History is filled with people who used the Bible to justify their desires and plans. For example, Adolf Hitler once declared, “Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.” Cult leader David Koresh used Scripture to position himself to his followers as the anointed one who would open the seven seals described in the Book of Revelation.
And while it is easy to point out these extreme examples, we all have the sinful tendency to jump to a conclusion or make a decision and then attempt to find an authority other than ourselves to support our actions. Sadly, the Bible is often used to justify a desire or decision.
Perhaps you have heard statements like…
- God wants me to have joy, so I know He is okay with my plans to leave my spouse.
- Because I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, I will apply for this job (one that is completely out of my field of competence).
- God promises to prosper me, so I am going to…
D. A. Carson has said, “A text without a context is a pretext for a proof text.” If we don’t know the context of biblical passages, we may easily succumb to the temptation to find verses that support our feelings, our opinions, and our desires. If we only study passages without their context, we won’t really understand the Bible. And if we are not careful, we as church leaders will produce believers in our churches who grab passages to justify thoughts and actions instead of allowing the Word to direct and develop them.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote:
“The heretics were never dishonest men; they were mistaken men. They should not be thought of as men who were deliberately setting out to go wrong and to teach something that is wrong; they have been some of the most sincere men that the Church has ever known. What was the matter with them? Their trouble was this: they evolved a theory and they were rather pleased with it; then they went back with this theory to the Bible, and they seemed to find it everywhere.”
To slay the heretic within us (within me), we need the Word as our foundation. We need the Word of Christ to dwell richly, not scarcely, among us. We need the God-breathed Scripture to guide us, the Scripture that makes the people of God complete.