Thursday, February 25, 2016


You've heard the phrase "heads you lose!" [The assumption is tails wins.] With a "two-headed coin", either side coming up, YOU LOSE. There is a "two-headed coin" often tossed, when studying Bible verses  that leaves the Bible student the loser REGARDLESS of which side of the coin lands up. With EITHER side of this "two-headed" coin there can be no, "Winner, winner, chicken dinner," as a favorite friend of mine loves to say when the Thunder or OU wins. EITHER side of this coin__ in bible study__you lose!

Let me explain the "two-headed" coin first. 

One side of the coin ["heads" of course] is FRAGMENTING a verse. This means taking a small 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 THAT verse, in context, AT ALL. More on the meaning of it in a moment.

The other side of the coin [normally called"tails" but we'll call it "heads"as well] is what is called "isogesis" which means "to read INTO a verse" something NOT intended by the writer, 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 interpreting the scripture, were you to flip this "two-headed coin,"either side, you COME UP A LOSER.

Now to the meaning of the Matthew 18:20 verse. The real meaning is found in the context [verses 15-20] which is where someone as a believer has "ought against" another believer and has been willing to personally confront the person and they don't respond very well. But the grievance is so serious the confronter is willing to take someone with them as they go again to the problem person. Matthew 18:20 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, and it isn't WRONG to assure the people that HE IS. 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 one can ACHIEVE "anything," when trusting God as their 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, "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me." The problem is this verse is NOT dealing with ACHIEVING anything. People are usually thinking about scoring touchdowns or 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! 

But that ISN'T in the ballpark of what Paul was saying. He was speaking of those hard times he'd faced, many times, and had found that he really could endure them. Whether it meant being rich or poor, hungry or filled, and in context, in prison or not in prison, no matter what THE CIRCUMSTANCES WERE 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 will cause a missing of the true meaning of what is being said by Paul in Philippians 4:13.

For THAT you HAVE to see it in context.

Heads OR heads, with this kind of bible study coin__you LOSE!

Paul B.


Aussie John said...


What can I say other than,"AMEN" to the whole article, but those words "For THAT you HAVE to see it in context" are so much underrated these days.

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

Under rated they are. Unfortunately!

Thanks for commenting.

Rex Ray said...

I’ve always heard it said, “Heads I win; tails you loose.” :)

Once I became a “problem person” and two of my friends tried to counsel me because at a deacon’s meeting, I brought up 3 John and said our church had done the same thing of a big church running over a small church. This is how that happened.

A long time ago in another town, our church let a Korean church use our facilities after Sunday. We gave them $50 a week and made the down payment on a car for their pastor.

Our pastor felt we were responsible for their actions and had their pastor meet with our missions committee every month to give a report. This went on for two years. My retired missionary cousin was in Korea 38 years, and said their way of book keeping was so different another report was made for Americans.

Our committee couldn’t understand the pastor’s report and horrified that he kept the church’s money in his personal bank account. (Saved money) He got ‘drilled’ more and more…”Where do you get money for donuts your church eats every Sunday?” (One member worked in a donut shop and was given all the donuts that were not fresh.)

I couldn’t get some on the committee to stop criticizing him. In Korea, a pastor could only be questioned by someone of equal rank…like another pastor, but the straw that broke the camel’s back was a woman (almost yelling) “How long are we going to have to put up with your book keeping!” He didn’t answer. Later I asked if he would like to talk to my cousin. Even though he spoke in perfect English, he talked to my cousin in the Korean language.

It was the only time my cousin was angry with me…”You’ve disgrace this pastor etc.!” I complained it wasn’t me. The pastor resigned and gave his car to our church even thought he’d made payments two years.

Paul Burleson said...


I'll loan you my "two-headed" coin someday. If you call tails, either way you lose.

Rex Ray said...

How did you get a “two-headed” coin? Did you glue two coins together?

Your way is a 50/50 chance, but my way is 0. :)

Paul Burleson said...


This is funny. I'm going to opt out after this comment. But all I can say is the point of the post is NOT WINNING but losing. The illustration was to show that both ways [things] you LOSE. I'll let it rest with this.