If a personal word of prophecy spoken over you fails, it’s YOUR fault!

In an article published 11 August at the ‘Jennifer LeClaire Ministries’ website titled “Why Some Would-Be Life-Changing Prophetic Words Don’t Come to Pass” (also published in Charisma Magazine and via the Chrisma podcast), Jennifer LeClaire has this to say to us concerning the ‘prophetic word(s)’ over our lives:

At the end of the day, it really does boil down to this: There is a war over the prophetic word over your life. Sometimes that war comes from the wicked one. Sometimes that war comes from our own carnal nature that wars against the Spirit (Gal. 5:17). Either way—and whether in Scripture or via prophecy judged accurate—we must fight the good fight of faith so we can walk in the fullness of God’s promises.”

I see a couple of problems with the above declaration. First of all it assumes that extra biblical ‘prophetic words’ over our lives are part of ‘the fullness of God’s promises’. Of course, as Jennifer tells us concerning these prophetic words, “you need a certain maturity to walk out the word by faith”. In other words, your spiritual immaturity could cause these ‘prophetic words’ to fail. Neither of these two points is taught in Scripture, but must be read into the text.

What is her scriptural support for this? What is the Biblical text into which Ms. LeClaire tries to fit her assertions? The parable of the sower, the seed, and the different types of ground upon which the seed falls (Matthew 13:3-23)! Jennifer tells us (prophetically?) that “In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus explains some spiritual truth about the Word of God. But it can also apply to prophecies that come straight from His heart.” (emphasis mine). In other words, the ‘prophetic words’ that others can speak over us, that we can speak over ourselves, or that we can receive in dreams (more about that in a bit), are straight from Jesus’ heart. So how do we know that a ‘prophetic word’ is from Jesus’ heart or an imperfect and still sinful human heart? I have no idea and Jennifer doesn’t explain that one.

Then we have the ‘spiritual warfare’ that takes place in the spiritual realm and/or in our own flesh that can thwart that the parable describes (because Jennifer says so, of course):

“When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the one who received seed beside the path” (Matt. 13:19-20). It’s important you understand exactly what God is saying prophetically. Many people miss it on the interpretation or application, especially in the dream realm. Of course, some prophecies are hard to misinterpret, especially ones about having babies or operating in some spiritual gift.”

Jennifer’s concluding advice is this:

“Continue to declare the prophetic word over your life. Remember, the enemy doesn’t really care about you. He hates you, yes, but ultimately he just doesn’t want the prophetic word to come to pass because, when it does, God’s will comes to the Earth.

If you are in a season of waiting and warring, hold on. Keep in mind it was at least 15 years between David’s prophetic anointing and David’s kingship. And it was about 13 years in between Joseph’s dream and his promotion to Egypt’s prime minister.

Chances are, it won’t take that long for you to see the first fruits of life-changing prophetic words spoken over your life. But even if it does, don’t give in to the enemy’s strategies. Ultimately, this is the Lord’s battle. Declare the prophetic word over your life and keep fighting the good fight of faith.”

Really? What the bible tells us about the possibility of genuine prophecies failing seems to disagree with Jennifer:

“If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him” (Deut. 18:22).

Not surprisingly, Jennifer never touches that passage, nor can she without suffering a huge loss of credibility, at least with the Biblically literate among us.

Furthermore, the penalty for prophesying falsely, in the name of the one true God or any other false god, was death (Deut 18:20). Period. End of story.

Ms. Leclaire, as well as other false prophets among us would have far fewer followers, not to mention ‘students’ at their “Schools for Prophets” (they’re out there) if God’s true word concerning claiming to speak directly for Him were read and heeded. While we don’t actually see false prophets being executed at the hand of man, or God for that matter, they will all face judgment. Perhaps if one were to drop dead, perhaps at a ‘prophecy open mic night’ (they are out there too), some of their mouths would quickly become silent as they repented and begged God for mercy. That is not the case however.

What can we do to stem the advancing tide of false prophets claiming to speak directly from God’s lips to our ears? If the spiritual tsunami of apostasy lead by false teachers and lying prophets is part of the end times great delusion, maybe nothing. It could get worse and worse. We can however, stand up for truth and the sufficiency of scripture for all things in our lives. We can expose the lies and falsehoods out of a love for God’s revealed word, a burden for lost souls, and the spiritual welfare of believers we know who have bought into the lie.

__________________________________________

The Jennifer LeClaire Ministries article can be read here. The same article is in Charisma Magazine here. I mention Charisma Magazine because Ms. LeClaire is a Senior Editor at CM, which is the ‘flagship’ publication for Charismatics everywhere. I also have Christian friends who are Charismatic/Pentecostal and for whom I care deeply. I used to be one.

As a final note, Chris Rosebrough over at Pirate Christian Radio Episode addressed the same article/issue in a recent ‘Issues, Etc.’ podcast you can listen to here. It was listening to the podcast that led to more research. It was hard to believe that someone would twist scripture as badly as Ms. Leclair (I’m thinking giant pretzel).

Eisegesis Unplugged – Track #23

Exegesis and eisegesis are two conflicting approaches in Bible study. Exegesis is the exposition or explanation of a text based on a careful, objective analysis. The word exegesis literally means “to lead out of.” That means that the interpreter is led to his conclusions by following the text.

The opposite approach to Scripture is eisegesis, which is the interpretation of a passage based on a subjective, non-analytical reading. The word eisegesis literally means “to lead into,” which means the interpreter injects his own ideas into the text, making it mean whatever he wants.

Obviously, only exegesis does justice to the text. Eisegesis is a mishandling of the text and often leads to a misinterpretation. Exegesis is concerned with discovering the true meaning of the text, respecting its grammar, syntax, and setting. Eisegesis is concerned only with making a point, even at the expense of the meaning of words.

The Passage

“Where there is no vision, the people perish." (Proverbs 29:18, KJV)

This short passage is often used to promote the need for either a special vision for a church or a personal vision for an individual believer’s life. In fact, just a few days ago I heard it used in a sermon concerning the second reason – the need for ‘personal’ vision.

Specific questions were asked by the Pastor preaching the sermon. “Do you have a ‘vision’ to be healthier, be in better shape physically, have a better job or marriage, enjoy material prosperity & be debt free, or have godly children?” These are all things God wants for us, and if you don’t have a corresponding personal vision, you just miss out!

The Pastor’s prime example of a fulfilled personal vision was Walt Disney and his grand vision for Disneyland. We all know how that turned out! But is a need for personal vision what our passage is actually teaching? Let’s take a look. Here it is again, but this time the entire verse:

“Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” (KJV)

The first thing we notice is that there is more to it than perishing for lack of a vision. We have a small ‘but’ that connects ‘vision’ with obedience to God’s law. You might be asking: “Can’t it still be about having a personal vision for one’s life?” Let’s look again, specifically about the meaning of ‘vision’. A few other translations will be helpful.

“Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.” (NIV)
“When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild. But whoever obeys the law is joyful.” (NLT)
“Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.” (ESV)

“Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, But happy is he who keeps the law.” (NASB)

Now for a few commentaries on the use of ‘vision’ in our passage:

“no vision —no instruction in God’s truth, which was by prophets, through visions (JFB)

“No vision – No prophecy; no public preaching of God’s word.” (Wesley’s Commentary)

“Vision – The word commonly used of the revelation of God’s will made to prophets.” (Albert Barnes)

If we are to trust the additional translations of the entire passage, as well as the commentaries, it seems that our passage has absolutely nothing to do with specific visions for an individual church or individual believers! Rather, it’s all about the lack of sound Biblical teaching, specifically from the Old Testament Prophets. If we can correlate that to today, it would refer primarily to sound Biblical preaching and teaching from gifted pastors and teachers, and even from believers reading and studying the Bible for themselves.

The New Living Translation expresses the thought of the original

“When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild. But whoever obeys the law is joyful.” (NLT)

Once again, when we take a closer look at a familiar and often misused passage of scripture, we find that it doesn’t mean what we want it to mean. Here’s a bit of food for thought. Is misusing scripture, even somewhat harmlessly, something we as believers ought to be doing?

Food for thought . . . J

Eisegesis Unplugged – Track #21

Exegesis and eisegesis are two conflicting approaches in Bible study. Exegesis is the exposition or explanation of a text based on a careful, objective analysis. The word exegesis literally means “to lead out of.” That means that the interpreter is led to his conclusions by following the text.

The opposite approach to Scripture is eisegesis, which is the interpretation of a passage based on a subjective, non-analytical reading. The word eisegesis literally means “to lead into,” which means the interpreter injects his own ideas into the text, making it mean whatever he wants.

Obviously, only exegesis does justice to the text. Eisegesis is a mishandling of the text and often leads to a misinterpretation. Exegesis is concerned with discovering the true meaning of the text, respecting its grammar, syntax, and setting. Eisegesis is concerned only with making a point, even at the expense of the meaning of words.

The Passage

test everything; hold fast what is good." (1 Thessalonians 5:21 )

In recent weeks, in a ‘bologospheric’ encounter concerning a current issue in the church, I was told that the above passage authorizes, if not commands believers to examine everything going on in the church and expose all of the ‘dirt’ we find using whatever means we have, including the blogosphere.

While the ‘current issue’ being discussed is very real and the need for justice great, it’s not the issue of this little article, nor will it be named. Rather, we need to find out exactly what the above passage really says about testing/proving things. For that, we need to look at the context.

First of all, our ‘out of context’ passage is part of a larger thought beginning in verse 20:

20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything (prove all things-KJV); hold fast what is good.” (ESV)

Sometimes the chapter and verse numbers men inserted into the text(s) hinder the best understanding of passages in the Bible. This might be one of those times. If we take out the verse numbers, we are left with:

“Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.”

Note that we are talking specifically about ‘prophecies’ (and not to despise them), then told to test ‘everything’. To what does ‘everything’ refer?

From a couple of good commentaries concerning ‘prophecies’:

“…the prophecies of the Old Testament concerning the first coming of Christ, concerning his person, office, and work, his obedience, sufferings, and death, his resurrection from the dead, ascension and session at God’s right hand…there are many prophecies which regard things to be done, and yet to be done under the Gospel dispensation, …also the predictions of Christ concerning his own sufferings and death, and resurrection from the dead,… the prophecies of private men, such as Agabus, and others, in the apostle’s time… the explanation of Scripture, and the preaching of the word”[i]

“…whether exercised in inspired teaching, or in predicting the future. "Despised" by some as beneath "tongues," which seemed most miraculous…”[ii]

The above interpretations are just a few of the many similar commentary notes concerning our passage that clearly limit ‘prophesies’ to biblical topics and spiritual matters. Therefore , the ‘everything’ following the ‘but’ is contextually limited to biblical topics and spiritual matters.

But what if we remove the ‘but’? Would that change the interpretation of ‘everything’?

We offer that it probably doesn’t change the intended meaning, and here’s why. The letter was written by Paul to believers in the Thessalonian church, sometime after he and Silas had spent some time there, in order to encourage them to spiritual growth/sanctification, address some eschatological issues, and how to properly respond to ‘prophesies’.

Also, if we look at the post-resurrection NT letters and writings for other examples of ‘testing’/’proving’ things, they seem to always concern biblically discerning the truthfulness and trustworthiness of what we are being taught by spiritual leaders. Perhaps the best example is the account of Berean believers examining the teachings of the Apostle Paul under the light of Scripture that was available to them (See Acts 17). A secondary purpose of examining what we are being taught is being able to identify wolves hanging out in the sheep pens.

Conclusion

Whatever ‘test everything’ means, it is NOT a directive to believers to air the ‘dirty laundry of the church’ in the public square. Our chief role in the public square is to present the crucified and resurrected Christ as the atoning sacrifice for the sins of men. As for ‘doing our laundry’, we have sufficient guidance for that also within the pages of Scripture. That however, is a discussion all its own.


[i] John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible Commentary

[ii] Commentary, Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, Jamison, Fausset and Brown

Eisegesis Unplugged – Track #20

Exegesis and eisegesis are two conflicting approaches in Bible study. Exegesis is the exposition or explanation of a text based on a careful, objective analysis. The word exegesis literally means “to lead out of.” That means that the interpreter is led to his conclusions by following the text.

The opposite approach to Scripture is eisegesis, which is the interpretation of a passage based on a subjective, non-analytical reading. The word eisegesis literally means “to lead into,” which means the interpreter injects his own ideas into the text, making it mean whatever he wants.

Obviously, only exegesis does justice to the text. Eisegesis is a mishandling of the text and often leads to a misinterpretation. Exegesis is concerned with discovering the true meaning of the text, respecting its grammar, syntax, and setting. Eisegesis is concerned only with making a point, even at the expense of the meaning of words.

The Passage

“Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart." (Psalm 37:4)

I remember when this was an often quoted passage with the primary focus on the last half – "and he will give you the desires of your heart". All I have to do is delight in the Lord and he will give me everything my little heart desires! It was a given that I delighted in the Lord, since this prodigal had come home to Jesus.

When I wasn’t seeing ‘the desires of my heart’ actualized however, it was necessary to rethink the matter a bit, in spite of other believers ready and willing to affirm my chosen interpretation of such a wonderful promise. What was going on? Were we guilty of a wrong interpretation, or what?

I’ve concluded, wisely I think, that our interpretation wasn’t wrong, but our focus on the last half of the passage is not what the original author (David) intended. Let’s put the passage into context, shall we?

1Fret not yourself because of evildoers;
be not envious of wrongdoers!
2 For they will soon fade like the grass
and wither like the green herb.

3 Trust in the Lord, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
4 Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

5 Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.

7 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
    fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
    over the man who carries out evil devices!

8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
    Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
9 For the evildoers shall be cut off,
    but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.

From just the first few verses of this Psalm it’s not difficult to see that rather than a prescription for obtaining our personal wishes and desires, what we have is a contrast between evildoers and the righteous. As the ESV Study Bible explains:

The opening stanza sets forth the overall theme: “fret not yourself because of evildoers” (esp. when it seems that they are prospering), “trust in the Lord, and do good.” The reason not to fret is the assurance that justice will come in the end: the evildoers “will soon fade like the grass” (v. 2) and “shall be cut off” (v. 9), while the faithful—those who “wait for the Lord”—“shall inherit the land”

Rather than worrying about evildoers and unjust seeming to prosper all around us, we are told ‘delight in the Lord’, but not in order to satisfy the desires of our hearts, but so that our hearts will desire the right things!

To ‘delight’ in the Lord is to find happiness and pleasure in "the perfections of God, his power, goodness, faithfulness, wisdom, love, grace, and mercy; in his works of creation, providence, and redemption; in his word, his Gospel, the truths and ordinances of it" (John Gill).

When we truly find our ultimate delight and happiness in our Lord, our still flawed and selfish hearts will be so wonderfully changed that many of our heart’s desires will become dim, if not vanish entirely, as we are conformed to the very image of God’s own Son!

The contrast between the two outcomes, those who shall be cut off and those who shall inherit the land, recurs throughout the psalm: vv. 11, 22, 28–29, 34. “Cut off” generally refers to divine judgment, which removes a person from the people of God (e.g., Gen. 17:14; Lev. 7:20); in this psalm, it looks forward to the “future of the wicked” (Ps. 37:38), which likely refers to his afterlife (since it contrasts with one’s “hope” in Prov. 23:18; 24:14 (ESV Study Bible)

Have you ever found yourself envious of those around you who seem to prosper in spite of being unrighteous, unjust, or who even blaspheme our Lord and God? In all honesty, I can only plead guilty. I have at times needed an attitude adjustment, however those times have become fewer and fewer as I have grown spiritually through the years.

So rather than worrying about those around us who know not Christ yet are prospering, let us pray for God to open hearts to receive the message of the Gospel and for opportunities to share the only truth that gives hope to mankind!

And may Philippians 2:13 become more of a reality in our lives every day.

". . . for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.".

Eisegesis Unplugged – Track #19

Exegesis and eisegesis are two conflicting approaches in Bible study. Exegesis is the exposition or explanation of a text based on a careful, objective analysis. The word exegesis literally means “to lead out of.” That means that the interpreter is led to his conclusions by following the text.

The opposite approach to Scripture is eisegesis, which is the interpretation of a passage based on a subjective, non-analytical reading. The word eisegesis literally means “to lead into,” which means the interpreter injects his own ideas into the text, making it mean whatever he wants.

Obviously, only exegesis does justice to the text. Eisegesis is a mishandling of the text and often leads to a misinterpretation. Exegesis is concerned with discovering the true meaning of the text, respecting its grammar, syntax, and setting. Eisegesis is concerned only with making a point, even at the expense of the meaning of words.

The Passage

“No weapon formed against me shall prosper.” (Isaiah 54:17)

Thanks to the 2013 Super Bowl and a famous professional football player, the above passage now has worldwide recognition! Initially, I thought it was just a Super Bowl occurrence, but I found out that it was also used after a previous 2012 playoff game, by the same player, in a post-game interview. Having had my curiosity piqued, I Googled it and found out I can even buy a t-shirt with the passage and the players face! How cool is that?

A little more Web searching revealed that there’s a popular Christian song that has as the chorus:

“No weapon formed against me shall prosper, it won’t work
No weapon formed against me shall prosper, it won’t work”

A well known and very popular preacher uses the verse in a personal testimony, preaching it to a thunderous applause and applying it to everyone in the congregation, meaning that no weapon formed against any of them has a chance of success either.

I mentioned a few celebrities, but I also suggest that we ordinary folks have a tendency to just grab on to what they tell us just because they say it. That can get us in trouble if we are being fed a bill of goods and we don’t play the role of good Bereans (See Acts 17) and test what we are being fed no matter how sweet it sounds!

So what about “No weapon formed against me shall prosper”? Does it mean, as is often assumed, that all of our earthly plans and desires will meet with success just because we are children of God? Does it mean that obstacles to those plans and desires are ‘weapons formed against us’ by personal enemies or diabolical forces? Let’s take a closer look.

The Context

Having described the great provision of vicarious atonement through the Suffering Servant (Isa. 53), in chapter 54, Isaiah the prophet announces the consequent blessings: the expansion of Israel, the blessings of safety and peace, and anticipates the salvation and restoration of Israel, This chapter contains awesome descriptions of the everlasting love of God toward His covenant people and promises of a glorious future (vv. 11-17). Verse 17 concludes the chapter, and should be considered in its entirety, along with verse 16:

16 “Behold, I have created the blacksmith
Who blows the coals in the fire,
Who brings forth an instrument for his work;
And I have created the spoiler to destroy.

17 No weapon formed against you shall prosper,
And every tongue which rises against you in judgment
You shall condemn.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
And their righteousness is from Me,”
Says the Lord. (NKJV)

We can summarize these two verses together as follows:

The city of God is secure because (1) all the powers of evil are under God’s control and (2) he will defend his people. Behold, I. God alone accomplishes the promised victory. This is the heritage (all the promises of chapter 54) no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed. God will protect his people and defeat every enemy, no matter how powerful.[i]

The promised heritage (no weapon formed against them shall succeed) is for ‘servants of the Lord’, those who serve him faithfully and obediently, and whose righteousness is found from Him and not of their own. There may even be obstacles (enemy weapons) along the way like the Babylonian captivity Isaiah spoke of, but the enemies of Israel will not ultimately succeed. Isaiah 54 points to the final culmination of all of God’s covenant promises at the end of the age, the destiny of God’s covenant people, whom God created for His glory (Isa 43:1-7). There is a much bigger picture here than our personal plans, desires and schemes!

So how do we apply these verses?

I’m glad you asked! There certainly is an application for Christians today and it is found in the pages of the New Testament.

“As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

(1 Peter 2:4-6)

Peter reminds us that “we are an elect nation, a holy priesthood, living stones built on the foundation stone, a people that has obtained mercy and will not be put to shame; and that we are to show forth our praise of Him as we live in righteousness before all people who will see our good works and glorify the Father. So the message for us today is the same as the message for the returning exiles spoken of in Isaiah 54. God has begun a new work in Christ and called us as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation displaying the mercy and righteousness of God. Great promises of the blessings of peace, safety, prosperity and victory are held out to those who obediently walk in God’s perfect will for their lives.”[ii]

Dear friends, the passage we tear its context and claim for personal glory and gain (no weapon formed against me shall prosper) has nothing to do with winning football games, or any of the other selfish plans and schemes of men.  And yes, I am among the guilty! However, now knowing that this passage is about the goorious restoration of the people of God and the city of God,  we will surely have opportunities to explain to others the Master’s eternal plan, maybe even someone wearing the t-shirt!

I don’t know about you, but I’m not buying the t-shirt!


[i] ESV Commentary

[ii] The Book of Isaiah, By Allen Ross, Th.M., Th.D., Dallas Theological Seminary

Neologisms for Neoevangelicals

Neologisms for Neoevangelicals

NARCIGESIS [nahr- si -jee’ -sis]

[(From: narcissus; 1540–50; Latin from Greek nárkissos plant name, traditionally connected, by virtue of plant’s narcotic effects, with nárkç numbness, torpor; probably from a pre-Gk. Aegean word, but associated with Gk. narke "numbness" (see narcotic) because of the plant’s sedative effect.) (From: eisegesis; 1890–95; from Greek eisḗgesis, equivalent to eis- into + ( h ) çge- (stem of hçgeîsthai to lead) + -sis -sis {C19: from Greek eis into, in + -egesis, as in exegesis}.)]

ORIGINS:

Classical Mythology: a mythological youth (Narcissus) who fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool and wasted away from unsatisfied desire, whereupon he was transformed a plant bearing his name, commonly associated with an amaryllidaceous plant of the Eurasian genus Narcissus, esp N. poeticus, whose yellow, orange, or white flowers have a crown surrounded by spreading segments.

Classical Psychology: “Narcissists” are people completely absorbed in themselves. (See narcissism.) Inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity.

noun

  1. The reading of one’s own life experiences and/or that of another’s life experience into the text of Scripture; the need to make the Bible all about themselves.
  2. An interpretation of Scripture based on the interpreter’s self-authority, particularly driven by self-esteem, self-actualization, mystical experiences and/or the interpreter’s “felt needs.” (See Sola Experientia.)
  3. A personal and/or mystical interpretation of Scripture based on the interpreter’s own ideas, biases, opinions, feelings, attitudes, beliefs, experiences, impressions, dreams, revelations, or the like, rather than based upon the plain meaning of the text.
  4. The reading of one’s own doctrinal theories into Scripture (as opposed to exegesis, which is a critical explanation or interpretation of a text or portion of biblical text), particularly as a result of personal experience. (See Sola Experientia.)
  5. Self-centered, self-defined and self-authenticating biblical interpretation, application and counsel.
  6. The reading of one’s own interpretation into Scripture based upon the egotistic belief that all things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; and that only the learned, the elect, or the leadership elite (of which the interpreter considers himself), may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them. (See Plura Scriptura.)
  7. The egotistical drive to invent new theologies, doctrines, revelations, applications and philosophies about Scripture, often manifested in self-aggrandizement activities such as book publishing, conferences, setting up organizations and websites, money-making schemes and publicity drives.

Oxymoron: Subjective exegesis.
adjectives: narcigetic, narcigetical

Online Source

Eisegesis Unplugged – Track #17

Eisegesis Unplugged – Track #17

Exegesis and eisegesis are two conflicting approaches in Bible study. Exegesis is the exposition or explanation of a text based on a careful, objective analysis. The word exegesis literally means “to lead out of.” That means that the interpreter is led to his conclusions by following the text.

The opposite approach to Scripture is eisegesis, which is the interpretation of a passage based on a subjective, non-analytical reading. The word eisegesis literally means “to lead into,” which means the interpreter injects his own ideas into the text, making it mean whatever he wants.

Obviously, only exegesis does justice to the text. Eisegesis is a mishandling of the text and often leads to a misinterpretation. Exegesis is concerned with discovering the true meaning of the text, respecting its grammar, syntax, and setting. Eisegesis is concerned only with making a point, even at the expense of the meaning of words.

The Passage

“But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake..But the one who endures to the end will be saved (Mark 13:5-13 ESV)

These words of Jesus, as well as other similar warning passages in scripture are used to assert that a genuine believer in Jesus Christ, one who has faced his sin, repented and turned to Christ for salvation, can wake up in Hell because he failed to endure to the end, persevere, overcome, et al.. In fact, the above passage was presented to me at a Christian blog venue recently as ironclad proof of same.

It makes no difference that there is no text to support the claim that a believer can be lost for all eternity, the fact that the warning is present is enough to make dogmatic assertion. If a believer could never wake up in Hell, there is no need for the warning. But do these passages really teach a believer could face eternity in Hell? Let’s take a closer look.

What’s the context of the highlighted passage?

In a word, tribulation! We could also further describe the tribulation as happening in the ‘end times’. The exact time of the tribulation spoken of is not important, but the fact of tribulation is very significant. It is tribulation that is being ‘endured’ and tribulation from which those who endure will be saved. We are not told if the ‘saving’ is only from the temporal, or if it also applies to eternal salvation. We can be sure however, no matter what the hidden details might be, that the one who endures to the end will be saved.

Although the obvious conclusion is that those who fail to endure will not be saved, all we are specifically told is that ‘the one who does endure will be saved. Therefore the conclusion that a genuine believer could wake up in Hell must read into the text (eisegesis). It’s a simple matter of words on a page – textual analysis. Even if a true believer could ultimately perish, it is not in this text, nor is it in the other warning passages often used to prove true believers in Christ might still perish. That leaves us with the question:

IS it possible for a person who trusts in Christ for salvation to be lost for any reason?

For the answer we don’t need to trot out a long list of passages that point to the assurance of our salvation, although we certainly could. We only need a few other words of Jesus – the same Jesus who issued the previous warning:

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:27-28 ESV)

The warning and the promise were spoken by the same Jesus. What do we do with that? We go to one of the most basic principles of interpreting the Bible. It two passages seem contradictory use that which is clear to interpret that which is less clear, or that could have alternate meanings. How does that apply here?

Well, there is no rocket science. The words spoken by Jesus that tell us that His sheep will never perish are abundantly clear. ‘Never’ means NEVER. ‘Perish’ has two possible meanings – perish physically or eternally. Since the death rate is still 100%, it can only mean eternally (face judgment, perish, wake up in Hell). Therefore, every other passage that might point to a believer ending up in Hell has a different meaning or purpose in scripture.

What DO the warning passages mean?

Thanks to technology it’s a simple exercise to do an Internet search and obtain various answers to our question. A good summary is provided by American theologian Loraine Boettner (1901-1990):

The primary purpose of these passages, however, is to induce men to co-operate willingly with God for the accomplishment of His purposes. They are inducements which produce constant humility, watchfulness, and diligence. In the same way a parent, in order to get the willing co-operation of a child, may tell it to stay out of the way of an approaching automobile, when all the time the parent has no intention of ever letting the child get into a position where it would be injured. When God plies a soul with fears of falling it is by no means a proof that God in His secret purpose intends to permit him to fall. These fears may be the very means which God has designed to keep him from falling.

Secondly, God’s exhortations to duty are perfectly consistent with His purpose to give sufficient grace for the performance of these duties. In one place we are commanded to love the Lord our God with all our heart; in another, God says, “I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes.” Now either these must be consistent with each other, or the Holy Spirit must contradict Himself. Plainly it is not the latter.

Thirdly, these warnings are, even for believers, incitements to greater faith and prayer.

Fourthly, they are designed to show man his duty rather than his ability, and his weakness rather than his strength.

Fifthly, they convince men of their want of holiness and of their dependence upon God.

Sixthly, they serve as restraints on unbelievers, and leave them without excuse.

Dear friends, please know that this short article is in no way an expression of a humanly constructed doctrinal system (I get that a lot). If it can be termed ‘doctrinal’, it is simply Jesus’ doctrine, nothing more, nothing less. Jesus said:

“..the one who endures to the end will be saved.”

AND

I give them (my sheep) eternal life, and they will never perish”

The only thing I an take from those simple declarations is that His sheep WILL endure to the end.

My friends, be blessed as you walk with Christ today and everyday!

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Eisegesis Unplugged – Track #15

Exegesis and eisegesis are two conflicting approaches in Bible study. Exegesis is the exposition or explanation of a text based on a careful, objective analysis. The word exegesis literally means “to lead out of.” That means that the interpreter is led to his conclusions by following the text.

The opposite approach to Scripture is eisegesis, which is the interpretation of a passage based on a subjective, non-analytical reading. The word eisegesis literally means “to lead into,” which means the interpreter injects his own ideas into the text, making it mean whatever he wants.

Obviously, only exegesis does justice to the text. Eisegesis is a mishandling of the text and often leads to a misinterpretation. Exegesis is concerned with discovering the true meaning of the text, respecting its grammar, syntax, and setting. Eisegesis is concerned only with making a point, even at the expense of the meaning of words.

The Passages

Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

“And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.” (1 Kings 19:12)

The above two passages are foundational for the practice of what is widely known contemplative prayer, which focuses on becoming silent and emptying the mind of distractions that might hinder hearing the ‘still small voice’ of God, and thereby experience God more fully than is possible through inductive Bible study. Such Bible study, along with commentaries is actually discouraged. We are to enter the silence and listen for the ‘still small voice’.

That being said, given that the topic of contemplative prayer is a subject unto itself, and the analysis thereof not the intent of this short article, we will merely examine the ‘foundational’ passages quoted above and their meanings in context.

Psalm 46

1God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

8 Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
10 Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

The phrase “Be still, and know that I am God.” is in the last of three sections of the Psalm, and is followed by a summary of the entire Psalm, “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”, an echoing of the very first verse “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

Between the first verse’s declaration that ‘God is our refuge and strength’ and the summary that ‘the God of Jacob is our fortress’ we find things that could bring great fear into our hearts; earthquakes, raging storms, trembling mountains, terrible wars and nations toppling. We are then told how to respond in such times. We are told specifically ‘not’ to fear because God is our refuge and strength. In other words, ‘be still’, means ‘remain calm’ in the midst of the storms of life. Someone might say in today’s parlance, “Take a chill pill, dude!”

1 Kings 19:12

“And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.” (KJV)

While our passage in Psalm 46 “…be still…” is used to ‘prove ‘listening in complete silence, our 1 Kings passage is used to ‘prove’ the practice of waiting to hear ‘a still small voice’. But is that what the passage is teaching? Again, we examine the context:

The scenario:

The prophet Elijah, with a death sentence hanging over his head, courtesy of Queen Jezebel, was in a serious E&E (escape and evasion) mode and had petitioned God to go ahead and take his life, thinking he was the only prophet left, was given these divine instructions:

“And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice” (1 Kings 19:11-12)

Elijah then heard the voice of the Lord, and once again complained that he was the only prophet left in Israel. The Lord gave him a new OPORD (Operations Order), reminding him that He had preserved 7,000 prophets! The wise prophet that he was, Elijah continued on his new mission.

Placed back into its context we discover that the ‘still small voice’ merely referred to the manner with which God spoke to the prophet on that particular occasion. It is not teaching that listening to the still small voice of God is required to experience the true fullness of God.

So does the Bible teach us anything about meditation?

Most definitely! However, Biblical meditation is always about ‘filling’ our minds and hearts, not emptying them, whether in a season of prayer, or as a lifestyle. Here are just a few examples:

“This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” (Joshua 1:8)

“But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:2)

“When I remember Thee on my bed, I meditate on Thee in the night watches,” (Psalm 63:6)

“I shall remember the deeds of the LORD; Surely I will remember Thy wonders of old.” (Psalm 77:11)

“They did not remember His power, The day when He redeemed them from the adversary,” (Psalm 78:42)

“Thy word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against Thee. I will meditate on Thy precepts, And regard Thy ways.” (Psalm 119:11, 15)

“I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Thy doings; I muse on the work of Thy hands.” (Psalm 143:5)

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. (Php 4:8)

May God richly bless you as you read His Word, hide it in your hearts, and grow in grace!

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The ‘Judge Not’ Bomb

The passage that that becomes a bomb:

“Judge not, that you be not judged.” – Matthew 7:1

How many times have you heard that? As Christians, if we have never heard it, we might not have spoken much concerning the issue of sin. The ‘bomb’ is dropped by non-believers, as well as believers, when the topic of sin or some particular sin enters the discussion.

The logic behind the usage of the ‘judge not’ bomb seems to be this:

  • The Bible says don’t judge.
  • If we talk about sin, we are judging others.
  • Therefore, don’t talk about sin

The Problem:

Those who are skilled in dropping this bomb are mostly non-Christians whom we are trying to reach with the message of the gospel, but they are also Christians purporting to spread that same message. I know some of those Christians and I also remember when I was one of them.

Don’t get me wrong here, there is certainly something important in the admonition concerning not judging other people. We all have ‘eyesight’ problems, as the context of our passage in Matthew 7 reminds us:

“Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Matt 7:4-5

So now we’re not only judging others when we talk about sin, we are also hypocrites because we have not yet reached a state of sinlessness! That sounds like a bit of a double whammy, doesn’t it? We’d be far better off leading folks to Jesus by telling them all about the abundant life he promises, and all the great things he wants to do for us in terms of solving all of problems we face from day to day, wouldn’t we?

Well, all that sounds good, but it’s only valid if the ‘stuff of life’ was the reason Jesus came and died nailed to on a wooden cross a couple thousand years ago. That’s where we might have a little problem. If we peer into the New Testament we are told that Jesus came to die because of sin (our sins), beginning with the announcement from an angel to Joseph through the last chapter of Revelation.

What’s really going on?

To try and find out, let’s begin with our original logic model:

  • The Bible says don’t judge. (major premise)
  • If we talk about sin, we are judging others. (minor premise)
  • Therefore, don’t talk about sin (conclusion)

If we can break the logic chain, find a fallacy in it, we might be able set the matter straight. I submit that if our major and minor premises are valid, our conclusion might be equally valid. But are they?

Our major premise seems valid, since it a direct quote from a passage of scripture. Even though there is a bit more to it than simply not judging, there is some truth there. Our minor premise certainly sounds valid, but is it really? Well it might be, depending on the circumstances in which the topic of sin is being discussed. Let me explain.

It’s certainly possible that the person who brings up the subject of sin, in general or with a specific sin in mind, does so with a ‘judgmental’ attitude, however it is equally possible that the topic was brought up for other reasons. The sinfulness of a particular activity or behavior might be the topic of discussion, or the issue of sin might have been brought up as the central issue that the message of the gospel addresses. Either way, the ‘don’t judge’ bomb is dropped because someone is being judged, according to our minor premise.

And that’s the fallacy in our logic model – our minor premise – that if we talk about sin at all, we are ‘de facto’ judging others. Let me explain what I think is going on.

When the topic of sin is approached, every single time, either in general terms or with specific sin(s) in mind, someone’s going to feel guilty. Feelings of guilt do come from having been judged, and the easiest target for complaint is against the messenger. On the other hand, when we lovingly make it clear that we are sharing God’s opinion (and can back it up scripturally), it is God who judges, and not the one passing on His opinion.

So where are we at?

Let me break it down.

God has decreed that the preaching of the gospel is the most significant means by which lost sinners are saved. (Rom 10:14)

It’s our duty (and great privilege) to share that gospel.

The gospel message, in order to qualify as ‘good news’ must include the ‘bad news’ concerning sin.

Talking about sin can and will drive away listeners who need the ‘good news’ before you have a chance to tell it. Bummer.

What do we do?

Remember a woman named Lydia:

“And on the Sabbath day we (Paul and company) went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” – Acts 16:13-14

Bear in mind that you will offend some people with the ‘bad news’ and that they will drop the ‘don’t judge’ bomb. Until God opens hearts to really ‘hear’ and realize that they are guilty and it is God who is judging, they just won’t get it. Keep your spiritual Kevlar on.

By that I mean apply liberal amounts of ‘BDA’ prayer (Before, During & After) to your evangelistic endeavors. It goes without saying that such applications will give you great courage and boldness to proclaim the ‘bad news’ with the ‘good news’, add to the harvest of souls for the Kingdom of God, and bring great glory to our Savior.

Delivering the complete gospel message boldly and with utmost love will keep you (or someone else) from having perform another form of ‘BDA’ (Battle Damage Assessment) because you fell for the ‘invalid premise’ and left the critical issue out of the message. It’s a pretty tough job persuading those who think they are saved, that they might be deceived.

The message of the Cross is first and foremost about the problem of sin, and has been since the Fall of man in the Garden. Be like the Apostle Paul:

  • “I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” – Romans 1:15-15
  • “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” – 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

May God bless open hearts to ears to hear, eyes to see, and hearts to ‘pay attention’ to that precious message!

“Hearts are won to Jesus by the silent conviction which irresistibly subdues the conscience to a sense of guilt, and by the love which is displayed in the Redeemer’s becoming the great substitutionary sacrifice for us, that our sins might be removed. . .” – C. H. Spurgeon

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Eisegesis Unplugged – Track #11

The Passage

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly..” – John 10:10

This passage is a favorite of preachers who would have us believe that while Satan wants to steal, kill, and destroy,the material blessing and prosperity God promises the child of God, physical prosperity and blessing should be normative in the lives of believers.

There are several ‘companion’ passages that are used to further support the prosperity gospel, but I will leave further research to the spiritually curious reader of this short article. Back to our passage.

What is John 10:10 really talking about?

We can find the answer to that question by asking two additional questions and them examining the context of this wonderful passage of warning and promise:

  • Who is the ‘thief’?
  • What is meant by ‘abundant life’?

Who IS the thief?

The verses around our passage provide the identity of the ‘thief’. Jesus wrapped the spiritual truth that He is the true shepherd around the easily understood concept of sheep and shepherds. It was common at the time for herds of sheep to be kept in walled pens with a single gate, guarded by a gatekeeper whose duty was to only permit the real shepherds to enter the pen call the cheep and and lead them out to pasture. Jesus told his listeners:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” – vv. 1-5

The ‘thief’ is a false shepherd and stranger who enters the sheepfold by whatever means he can other than the gate the true shepherd (Jesus) uses. It shouldn’t be difficult to see the analogy being drawn in these passages.

The Tyndale New Testament Commentary summarizes the passage that leads up to John 10:10:

“Those who are really “His own” listen to His voice. They recognize that He has been sent from God, and are ready to follow Him as the good Shepherd, who by His sacrificial love rescues His flock from evil and death, and leads them into the best of all pasturage where they can enjoy a richer and a fuller life (9,10).

The sheep are God’s people. Shepherds are pastors, preachers and teachers entrusted with the care and feeding of the ‘sheep’. True shepherds of God’s flock preach and teach sound doctrine based on carefully exegesis and exposition of Scripture, ‘drawing out’ and explaining the meaning of the text.

False shepherds look and sound like the real thing, but they twist scripture to suit their own ends, robbing the flock of genuine truth, killing true peace and joy, and destroying the faith of those who believe their false promises. They are false teachers who are nothing more than ‘wolves in sheep suits’ selling spiritual snake-oil to the masses.

What is really meant by abundant life?

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary says this about John 10:10:

“Jesus’ main purpose was the salvation (health) of the sheep, which he defined as free access to pasture and fullness of life. Under his protection and by his gift they can experience the best life can offer. In the context of John’s emphasis on eternal life, this statement takes on new significance. Jesus can give a whole new meaning to living because he provides full satisfaction and perfect guidance.”

Barclay’s Daily Study Bible adds,

“Jesus claims that he came that men might have life and might have it more abundantly. The Greek phrase used for having it more abundantly means to have a superabundance of a thing. To be a follower of Jesus, to know who he is and what he means, is to have a superabundance of life. A Roman soldier came to Julius Caesar with a request for permission to commit suicide. He was a wretched dispirited creature with no vitality. Caesar looked at him. “Man,” he said, “were you ever really alive?” When we try to live our own lives, life is a dull, dispirited thing. When we walk with Jesus, there comes a new vitality, a superabundance of life. It is only when we live with Christ that life becomes really worth living and we begin to live in the real sense of the word.”

To summarize:

John 10:10 should not be used as though it gives some promise of an improved physical life for the Christian – your ‘best life now’. Such a view, in light of the context, is shallow, and falls well short of the deeper truth of the passage. Just as real sheep have a wonderful abiding relationship with their shepherds, Christians have a precious relationship with their Savior, and a ‘superabundant’ spiritual life in Him.

Now What?

If you have bitten the poisoned apple of prosperity teaching, or if you have been tempted to bite because of the circumstances of life, pause and think for a moment of all of those who through the centuries have been martyred for their faith and are even now being driven from their homes and killed for their confession of Christ. Think about believers who live in seemingly unending poverty, malnutrition and disease in third world countries. You don’t even have to send your thoughts to the third world. Just look at the ordinary Christians all around experiencing the ‘tough stuff of life’ who nonetheless exhibit joy and peace that can only be explained by resting safe in the True Shepherd’s arms.

As for the wolves in sheep suits? I have a word for them. Nothing profound or prophetic, but just a bit of advice I heard somewhere:

“If you can’t preach it everywhere, don’t preach it anywhere!”

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