Sunday, June 01, 2014


There is a two-headed coin often used with Bible verses that leave both sides losing. With neither side of this coin, is there a, "Winner, winner, chicken dinner," as a favorite friend of mine loves to say when the OKC Thunder or OU wins,  [I say it with her, by the way.]

Let me explain the two-sides first.

One side of the coin [heads we'll call it] is fragmenting a verse. This means taking a PORTION of the verse or taking a verse ALONE, without it's context, and applying it to situations, or worse, quoting it TO someone as if it's the answer to whatever is troubling or discouraging them.

A case in point is that Matthew 18:20 verse where Jesus said, "Where two or three are gathered together, there am I in the midst of them." This is usually used to assure people, preachers are especially guilty here, that when only a few people show up for church services, be assured God is there, so all is well. I'm sure He is present since He is, in fact, Omnipresent. But that isn't the meaning of the verse in context. More on the meaning in a moment.

The other side of the coin [tails we'll call it] is what is called "isogesis" which means to read INTO a verse something not intended, as opposed to "exegesis" which means to take FROM a verse the meaning that is there in language and context. Isogesis is really nothing more than introducing one's own presuppositions, agendas, or biases into the meaning a verse instead of taking out of the verse what the language and writer are actually saying. In Bible study or knowledge, were you to flip this coin, either side will come up a loser.

Now to the meaning of the Matthew 18:20 verse. The real meaning is found in the context which is where someone as a believer has been willing to personally confront another believer over an issue and they didn't respond very well. But the problem is so serious they were willing to take someone with them as they go again.
The verse is saying in THAT context God is with you and in a very meaningful way. If you've ever been in that situation, and I have, it's really encouraging to say the least.

 No one is saying that God ISN'T where two or three believers have gathered to worship. He really is. It isn't WRONG to assure the people that HE IS THERE. Just don't quote the Matthew 18:20 verse as if it's the Bible PROOF He's present in a poorly attended meeting. It means something far deeper and grander than that.

Another example.

That I can ACHIEVE "anything," when I'm trusting God as my strength, is taken as an absolute promise by some people. To prove that, they quote Philippians 4:13, which happens to be my life-verse by the way.

The problem is this verse is NOT dealing with ACHIEVING anything.

People are usually thinking about scoring touchdowns or making a basket in a championship game. Or worse, charging things on a credit card trusting God for the ability to pay later or making an effort to get someone to change their bad behavior because they desire them to and are helping them. Because God is my strength I can do this, is their thinking, this verse says so!

But that isn't in the ballpark of what Paul was saying. He had faced hard times, many times, and had found that he could endure being rich or poor, hungry or filled, and in context, in prison or out of prison, and no matter THE CIRCUMSTANCES, he found the wherewithal to face them because of the Lord being his Life. For Paul, the issue wasn't "I can achieve anything," but one of "I can endure anything."

What a difference the context makes. No one is saying the former thought, achieving some good thing, is a WRONG thing. [On second thought maybe it is if you're thinking you can sow wild oats and NOT reap a harvest.] It just can't be proven with this verse and be getting the true meaning of what is being said by Paul to the Philippians. For THAT you HAVE to see it in context.

More on this subject later.


Rex Ray said...


I believe what your post says is true.

If we were in Paul’s shoes, what was he thinking when he wrote (2 Timothy 4:16)

The “Criswell Study Bible” (King James) has it under the heading of: “Paul’s last testament” and his “Personal circumstances and conclusion”

“At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge.

Who were the men that Paul expected to be there?
Was their absence a sin?

Aussie John said...

Five minutes ago I finished writing a note to a friend about this issue.

He had heard a sermon quoting the word "rejoice" out of context, in which the preacher told the congregation it was their duty to rejoice in the sense of being outwardly ha-ha happy.

Stuck in prison, Paul could still say,""Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all".

That's real rejoicing,in context, no matter what the circumstances.

Paul Burleson said...


I really don't have an answer to your question of what Paul was thinking. Assuming his humanity, I'm thinking he may have FELT
like cussing.

Aussie J,

Great example of the point of the post.

Victorious said...

Thanks once again for a great enlightening post, Paul.

I'd never quite understood Phil. 4:13 but I had heard it used to mean we could accomplish anything. You've clarified it nicely by putting it in context. Funny what a difference it makes :)

P.S. I'm seeing the dates on these comments as Jan. 2014. Is it my computer problem or what?

Victorious said...

Ahhh...I see it now. Not January, but June. Sorry.