The Danger of Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth
[NOTE: I linked the churches referenced in the text below so you can visit and get the full breadth of their respective ministries. These are grace-preaching, bible-believing local churches and I don't mean to disparage all the good they do. That does not, however, diminish the dangers in how they have handled the word of truth on their recent broadcasts.]
I found myself in the middle of a message from Jon White, pastor of Freedom Baptist Church. As he talked about trying to live a selfless life (something I believe in wholeheartedly), he took us to Matthew 25 and the Parable of the Sheep and Goats. In doing so, he has opened up his listeners to a false gospel and bondage to fear.
Mr. White quoted two sections from the passage, yet he left out some very important details. Below is what he quoted in black, and what he left out in red.
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world... Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. -Matt 25:34, 37-40
But the more egregious omission came when he warned his congregation about the implications of their selfishness. By leaving out the red verse, he left himself open to a false gospel. He is teaching his congregation that Matthew 25 is given to them (wrong division). He also is teaching that ALL mankind is the Lord's "brethren." This is false on both accounts. It is grave error. As he is trying to expose their selfishness with this passage, and tells them they are failing to love the Lord by failing his "brethren," his is implying they may be cast into punishment. And what of the good works? Is that where they will find life eternal? Failure to rightly divide is where cults and false religions are born.
Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels... Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. -Matt 25:41, 44-46
What happens when they read those verses, pastor? You have taught them the Lord was speaking directly to them. This could lead to a false gospel of gaining life via works. (We explain this in greater detail in our studies on this parable.) You might use this passage to help list some good works we could emulate, but we must be abundantly clear as to the context.
I went into the grocery store and came out to find we were now hearing Jerry Falwell, Jr., from Thomas Road Baptist Church (if the schedule listed at the website is correct). He was telling us that Acts 2:41-47 is the model for the church of this age. Well, good luck with that. Is this how they live at Thomas Road Baptist Church?
Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. -Acts 2:41-47
He added that if his church would follow this model, the Lord would then "add to the church." He noted the "addings" of the Acts Age (3000+ noted above and 5000+ in Acts 4). Well, I doubt that happens much in local churches. Some churches have gone decades without seeing a single soul receive life.
By his reasoning, the answer as to why we don't see this is because perhaps churches aren't obeying the outline in Acts 2. Let's pull out some highlights from our passage.
- many wonders and signs were done by the apostles
- sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all as every man had need
- Daily: met in the temple, broke bread house to house
What apostles today? And even if we had apostles, are they performing the wonders and signs as recorded in the Acts? As for the temple, no, your "church sanctuary" is not the temple. And, no, the "temple of the Holy Spirit" is not meant here. This is the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, in which they met, because they were Jews still under the law. Do your members do these things "daily?"
Pulling the lens back, have they "sold their possessions?" Have they distributed all assets among the church as members have need? Nope. Over history, in the few places this has been tried, it has ended in failure. The reason? It is not a model for today.
If these pastors took just a few minutes to ponder the implications of what they are preaching, they would discover they are walking on dangerous ground. In both cases, they risk destroying the faith of their congregations. Why do they fail to do this? Why do they not think about the implications? Because they make the error of thinking everything from Matthew through the Revelation is spoken to the church of this age. Once you do that, you end up having to explain (or explain away) many many passages.
This is why we must rightly divide (cut straight) the Word of Truth. If we don't we may end up building an ark God didn't tell us to build for a flood that isn't coming.
Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. -Gen 6:14
But it's a Bible command! Yes, a bible command we must rightly divide. If we can easily understand how important it is to read this "command" in context, why can't we see the need to read all of the Word of God in context? Again, the problem is assuming everything from Matthew through the Revelation (unfortunately called "The New Testament") is for today. But it doesn't end there. Churches readily grab from the prophets and the Law and apply those to Christians in this age as well.
We must remember the 6 things we need to consider in our scripture interpretation.
- The PERSON who wrote it
- The PEOPLE to whom it is written
- The PLACE it involves
- The PERIOD (or age) in which it was written
- The PURPOSE for which it is written
- The PLAN around which it is written
In 2017, I posted THIS ENTRY on the context of Matthew and The Acts. It's a very brief overview, but it may help with the context of the passages quoted by Jon White and Jerry Falwell, Jr.
ALL scripture is FOR us and is profitable, but not all scripture is TO us.