Using Scripture to Justify

Who are we do decide?

Some years ago I was invited to perform at a small Baptist church in the area by their Seniors Club. About fifty Wonderful 65 to 98 year old folks who gather each week for a meeting, fellowship, a pot luck meal and worship. Everyone in the room was older than my wife and I except their brand new 27 year old pastor and his lovely young wife and baby daughter. Everyone sang along, clapped hands and got nicely into the mood of praise and worship and we were having a great time… My mistake came in announcing that the next song spoke to the core of our beliefs and I sang “Communion” by Third Day.

“This is the body
This is the blood
Broken and poured out
For all of us
In this communion
We share in His love
This is the body
This is the blood”

At that, the young pastors mood suddenly darkened, and remained so for the rest of the evening. When he closed in prayer, he made a point of emphasizing that faith alone is all we need for salvation and not by works are we saved, and that we should remember that communion was simply a symbol of the remembrance of Christ.


I smiled and blew it off as his inexperience in dealing with people, but my wife, a cradle Catholic, was incensed. She steamed all the way home and commenced to writing a scathing e-mail to the young pastor citing all of the scriptures that call for us to do good works among people. She was ferocious in her research and had written several pages letting the pastor know in no uncertain terms how sinfully wrong he was. She was citing passages from James 2 about the value of works until she read further down into James 3 and found the admonitions against a vicious tongue. I saw her visibly deflate, calm down, sigh and then spoke quietly, “I guess I can’t send this to him.” I said “Well, it’s up to you but you might also read James 1 that tells us not to judge others.”


When she finished reading, we had a long discussion about the context of the scriptures and how we all as imperfect Christians tend to use the scriptures to justify just about any position we care to take on anything we care to do or say without really finding the intended context. Both of us now, when presented with a passage, will read it first, then go several chapters or verses ahead and then beyond to fully understand what is meant. Then sometimes we will move into the study bible or other writings to further clarify the message. It has brought a whole new dimension to our bible study and our understanding of God’s word.


We laughed that it would be so much easier to be an atheist since you could simply do whatever you want with no need of justification.


We as humans are selfish people. We are concerned all of the time with our own comfort and wellbeing. We have to work hard NOT to be this way, but try as we might, we are always tempted to make things work out for our own good and comfort.


Even as good Christian people, we will twist and mold the Word to our own liking, picking and choosing amoung the scriptures the things that justify the personal desires in our lives. Too often, this includes taking scripture out of context to justify an action or belief that we want to put forward. Yet most of the time, if we take the time to study further, we will find that we were wrong to the point of being opposed to the actual intent of the passage we quote.


2nd Timothy 3:16-17


"All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work."


Often cited as the basis for Sola Scriptura: the bible is all there is and all we need to know. .


2nd Thessalonians 2:15


"So then brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter."


But clearly, the scriptures AND the traditions of our churches are important together for a full understanding of our faith. .


Revelations 22:18-19


"For I testify to everyone that hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If any man shall add to these things, God shall add unto him the plagues written in this book. And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from these things that are written in this book."


Often used as proof that the bible is complete and all there is, yet John was speaking here only of Revelations, not the whole content of our bible. While it appears in the Bible as the last book, Revelations was actually one of the first New Testament books to be written, hundreds of years before all of the books were actually compiled into a single volume. .


There are countless other examples, but the simple truth is that you cannot use any verse of scripture as justification for yourself or your beliefs without a thorough study of the context of that verse and of the relevant verses in other books that clarify or support that which you are quoting. That study must also include an understanding of the words used in the original texts in their original language’s and the context in which they were used at the time they were written. .


The difficult thing is that when you meet people who are using scripture to justify their actions you must be very careful not to offend them when correcting them. We need to carefully and with love point out that there is further context to what they are saying and exclaim how wonderful it is that we are given this full understanding if we only complete the paragraph.


C. Michael Hager