If you’re on twitter, you’ve seen them. Any play on “Stuff my Dad says”, “Stuff Nobody Says”, or even “Stuff Runners Say”. How about “Stuff the Bible Doesn’t Say?” Let’s be honest here, most Christians don’t spend time in the word. I’m not talking about listening to someone else tell them what it means, I mean actually reading, learning, and studying the word. This isn’t meant as a guilt trip, but it is what it is. Most polls show that less than 10% of professing Christians have read the entire Bible. If you ever wondered how so much goofiness gets passed off in the name of Christianity, that would be a good place to start. Where do the other 90% get their info from if not from the inspired/inerrant word of God? Well, they either hear it from someone else, they make it up as they go along, or they defer to what they feel (The good old “quiver in the liver”.) Over the next several posts, I’ll look at some of the most popular verses that simply do not say what people try to make them say. In other words, “Stuff the Bible Doesn’t Say.”
“Sometimes the immature
Christian suffers bitter disappointment not because
God failed to keep His promises, but because wellmeaning Christians made promises “for” God that
God Himself never authorized.” – R.C. Sproul
Here’s the problem; The majority of believers simply do not study the Bible, so they take a verse here and there and then when God doesn’t deliver on the promises they’ve claimed for themselves, they believe God has “failed” them. If you don’t think poor biblical interpretation is dangerous, then you’ve never met someone disillusioned with the church who leaves due to God’s “failing” them.
Here are some principals for solid, biblical interpretation as we move forward over the next few weeks:
1. Exegesis: This is from the greek ἐξηγεῖσθαι, EK or EX meaning “out from”. In short, this is deriving your meaning of a biblical text FROM the text itself. You let the text speak for itself, in context. This is GOOD.
2. Eisegesis: From the greek εἰς (EIS), meaning “into”. This is taking something from OUTSIDE the text and putting it INTO the actual text. This is BAD.
3. And somewhat tongue-in-cheek, I’ll offer up “Narcigesis” This is narcissistic eisegesis, where the reader/preacher inserts THEMSELVES (and their subjective life experiences, opinions, goals, etc. to the objective truth of scripture). This is BAD.
With that, I ask that you open your Bible and get into God’s word. Read it! In Context! In whole! I’m probably going to step on some toes by going after popular “life verses”. For that I offer no apology. Get into the word and see what the text actually says, not what we want it to say.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13
1. First, let’s try Exegesis: Let’s let the text speak for itself;
παντα ισχυω εν τω ενδυναμουτι με χριστω (Literally; I am strong for all (these) things in (he) who empowers me, Christ.)
Who is speaking here? Paul
Who is he speaking to? The church in Philippi.
Why is he speaking to them? What is the CONTEXT? What is this letter to the church in Philippi about? At the very least, read the entire chapter. Better yet, Philippians only has 4 chapters, read the entire letter! Here’s a summary:
Paul is writing to the church in Philippi (the Philippians). This is a church he had a great history with. It was a church he had founded (the first in Europe), and they had been longtime supporters of his continued ministry. As Paul writes this letter, he is in prison. He has just received a gift from the church in Philippi, delivered by one of their members, Epaphroditus. Among other things, this letter is to thank them for that gift, and to encourage them in their continued work. Paul spends the first part of this letter reflecting on his imprisonment; how it has meant progress for the gospel (1:12-18), how to live is Christ (1:19-26), examples of humble service (Ch 2). This brings us to our target chapter; Chapter 4, where Paul is thanking the church for their gift:
10I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
14Yet it was kind of you to sharec my trouble. 15And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. 16Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. 17Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.d 18I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. 19And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Do you see it? Do you see the “all things” Paul is speaking of? “I learned i whatever situation I am to be content” The “all things” in verse 13 are in listed in verses 12. (There’s a thought… look at the preceding verses to find context. Crazy how that works, huh?)
So there you go, there’s the EXEGESIS; The scriptures here tell us that Paul, in being brought low, in abundance, in facing plenty or hunger, abundance or need, can do all these things through Christ, who strengthens Him.
Sounds like this brings great glory to… Christ and his sufficiency!
Now, for the EISEGESIS:
This is the stuff of bumper stickers, coffee mugs, and probably half of the chotchkies at your local christian book store. “I can do all things” meaning, I can do all the stuff I want to do. Here’s the problem… you can’t, and you know it. It’s not faith, it’s delusional. I can’t grow hair. I can’t dunk a basketball. I can’t fly. I can’t do all things. Seems obvious enough, right? I know, if Jesus really wanted me to, I could. Got it. Any indication that this is what the verse above is talking about? Is it IN THE TEXT? Nope. Anything you try to bring into the text that isn’t there is EISEGESIS. It’s simply not there. Paul was writing to a church to thank them for their support while he was in prison. Does this sound like some word-faith/positive thinking self-empowerment mantra? Seriously?
Now for the NARCEGESIS:
Let’s go crazy here. Let’s not even look at context, or author, or audience. Let’s take one verse,completely out of context and make it about… ME! 🙂 Now, i’ve got a personal empowerment verse, a “life verse”. That should work, right? I don’t know, let’s try it:
Could Paul really do “all things”? Of course not, he couldn’t remove the thorn in his flesh, he couldn’t escape from his second Roman imprisonment, he couldn’t fly. παντα (all) in verse 3 is forced by the greek grammar to refer to those things in verse 12.
As you see, the grammar, the context, and the totality of scripture show us that this verse is about the sufficiency of Christ for contentment in all circumstances and not a self-empowerment mantra.
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.