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Proof Texting the Bible

Before you read: This article is part of a larger series that builds on itself from the foundation up, with each study building on the last. If something in this article does not make sense to you or if you believe it to be incorrect please be sure you have read over the entire course before passing your final judgment. Also be sure to visit this page’s FAQ And Objections Page

Let’s recap the last few units in this course. We spoke of what sin is. Sin is a breaking of the law. We also spoke of what the law is. The law is the 10 commandments as well as the 613 laws that fall under them. These 613 laws are called the Mitzvot. They include things such as not mixing wool and linen cloth as well as circumcision.

We also said that all of the law hangs on the greatest command, love. In other words, you can not break the law and still be acting in love. You also can not act in love and break the law. So, questions that many people have about if the law of God is love or the 10 commandments have the same answer, yes. It is ALL the same law of God.

This is why Jesus said to the Pharisees that they try to keep the lower parts of the law (such as the tithe) but they neglect the heavier matters. They did the ritual things without care for the meaning and love. They strained at a gnat and swallowed a whole camel! In other words, they tried to follow the letter of the law without understanding the spirit of the law.

There is a term called proof texting. This is where you take one scripture on its own and do not consider all of the other scriptures. This is how people claim that there are contradictions in the Bible. The Bible says thou shalt not kill. But in other places, God gives the command to kill. If you proof text the scriptures about not killing then you miss out on the true context and meaning of the verse. Thus you can not accept other scriptures that command it.

This is often how legalism in Christianity works. In an effort to follow one law, another is sometimes ignored. But the reality is that this isn’t even how the law works! You can not pick and choose what law to obey. But the law DOES pick for you.

A Proof Texting Example

strain at a gnat and swallow a camel

For example, let’s say there is someone attacking another person in the middle of the park. Now, let’s say there is a city ordinance that says, “Do not walk on the grass.” But the only way to get to them is to walk on the grass.

If the police refuse to help this person because they don’t want to break this law about the grass then they have swallowed the camel. The common sense thing to do is to obey the higher law of compassion for a human and rush to help the person. That is the gnat. It is so simple and clear that this compassion for the human outweighs the law of compassion for the grass.

Mark 3:1-5

1 And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. 2 And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him. 3 And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth. 4 And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace. 5 And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.

So we see Jesus in this same type of situation. Would he break the Sabbath law of not working, or would He withhold the good that could be done?

Which law had priority over the other here?

Matthew 12:11-12

11 And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? 12 How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.

Jesus made it clear that there is a hierarchy to the law. It flows down from love. To love your neighbor is greater than to do no work on the Sabbath. If one is in conflict with the other then the greater of the 2 controls the lesser.

Matthew 12:1-8

1 At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn and to eat. 2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day. 3 But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; 4 How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests? 5 Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless? 6 But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. 7 But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.

If you have ever read a legal document you may have noticed it might have said, “this agreement shall have control.” This is a legal way of saying that this document overrules all other documents.

Let’s say that you sign a document that says you will pay $1,000 for a car from a dealer. Now let’s say that the dealer sends you a bill after the sell, saying you owe him $2,000. Both are legal documents. But the one signed originally overrules the bill.

Jesus showed that it was not breaking the law to obey the higher of the two when there may have been a conflict.

James 2:10-13

10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. 11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.

not guilty

There are 2 ways to look at these verses. The first is how a Pharisee may look at it. To them, this would mean if you heal on the Sabbath then you have broken the whole law. Or, to put it another way, if you are hungry and pick corn on the Sabbath then you are guilty of breaking the whole law. This is proof texting the scriptures.

Remember Matthew 12:1-8? Jesus showed us that looking at these types of verses in such a way is incorrect. It is ignorance of understanding the law.

The second, and correct, way to view these verses is to understand that mercy (a quality of love by the way) overrules the lower law of sacrifice. So no law was actually broken since the greater of the 2 “shall have control.”

John 7:22-24

22 Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man. 23 If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day? 24 Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.

Some may say that this doctrine is about choosing the lesser of 2 evils. But the truth is that there is only one evil and one good. You just have to look close enough to see the line between them.

There truly is no “gray area” when it comes to right and wrong. It only looks that way because we can’t see well enough to notice the actual contrast. This is why Jesus said don’t judge based only on what things seem like. You have to look deeper.

Not All That Is Called Love Is Love

Obviously, there are those who would claim they are not guilty of sin because they follow the greatest command, which is to love. However, not all that is called love truly is. Sometimes we trick ourselves into believing that we are acting in love, when we are really just acting in selfishness.

Just as we may be guilty of proof-texting scriptures for legalistic reasons (calling something a sin that really isn’t), we can be guilty of proof-texting scriptures for lawless reasons (saying something is not a sin that really is).

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

The word charity in these verses is the old English term for our modern day word for love. Notice that love does not rejoice in iniquity? Notice that it does not behave unseemly? It also isn’t easily provoked and it doesn’t think of evil.

Don't shoot the messenger

Now I’m about to give you an example that is a very “hot button issue.” Please understand that I am only the messenger telling you what is in the Bible. The reason I am picking this as an example is only because it is such a well known topic, and it deals directly with the thought of love itself.

There are those who believe homosexuality is ok because it is “love.” But in order to know if this is true or not we need to break it down and see if it meets the requirements of what the Bible calls love.

Ask yourself this: Is it loving to be patient with someone? Is it loving to be kind to someone? Is it loving to put their needs ahead of your own? Is it loving to have a deep caring bond with someone?

The obvious answer is yes! That IS love. The problem is that sometimes people try to add other things to this. Since they have SOME qualities of love they claim that the other things are love too.

If it was not for the issue of sex in homosexuality there would not be anything wrong with having what the Bible calls love for someone of the same sex. We should care about people of the same sex, put their needs ahead of our own, and have a deep caring bond. It doesn’t matter what gender they are.

Love in this way is NOT homosexuality. The only thing that defines something as homosexuality is the sexual aspect. There truly are those who love people of the same sex in the way God says to. That is one reason why a homosexual will tell you that they love very deeply. They can’t tell the difference between a deep caring bond and sexual desire.

Leviticus 18:22

22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

Leviticus 20:13

13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

These 2 verses are found among other verses which speak of it being wrong to have sexual relationships with family and animals as well. This does not mean we should not love our family or animals in the proper sense of the word.

So when the Bible speaks of homosexuality as a sin it is not saying that deeply caring for someone is a sin. It is saying that having sex with someone of the same sex, family, or animal is a sin. The Bible also says that lusting after someone that is not your spouse is also a sin. It makes a distinction between love and lust.

Romans 1:24 and 26-32

24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:

And:

26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

Now, we have established that it is not wrong to love someone in the sense of caring for them. But let’s ask ourselves another question. Is it loving to engage in an act that God calls sin? Is it loving to use someone’s body in a way it was not created to be used? Is it loving to rejoice in what God calls abomination? Is it loving to commit a sexual act that is against the law of God?

This sexual issue is not about love, it is about lust. So we see that there is a difference between deep care and lust. One really IS love, but the other is not. Like I said, if it wasn’t for the sexual issue nothing could be called homosexual.

Can We Pick and Choose What Law to Follow

So now we see how the law works. We also see that not everything is what it seems to be. Some things called sin are not, and some things not called sin really are. In order to know the difference, we have to know the hierarchy of the law. We also need to be able to see the line between black and white.

As for the example I just gave it would seem like a gray area when you add deep caring bonds and sex together. But there is a line between them and they are not one and the same.

Now, of course, this will lead us to our next thought. One thing people will say to justify themselves is that we can not pick and choose what law to follow and what not to. For example, they will equate homosexuality with having a blend of 2 pieces of cloth.

But again, what is the hierarchy of the law? Is it better to be naked or to have clothing with 2 types of fabric? Modesty has control over fabric blends. Which is why John the Baptist could get away with wearing camel hair and a leather belt.

Also, many people will point out every other “sin” in the book that another may commit in order to justify this one. But again, my sin doesn’t make your sin null and void. One thing that I have noticed is that some people become very upset that a person may speak on this, while not speaking on other sins (as they suppose).

But the real reason the church often speaks on this is because no one disagrees that theft, gluttony, and so on are a sin. But this subject requires special attention due to the multitude of people who do not even believe it to be a sin.

There is a balance to everything.

Romans 3:7-8

7 For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner? 8 And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just.

I just thought I would go ahead and address this here as well. I am sure there are some who may also slander me because of this unit. But like Paul, I am NOT saying we should do evil for the sake of the good that may come! We need to understand that the ends do not always justify the means.

Can you save someone’s life without telling a lie? Then it would be a sin to tell the lie for the sake of the outcome. But if you can not, … then what law has control? Would it not be the law to protect life? This is why Rahab was blessed for telling the lie that she did in Joshua chapter 2. So no, I am not saying we should sin for the good that may come. I am only saying we should know what law has control.

Now there is one last thought that I would like to remind you of. In Unit 2:2 we said that ALL are guilty of sin. So it really is pointless to attempt to justify ourselves by pointing out the sins of others. Even if we know the law and its hierarchy we would still break the law.

This doesn’t mean sin doesn’t matter, though. It just means we need help. The Bible says there is judgment for sin. The next few units will talk about that.

Continue To Unit 2:5 – Why Are All Guilty before God OR

Return To Christianity 101 Unit 2 – Sin and Eternal Judgment

July 20, 2015 at 3:13 am | | 2 comments

2 responses to “Proof Texting the Bible”

  1. Gary Bartlett says:

    Trailing below, I would like to discuss proof texting. While it can definitely cause problems, criticism of proof texting can be a problem in its own right. My question to you is – just who has the authority to establish just exactly what is the context of a certain Bible passage? Please let me explain what I mean by this question. There are lesser contexts and there are greater contexts. For instance, there are many divine laws which applied to the OT Israelites, which were given to them to maintain their theological and societal integrity in the sea of pagan nations which surrounded ancient Israel. This is the lesser context. Some of those rules & regulations, however, represent timeless divine principles that provide us with general guidelines for daily living. For instance, those OT Jewish societal laws involving the settlement of civil disputes encourage us to treat others honestly and fairly, and the laws regarding tithing encourage us to support the work of the church, to cite two such examples. This is the greater context. What concerns me about contexts, is that whoever defines the context gets to establish the rules of engagement and select the site of the battle. Some liberal theologians argue that the divine condemnation of homosexual activity – such as Leviticus 18:22 “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination” – is not applicable to modern Christians, because the context in which this text is found is rules & regulations given to the ancient Israelites to maintain social order in the society of their day. They argue therefore, that to condemn homosexual activity by citing Leviticus 18:22 is proof texting – taking a text out of its original context. My response to that would be that the dos and don’ts God commanded to the ancient Israelites are the lesser context. The greater context, in my opinion, is that divine moral law is universal, unchangeable, and permanent, and is therefore relevant to all people in all generations. In other words, the greater context transcends the original lesser context.
    I see altogether too many people in present day society – both non-Christians and Christians alike – who view the Bible as being outmoded and no longer relevant, because its original context was the Israelite society of 2000 to 3000 years ago. Their intent of course, is to be able to do whatever they darn well please, without conformance to God’s system of laws and values. Well I for one see the Bible as a book about fundamental human relationships: humans to God, humans to humans, humans to the self within us, and humans to the world around us. In my opinion, human nature never changes, and what God had to say about these fundamental human relationships is as relevant today as it was in Bible times, rendering concerns about the original contexts irrelevant.
    It is fitting to mention that hundreds of Bible scholars have done extensive studies of the original contexts of assorted Bible verses, yet they still cannot agree with one another on fundamental realities of the Christian religion, such as the proper day of worship, the state of the dead, the fate of the unbelievers, the process of salvation, the applicability of Biblical law to Christians, and so forth. Why is this? The answer is of course, that for many Christians, human traditions passed down from one generation to the next take precedence over the word of God as it has been revealed to us in scripture. What on earth is the point of extensive Bible study if you intend to pay no attention whatsoever to what scripture clearly does and does not state?
    My own take on this issue is that our main concern should not be whether a theological position was arrived at by proof texting, but whether that position is consistent with the letter and intent of scripture. My thought is that anyone who has studied the Bible carefully and truly understands what God is telling us, will be able to see clearly whether a certain theological position is consistent with Biblical truth or not, regardless of what methodology was used to concoct it. I’m more concerned about whether the Christian believer has arrived at the right destination, than I am with the route they took to get there.

    • Jason Evans says:

      Yes Gary, that’s a very important question. Who decides and how do they decide what is and is not the context of scripture. I believe there are a number of ways to look at it. But, like you said, when you look at the scriptures as a whole you can determine the context easily if you do so carefully and in truth.

      For example, many people like to throw out the laws given to Israel as if it was ONLY for them. But when you read other passages that say ALL scripture is profitable… you can no longer throw out something as not having effect on us anymore. You are also correct that there are places where orders are given to certain people, but not to all of us. For example, Solomon was told to build the Temple. It would be foolish to assume that order was meant for all of us today in it’s literal sense.

      But what I love about the Bible is that it tells us ITSELF what it’s context is. It tells us when we should take something literally or not. It tells us when it is speaking to one group or to all people. BUT in order to HEAR it we have to listen to ALL of it in truth.

      The issue with proof texting isn’t building a belief around one verse. It’s ignoring other verses that set rules and boundaries for how we build that belief. I have often seen people quote verse after verse to prove their points to each other but never stop to consider that they are trying to divide the Bible against itself to promote one view rather than seeing how the two seemingly contradicting verses actually meet and join together.

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