Misused Passages (Part 2)

This series concerns passages which are commonly misused.  Specifically, this series concerns passages misused by brethren (later we will deal with passages misused by others).


6.  “Do not lay hands on anyone hastily” (1 Timothy 5:22).

This passages is used to teach that congregations should move slowly and cautiously in selecting elders.  However, this is a misuse of the passage.

It is true that congregations should not move quickly.  The Bible says of selecting deacons, “let them also fist be tested; then let them serve” (1 Timothy 3:10).  This makes sense when appointing elders as well (reasoning from the lessor to the greater position).

However, The context of this has to do with correction, not selection (1 Timothy 5:19-22).  One should be cautious not to rush to judgment.  Sufficient evidence is needed (note: Evidence can count as a witness.  Cf. John 5:31-34, 36, 37-39).  If an elder is found to need correction, then he should be corrected.  David Lipscomb well said, “When we cover up sins in the church, we corrupt the morality and virtue of the church and destroy its efficacy to honor God or save men.”

7.  “Be faithful until death” (Revelation 2:10).

This is used to teach that one should be faithful until the end of life.  Endurance through time is needed.

It is true that such is needed.  Various passages teach this (e.g. 1 Corinthians 15:58; Galatians 6:9; 2 Timothy 4:6-8; Hebrews 3:14).

However, this passage is teaching us to be faithful even if it cost us our lives.  This is the context (Revelation 2:10 cf. 12:11).  This same point is taught elsewhere (John 12:25; cf. Revelation 12:11; Hebrews 11:35b).

8.  “Study to show thyself approved unto God” (2 Timothy 2:15 KJV).

This passages is used to encourage Bible study.  The rendering in the KJV is quoted for this.

Bible study is important.  There are passages which make this point (Acts 17:11; 1 Peter 2:2; 2 Peter 3:18).

However, the passages is not specifically about Bible study.  The word “study” in the KJV, leaves the wrong impression to modern readers.  The original word “spoudazo” means “to hasten to do a thing, to exert oneself, endeavor, give diligence” (Vine’s).  The NKJV reads, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God…”  Wayne Jackson comments, “The term is much broader than the KJV ‘study,’ but as a practical matter, it surely does include that” (Jackson, Before I Die, p. 238).  This is true.  Still, we should remember that this passage is not specifically about study habits.  It has much greater appreciation.

9.  “…rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

This passage is used to teach that one must be careful to distinguish between the Old Testament and the New Testament.  Moreover, many believe that this is what this passage is primarily teaching.

It is absolutely true that this distinction should be recognized (Romans 7:4, 6; 2 Corinthians 3:7-18; Galatians 4:21-31; Ephesians 2:14-15; Colossians 2:16-17; Hebrews 7:12; 8:1-13).

However, the meaning, while it may include such, is not so specific.  The word orthotomeo, which is translated “rightly dividing,” literally means “to cut straight.”  Thayer reads, “to cut straight… hold a straight course… to do right.”  Vine’s says, “What is intended here is not dividing scripture from scripture, but teaching scripture accurately.”  Vincent says, “expound soundly.”  Denny Petrillo comments, “To cut straight and rightly; to cut a straight path through the word, giving it the proper interpretation.  Because of that, some have said it is the cut between the two covenants.  While this would include the correct treatment of God’s word, this is not specifically what Paul is dealing with.  Paul has the idea of treating the word correctly” (Petrillo, Commentary on 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus, p. 122).

The A.S.V. reads “handling aright the word of truth.”  The NASB reads, “handling accurately the word of truth.”  It is possible to mishandle the words of the Bible (2 Peter 3:16).

10.  “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9 cf. Isaiah 64:4).

This passages is used in speaking of heaven.  Some think that this is specifically what is in view.

It is true that heaven is to be desired.  It is a glorious existence (Matthew 6:19-20; Romans 8:18; 1 Corinthians 2:7; 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1; Philippians 1:21-24; 3:20-21; Colossians 3:4, etc.).

However, while this may be included, this is not specifically what is in view.  This is about revelation.  Dub McClish comments, “His point in this verse is to emphasize the fact that no man or group of men possessed enough knowledge or wisdom to ‘figure out’ God’s gracious plan of salvation.  Rather, the only way that man could know God’s will was by the revelation of it (v. 10)” (McClish, Commonly Misapplied Scriptures, Part 3).

What is the purpose of this series?  It is to encourage us to be better Bible students, and to know the context before using a passage.

About Bryan Hodge

I am a minister and missionary to numerous countries around the world.
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