Did the title of this post catch your attention? Well, it should have!
Based on my post, 10 Books every Christian should read, from yesterday, a dear brother responded with the following:
This kind of comment comes from common mistakes that lead to the misuse of Scripture. One of the books I could have added to the optional books that I didn’t add to the list of 10, is The Most Misused Verses in the Bible by Eric J. Bargerhuff. In his book, Bargerhuff takes an exegetical look at some of the most misused verses such as Mt 7:1, Jer 29:11-13, Mt 18:20, Jn 14:13-14 and many more. In his conclusion, chapter 19, he looks at some common mistakes that lead people to misuse Scripture. They are as follows:
- Partial or surface reading of Scripture: This is insufficient because it isolates “a certain passage without reading the fuller context” and “can result in a major misreading of the text.”
- Not using Scripture to interpret Scripture: If you come up with an interpretation of a text that contradicts the rest of Scripture, chances are that you have interpreted that text incorrectly. God does not contradict Himself.
- Making a passage say what we want it to say: Many have “read into Scripture what they want to see.” This one is akin to point 1. I have always said (who I got it from I do not know), that a text without a context is a pretext. Instead of exegesis, finding out what the Bible says to us, eisegesis is employed by reading meaning into the text that is foreign to the text.
- Misquoting texts: Have you ever heard someone say, “Money is the root of all evil?” That is not what 1 Tim 6:10 says.
- Inadequate understandings and implications of the gospel that are read back into some passages: Sometimes we add promises to the gospel that the Scriptures never promised us such as continuous good health, wealth and prosperity. Jer 29:11-13 comes to mind.
Thinking of the response above, I would classify it under points 1 and 2.
When reading Scripture, it becomes all to easy to grab onto one verse and then to make a theology out of that. This is indeed a hermeneutical trap that we must be aware of. This is why Greg Koukl warns us Never Read a Bible Verse. When God communicated the Scriptures to us, He did not have a number of sub-levels in mind, each with its own deeper meaning. Further, He did not give us a book where the verses have different meanings for each reader. The Bible does not have the question in mind that asks, “What does this mean to you?” No, what is it that God communicated to us? What did the author have in mind when he wrote that particular book in the Bible?
When reading any book of the Bible, such as 1 John is this case, it is important to understand why the book was written and to whom it was written. The whole book is the context of the chapter we find ourselves in, the chapter is the context of the paragraph we are reading and the paragraph is the context of the verse we are reading.
The thing is, no book of the Bible was written within a void, where there is no context. For any Biblical book to make sense to us, we must ask of that book, “Why was it written?”
Although John employed the formula, “I am writing  to you,” several times, it does seem that 4 of them stand out as 4 global purpose statements.
- 1:4 – “These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.”
- 2:1 – “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;”
- 2:26 – “These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you.”
- 5:13 – “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.”
John, it seems, wrote this first epistle to “confirm Christians in true apostolic Christianity by helping them avoid the destructive beliefs and behaviors to which some had fallen prey.”1
So, let us have a look at 1 Jn 2:27 in its context:
“ Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.  They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.  But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know.  I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth.  Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son.  Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.  As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.  This is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life.  These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you.  As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.” (1Jn 2:18-27)
John lays the foundation for this passage by clearly pointing to the fact that many antichrists have already appeared (18). He then also defines what he means by “antichrist.” “This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son.” Those that denied that Jesus is the Christ are liars (22) and those that deny the Son do not have the Father (23). It would be these “antichrists” that would come to deceive (26) the Christians that John wrote to. Those that were deceived, the ones that denied the Father and the Son, are the “antichrists.” They left the faith, “but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.”
According to John, those that remained behind, that were not deceived, “have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know.” What do they know? John wrote to them because they know the truth, the truth of the gospel, since “the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.” (see Rom 10:9) John then encourages them to let that which they heard from the beginning, the true gospel, abide in them, and they “will abide in the Son and in the Father,” and they will have “the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life.”
Then comes one of the 4 purpose statements, “These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you.” These deceivers came among them to draw them away from Christ, to make them deny Christ, that He was not the Messiah, the Son of the living God. They came with cleverly devised stories to make these people doubt. And then, then comes verse 27. Those that are Christians, who have confessed the Son, are the ones with the anointing. It is not a special endowment on some Christians and not others. This anointing comes as a result of knowing the truth, the true gospel, with Christ as its centre. Now, when John told them that he wrote to them concerning the ones who are trying to deceive them, and bring all kinds of contrary teaching to them, he said that “you have no need for anyone to teach you.” It is in this context that John wrote these words. Not in a meaningless void, that some make to mean that we do not have to read Christian books, because we don’t need them, but only the Holy Spirit that would teach us. John already told them that they needed to abide in what they heard from the beginning. They did not need anyone teaching them new doctrines contrary to what they have heard. In the same way that the anointing teaches us about the truth (certainly not apart from the Word of God), and holds us away from these deceivers, we can be certain “that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil 1:6)
What John wrote could not mean that we do not need anything else to teach us, just the Holy Spirit, since John was in the process here of teaching them himself. He is actively instructing them in this book. Further, if John really meant it that way, then we would have no need for pastors and teachers in the church.There is just too much emphasis on teaching the truth in the church within the pages of the New Testament, to believe that John meant it that way. No, within the context of these deceivers with all their new doctrines and trying to get the Christians to deny Christ, John simply told them to hold on to what they have heard from the beginning, and that they did not need to be taught by anyone about these doctrines. It would be the anointing that would keep the truth within them which “is true and is not a lie.”
Of course there are groups that believe that all they need is the Holy Spirit. They believe that they do not need books that were written by Godly men. These are the people that usually fall into serious doctrinal error and heresy, because they are so wrapped up in themselves and cannot see the benefit of Godly teachers in the church.
It is for this reason that I believe every Christian must be taught how to interpret the Bible, and not to be haphazard in interpreting the Bible. So, as a help, here are some books that could help you in learning how to interpret the Bible:
- Protestant Biblical Interpretation, Bernard Ramm.
- God Centered Biblical Interpretation, Vern S. Poythress.
- How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, Gordon D. Fee, Douglas Stuart
- How To Study Your Bible, Kay Arthur.
- A Layman's Guide to Interpreting the Bible, Walter A. Henrichsen.
1. HCSB Study Bible, Holman Bible Publishers, 2010, p2169.