As many of you are aware, Pastor Shon and I teach at the same school. There are certain forms that we have to fill out on a regular basis, on a very regular basis. (Paperwork, paperwork, and more paperwork…and the kids think they have homework!). One such form had to be completed via the computer and there was a code needed to access the appropriate information. Pastor Shon called and asked me if I had the code. I didn’t know it offhand but thought for sure that I could find it. I conducted an email search that I was sure would produce the needed information, but to no avail, or so it seemed. Sadly, I reported back to my dear friend that I didn’t have the code. He thanked me for looking and we both hung up. A few minutes later my phone rings again. Pastor Shon was calling back to tell me that he now had the code. I rejoiced with him in the great news and then asked him where he was able to find it. He proceeded to inform me that he had found it on an email that had been sent out “school-wide” earlier in the day. “School-wide” meant that I must have received it too! How could I have missed it? Upon further investigation the reason that I had failed to locate it when I had searched my emails was because I hadn’t scrolled down to the second half of the page! In short, the proper information was in my possession all along, I just didn’t think I had it because I had failed to just KEEP READING! Last month we began a two part newsletter looking at what I believe to be the key principle for proper biblical interpretation, just KEEP READING. False doctrine, incorrect beliefs, apparent contradictions, and uninformed and improper conclusions are so often cleared up when instead of taking a verse out of context; we read it in light of the chapter it’s in, the book that contains it, and with a proper foundation of Bible knowledge as a whole. Last month we looked at three verses that are often misinterpreted due to being taken out of context and this month we will look at three more.
Romans 10:9—“if you confess Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”…I remember attempting to witness to a dear friend when I was a teenager. She was several decades older than myself and I had tried to tell her of Christ for some time. I believe the Spirit was working on her heart because one night, without any provocation from myself, she asked me directly “what must I do to be saved?” Although I had long sought to point her to Jesus, at my young age (both chronologically and spiritually) I wasn’t fully prepared for such a question. The verse that came to my mind in that moment was Romans 10:9 and I quoted it to her. She replied to me that she had believed in Jesus and His resurrection her entire life, since hearing of it in church when she was a little child. Now, although she was what would be considered a good moral person, and certainly she was very good to me, this precious woman hadn’t attended church in quite some time, took no concern to read the Bible or pray, gave nothing to the work of the Lord, and didn’t seem terribly troubled about sin in her life. I wasn’t exactly sure what to say and didn’t have many other verses in my arsenal, but I knew that Romans 10:9 surely had to mean something more than just intellectual assent and lip service to the idea that Jesus is Lord and that God had raised Him from the dead. I explained as well and as genteel as I could that, although salvation wasn’t based upon works or church attendance or spiritual disciplines, if someone was really saved then some of these changes would at least start showing up in that person’s life. She wasn’t offended and we remained friends for the rest of her life, however neither did she start going to church and showing concern about the things of the Lord right away. I probably didn’t do a very good job in my explanation but I do believe the Spirit used our conversation that night to at least plant some seeds. Years later, after moving to another state, she did genuinely receive the Lord and became faithful to a local church and to the development of Christian fruit.
As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, I knew from a young age that there had to be more to being saved than simply saying Jesus is Lord and giving an intellectual nod to the idea that He had risen. I didn’t have the words to say or the bank of verses to fully explain it, but I knew there had to be more. Yet, what can be so easily perceived (though not necessarily described) by a teenager, often averts many ministers. How many sermons have you heard where the climax is getting people to come down front, repeat a prayer where Jesus is acknowledged as Lord and Savior, and then being assured by the minister that they are now children of God? Now I don’t mean to totally criticize such tactics lock, stock, and barrel, but I do think there is something more that needs to be said and explained about salvation and that to believe that simply saying words puts someone’s name in the Book of Life is misunderstanding Romans 10:9.
If you read Romans 10 beginning in verse 1 you will see that Paul is pointing out that Israel (descendants of Abraham), even when trying to keep the works of the Old Testament law had fallen woefully short of obtaining the righteousness necessary for salvation. To be saved one must do more than they ever did! What is that “more”? To genuinely confess Christ as Lord and believe in His resurrection! This will lead to the genuine root of salvation which will produce the genuine fruit of salvation! Fruit that will exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees all the while giving praise to God for His grace instead of trying to establish a righteousness of our own apart from Christ (Matt. 5:20)!
As much as the mere context of the chapter dispels the notion that Romans 10:9 is supporting easy-believism, considering it in light of the totality of Scripture shatters the false concept even more. Jesus said that if anyone desired to come after Him they must deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Him (Luke 9:23-24). Also, if anyone put their hand to the plow and then turned back or if they did not hate their family in comparison to their love for the Lord then they were unworthy of Christ (Luke 9:62; Luke 14:26).
Philippians 4:13—“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”…I don’t know how much Disney Jr., Sprout, or PBS Kids TV you may watch. (Unless you have a child under double digits probably not too much!) Our sweet boy loves these three channels and, though they need some censoring, the stations mostly televise content that’s not too bad. Except for the summers I don’t catch much of it myself. Still, even though I might not see some of the shows for days at a time, a common theme that always shows up is teaching the kids that they can accomplish anything they want to as long as they set their mind to it and believe in themselves. As the old Disney “hymn” declares, “When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are, when you wish upon a star, your dreams come true!”
Go to many churches today and they may not sing that “hymn” but they do teach the same doctrine; you can do whatever you set your heart and mind to do. A verse they often use to support such a view is Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” However, if we just read even a little of the surrounding passage it is clear that the verse isn’t supporting such a self-help or success mentality. The Apostle Paul was in prison at the time that the Spirit inspired him to write the book of Philippians. He had done nothing wrong other than preaching and proclaiming the gospel of Jesus. Paul writes to the church at Philippi for the purpose of speaking of Christ, addressing some specific issues of concern to the congregation, to encourage them in their faith, and to let them know how he himself is doing. Beginning in verse 11 the Apostle informs the beloved church that he has learned to be content in all circumstances, whether being prosperous or poor, hungry or fed, having needs met or being without. He then comes to the conclusion that, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” So, far from this verse supporting the idea that we can accomplish all of our dreams if we only believe in ourselves, it actually teaches that we can bear up under hardship and remain faithful even in the good times through the power of Christ. (Scripture as well as life experience shows us that our commitment to God is much more likely to waver when things are going well than when times are tough).
Don’t get me wrong, I have no desire to be the wet blanket to people’s hopes and aspirations. However, while we certainly want to encourage our children (and our fellow man in general), we all know the “when you wish upon a star your dreams come true” theology is simply not true. People obviously have different talents, giftings, abilities, and opportunities and not everyone can do everything. And more importantly, as Christians we know that believers should seek out the will of God versus our own wills and should trust in Jesus Who is virtuous and powerful instead of in our own hearts which can be deceitful and our own strength which is fleeting and failing (Luke 22:42; Prov. 3:5-6; Jer. 17:9; 2 Cor. 12:9-10).
1 Chronicles 16:22—“Do not touch My anointed ones, And do my prophets no harm.”…I remember hearing a conversation many years ago (when I was just a teenager, so I guess it was only 10 or 15 years ago since I’m only 29!) where one man was telling another “not to touch God’s anointed.” Apparently there was “a pastor” who was involved in some obviously unethical practices, however rather than exposing the misdeeds the man citing the verse was encouraging the other to let it alone because we weren’t supposed to say anything bad about ministers. Beyond quoting Scripture (out of context as it may have been) the man went further to say that he knew of people who had “talked bad” about this particular “minister” before who got sick and some who even died! While everyone who misinterprets 1 Chronicles 16:22 doesn’t take it to quite this extreme, the verse has often been twisted to protect various and sundry sinful actions of spiritual leaders.
The sixteenth chapter of 1 Chronicles recounts the bringing of the Ark of the Covenant from the house of Obed-edom to the tent that King David had prepared for it in Jerusalem. The “man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14) would have rejoiced over this occurrence under any circumstances but was particularly joyful at the present successful event given the tragedy that had occurred the last time they had attempted to move the Ark (read 1 Chronicles 13). As David was gifted and apt to do, he burst forth into song. Though not giving us the music, 1 Chronicles 16:8-36 does provide the lyrics of the Psalm of Thanksgiving the King of Israel sang as the Ark of the Covenant came into the tent he had prepared. David recounts the history of the Israelites and God’s faithful dealing with His people. When he comes to verse 22 he does indeed declare, “Do not touch My (God’s) anointed ones, And do my prophets no harm.” This is in reference to the twentieth chapter of Genesis (especially Gen. 20:7) where Abraham, to protect his own life, tells King Abimelech of Gerar that Sarah is his sister instead of being his wife. Acting on this information Abimelech makes plans to take the beautiful Sarah into his harem. God comes to the King of Gerar in a dream and warns him not to take Sarah as his wife because she is already married to Abraham, a man who is a genuine prophet. Some might say, “aha, 1 Chronicles 16:22 and Genesis 20:7 do indeed teach us not to speak against God’s anointed even if they’ve done what’s wrong.” Well, just keep reading. In the second half of Genesis 20 Abimelech confronts Abraham about lying with regards to Sarah, even going so far as to say to the great patriarch, “You (Abraham) have done to me (Abimelech) things that ought not to be done (Gen. 20:9).”
To further do away with the notion that “touching not God’s anointed” means that leaders aren’t to be confronted about their sinful deeds, we will look at even more Scripture references. David, the man God used to write 1 Chronicles 16:22, believed that he shouldn’t harm the Lord’s anointed leader. However, that simply meant that he wouldn’t kill King Saul, not that he wouldn’t call Saul out for his sinful behavior, especially the misdeed of unjustly seeking David’s death (1 Sam. 24; especially verses 6 and 11; also 1 Sam. 26). Furthermore, David himself must not have believed that leaders couldn’t be confronted regarding their sin because when the prophet Nathan boldly told the king about his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba, David repented rather than tell Nathan that he shouldn’t be “touching God’s anointed” (2 Sam. 12, especially verse 13). In addition, far from letting leaders off the hook for sinful behaviors under the banner of “touch not God’s anointed”, the whole of Scripture teaches us that leaders endure stricter punishment for their sins (James 3:1; 1 Tim. 5:17-20) and shows examples of them being confronted (Matt. 23:13-33; Gal. 2:11-14). Indeed, things become so much more clear when we just KEEP READING!