when you interpret the text that way. So, yes, what is it then? Your fault or God’s fault?

Back to the Bible text:

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

1 Corinthians 10:13

Read and study it carefully: It says “temptation”. That is a spiritual trial! Not physical!

And now a complete picture emerges… “Temptation”.

This is about the support God gives you when you are faltering spiritually! Look, now we’re getting somewhere! So, it is NOT about physical trials. Because let’s face it, if that’s what it’s all about, we’d have to explain this too:

Most of the apostles ended in a not-so-pretty way:

  • King Herod had James killed “with the sword.” (this is the only cause of death that can be found in the bible, the rest (which is stated below) is therefore not biblically traceable, so be careful with that.
  • Matthew suffered (according to tradition, not biblically provable) martyrdom when he was slain with a sword.
  • James was thrown from a tower, survived, and then was clubbed to death. (according to tradition, not biblically provable)
  • Bartholomew was beaten to death with a whip. (according to tradition, not biblically provable)
  • Andrew was crucified on an X-shaped cross in Greece. (according to tradition, not biblically provable)
  • Tomas was pierced with a spear. (according to tradition, not biblically provable)
  • Mattias stoned and beheaded. (according to tradition, not biblically provable)
  • Paul tortured and beheaded. (according to tradition, not biblically provable)
  • Only John died of old age and was the only apostle to die a peaceful death.

So, “God never gives you too much physically, and you will survive anything”… is a lie. The death of the apostles is already one such clear proof. They lived with Christ on the earth and one after the other suffered WAY too much physically and died horribly. But now an example of how you can and should explain that Bible text. Again, the bible verse:

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

1 Corinthians 10:13

Back to Andreas, who would have died on an X-shaped cross. His followers reported that when he was led to the cross, (repeat: according to tradition, not biblically provable) he spoke the following words:

I have been looking forward to this happy hour for a long time and have been expecting this for a long time. The cross is consecrated by the body of Christ hanging on it.

For two days, until his death, he continued to preach to his torturers.

And there you have an example of what that text is about. Andrew did not leave God in all his pain. God did not forsake him. He did not allow Andreas to have such a hard time that he could no longer handle it spiritually.

A better example, which can be proven biblically, is Job. The ultimate example of misery, but NOT letting go of God. Never. Satan really gave Job a hard time, but Job… wouldn’t let go of God. And God? Never let Job go. He didn’t let Job suffer get so hard that he couldn’t take it anymore.

After Job lost his children and all his livestock… we see Job saying this:

At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.”

In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.

Job 1:20-22

And that brings us back to the first text we started with:

Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.

I Thessalonians 5:21-22

Because if you don’t research it, and blindly accept a verse (which sounds like a Bible text, but is not a Bible text) as truth, then your faith will be weakened and not strengthened. You will go astray, and you may even lose your faith. While (if you do read the text in the right context) your faith IS strengthened.

On Biblical ground, it is clear to me that we will go through difficult times in life and many things that we cannot physically handle. Not many people like to talk about suffering. There are Christians and churches that don’t even talk about it. And put the blame for that suffering under the motto: “Your faith is not enough”. And that is not correct. That’s false.

God never leaves you alone, He is always there for you and will never give you too much spiritual(!) to bear. He is loyal to you. Always.

And yes, today it can be VERY physically miserable… (and that has to do with an Apple we ate in paradise), but a bright future awaits you. Together with God. Without misery. He has promised that, and He never lets go.

And now “a little” more about that physical suffering. Hunger, disease, death. This is how Paul looks at all his physical afflictions:

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Romans 5:3-5

This writes the same Paul who was in prison…. That is a serious form of physical problems…. And Paul had more problems…and he prayed his (proverbial) socks off…and nothing changed. And then Paul says this:

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10

So, something did change! We don’t know what thorn it was. A real thorn in his foot? Hungry? Something else? No idea. What we do know is that Paul’s faith was strengthened by the way God helped him deal with that thorn. Paul came closer to God…

And that is the Biblical explanation of physical suffering. And that’s WAY more powerful than any bible verse ripped out of context or any man made bible verse that is not even a bible verse.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.