An article by Jared C. Wilson entitled “The Bible Is a Big Book with Lots of Words” (OCTOBER 22, 2020) at the Gospel Coalition website (link: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/jared-c-wilson/the-bible-is-a-big-book-with-lots-of-words/ ) reads:
We are staring back along the wake of an entire generation of church teaching that treats the Bible likes Bartlett’s Book of Quotations. We swoop down toward the Scriptures quickly and snatch something, anything, that will do for a pick-me-up, a soundbite, a prooftexted inspiration. Jeremiah 29:11. Philippians 4:13. Romans 8:28. These verses and more we have decontextualized into a devastating discipleship deficiency. And then we act shocked when professing Christians who otherwise know some Bible verses do not portray the wisdom of the Word.
He is correct. Proof-texting is like the sound of chalk screeching on a chalkboard. It just sounds really awful! Plain and simple, proof-texting is NOT Bible study.
Jared Wilson listed three verses often used in proof-texting. I thought I would take a look at each verse and try to determine what the author intended to convey to his original audience. In this post, I looked at Jeremiah 29:11, which reads (ESV):
11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
The most common proof-texting error for Jeremiah 29:11 is to apply the promise therein to a 21st Century believer. The Pulpit& Pen website (link: https://pulpitandpen.org/2016/05/07/the-truth-about-jeremiah-2911/ ) explains why:
We can see this with Jeremiah 29:11. The promise for welfare could make it into a proof text for the Prosperity Gospel. Also, when people apply this verse to themselves, they entirely miss a good example of a promise God kept. God made this promise to a certain group of people, and He fulfilled that promise.
In Jeremiah 29:11, God made a promise. To whom did He make that promise? The answer resides in the opening verses of the mediate literary context, Jeremiah 29:1-23. Verses 1 and 4 identify the recipients and they read:
1 These are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. … It [the letter] said: 4 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:
There is no way a person can legitimately exegete Jeremiah 29:11 to comprise a specific promise to 21st Century believers. Plain and simple, the promise was to those in exile in Babylonian.
The next time you hear someone quote Jeremiah 29:11 as applicable to 21st Century Christians, you may want to pull them aside and refer them to the surrounding literary context. Help them not to espouse “bumper-sticker theology”.
By the way, Wilson ends with these good words:
Be careful with how you use your Bible, then, to make sure it is actually using you. Consult its whole counsel. Don’t be an adherent of pick-n-choose-ianity. Reject sloganeering and cliche-peddling. Through the deep Word, become a deeper person. The Bible is bigger than your bumper sticker.
If you are reading this post and are not a Christian, unless God intervenes, your eternal destination is hell. But, your destiny can change.
Today can be the day of your salvation! Please see my blog (https://stevebelsheim.com/2020/04/20/for-god-so-loves-you-2/) for a description of how you can be saved. You can also go to another article at my blog (https://stevebelsheim.com/2020/10/20/there-is-hope-even-when-there-seems-to-be-no-hope-2/ ).
Please send me any comments to email@example.com or use the comments feature of the blog.
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