The other day, Stephanie and I went to the movies and were given free popcorn. I am not much of the popcorn type, usually preferring something chocolate but it was free. One of my dislikes of popcorn is that it gets caught in my teeth and I have to use my tongue to work it out. It’s just stuck there, annoying me, not going away. This blog entry, which is a departure from my thoughts on thinking, is just that….something caught in my own thinking, irritating me a tad but wondering what others think.
So here it goes. Is it okay to misquote Scripture but in misquoting you actually discuss sound biblical teaching, just not from that section of the Bible? I would assume that most in conservative Christian circles would think that misquoting the Bible is frowned upon, even joked about. Remember the old saying, “Judas hung himself”, strung along with “go and do likewise” and “what you do, do quickly”. One of the most obvious out of context verses is the reference in Matthew 18:20, “where two or three are gathered in My name, I am there in the midst” and refer to it in prayer but in reality it is in the context of Church discipline, not prayer. At least those were the ones I remember being the talked about ones in college. Most would rail against such inappropriate use of God’s Word, especially since the most often misquoted scriptural references tend to go against biblical teaching. But what about quoting Scripture that is done out of context but reflects biblically sound ideas? You are probably wanting examples, so I’ll give one from Romans and if you want more, just ask.
Romans 10:9-15 is probably one of the most “evangelistic” passages that most turn to in order to show the gospel and the need for “preachers to be sent.” How many times have you heard the old saying, whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved, but how will they call unless they hear, and how will they hear unless there is a preacher and how will they preach unless they are sent? Sound familiar? It sounds good and is biblical when you remember Jesus’ words of in Matthew 9:37-38 which in summary state that the workers are few, the harvest is ripe so pray for more workers. But is this what Paul is saying? Not if you read the whole chapter! Romans 9-11 deal primarily with Israel and God’s future plan. Currently Israel has rejected Christ, they have “stumbled over the stumbling stone” (9:32-33). Paul desires for them to be saved but Israel tries to get to God on their own righteousness (10:1-3). Paul then quotes Deuteronomy to show that even that generation had the message (v8 – Word is near you, in your mouth) and they could respond by faith (v8 – in your heart). Moses’ generation had God’s Word and could respond to it, obey it and did not need for it to be brought down to them for they had it. Then comes our section, Romans 10:9-15 showing the content of the message that God has given in Christ, namely those who believe and confess will be saved. When Paul says, how will they call on Him in whom they have not believed (v 14) he is pointing to Israel who has rejected. Remember the context of chapters 9-11. The point that Paul makes is that they have been sent messengers with the message and Israel has failed to believe! Look at Romans 10:16-18, they did not all heed the good news. Paul then quotes Isaiah 53:1. In verse 18 Paul asks a question, they (Israel) have never heard have they? Then he answers, “Indeed they have.” The rest of chapter 10 show that even Moses predicted that God would save the Gentiles and make Israel jealous.
So what is my point, my point is that Romans 10:9-15 is not a request for missions. It is not a section that deals with commissioning preachers to be sent to far off lands with the gospel. It deals exclusively with the fact that Israel had the message preached to them and they rejected that message. Good news were brought to them and they stumbled over Christ, refusing to believe. Messengers have been sent and they were rebuffed.
So is it right to quote, clearly out of context, Romans 10:9-15 and apply it to missions? I’ve done it! This is what I have been struggling with because clearly missions and sending those to preach the good news is a biblical concept. But is it right to use sections of Scripture for things that are true biblically but not according to the specific context. What do you think, all two of you who read this? Please comment, I’m interested in hearing from you.