THE BIBLE-USED AND MISUSED
Many people seek divine guidance by opening the Bible and
placing their finger on a verse at random. But this practice did
not originate with the Bible. The Greeks used verses taken from
the Iliad and the Odyssey. The Romans used Virgil's Aeneid and
the Mohammedans, the Koran.
We have no example or instruction within the Bible for
choosing a verse at random. I am not saying it is wrong, but such
could easily be carried to a superstitious extreme, as though the
Bible were some type of glorified Ouija board.
I have seen people open the Bible for "guidance" and then
try again if they did not get a verse that fit in some way the
situation at hand. It is not uncommon for them to get into the
"begats" or something entirely irrelevant. Other times, a verse
might seem to fit a situation. A young lady who was going with a
huge and somewhat uncouth young man wondered if she should marry
him. When she let the Bible fall open for guidance, she read this
verse: "The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion,
and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the
hand of this Philistine" (1 Sam.17:37), the reference being to
Goliath. But affection proved stronger than superstition and she
married him anyhow, with no regrets.
The tale is sometimes told of a man who opened the Bible for
guidance and put his finger on the verse that said: "Judas went
and hanged himself." He opened again and it said: "Go and do thou
likewise." When he tried again, he read: "What thou doest, do
quickly", and finally, "And as many as do these things shall
inherit eternal life"!
By taking only part of what the Bible says, one could even
prove "there is no God" (Psalms 53:1). But when we take all of
the verse, we discover it is "the fool that hath said in his
heart, There is no God."
A young couple when first married used to share in doing the
evening dishes. She would wash the dishes, he would wipe them.
After a while the man grew tired with this little chore and asked
to be dismissed. Besides, he felt that wiping dishes wasn't man's
work anyhow. But the woman found a verse in the Bible which, she
felt, proved otherwise: "And I will wipe Jerusalem as a MAN
wipeth a dish, wiping it, and turning it upside down" (2 Kings
A woman who did not want to get up early in the morning used
the scripture: "Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning"
(Isaiah 5:11). But when we read the rest of the verse, it has an
entirely different meaning: "Woe unto them that rise up early in
the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue
until night, till wine inflame them"! The setting is that of
drunken revelling and failure to regard the work of the Lord. It
has nothing to do with what time a person gets up in the morning
under other circumstances.
I am reminded of a preacher I heard a few years ago who was
an early riser. "I beat my wife up almost every morning", he
said. Some misunderstood this and thought he was "mean" to his
Jesus said that man should live "by every word of God"
(Matt.4:4). An overall, consistent study of everything the Bible
says on a subject is far more sound than basing conclusions on a
single verse taken at random or otherwise.
PRAY WITHOUT CEASING
The Bible says, "Pray without ceasing" (1 These.5:17).
Taking this verse alone, some suppose we should pray all the
time; should never stop praying; should always be in an attitude
of prayer. The fact is, no one has ever done this. Even Jesus
ceased to pray. "As he was praying in a certain place, when he
CEASED..." (Luke 11:1).
Let us suppose we met a man we hadn't seen for five years
and made the following statement: "I haven't stopped praying for
you; I always remember you in prayer." He would not take this to
mean that every minute of every day for five years we had been
praying for him. He would understand that from time to time we
had continued to pray for him. It was in this same sense that
Paul said we should pray "without ceasing."
This point becomes clear when we notice how Paul used the
expression in other verses. In writing to the Romans he said:
"Without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers"
(Rom.1:9). To the Colossians he said: "We do not cease to pray
for you" (Col.1:9). To the Ephesians he wrote: "I cease not to
mention you in my prayers" (Eph.1:16). To Timothy he wrote:
"Without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers" (2
Now, if "without ceasing" meant to pray and never stop
praying in the absolute sense, and if Paul prayed without ceasing
for the Romans, he would have had no time to pray for the
Colossians or the others he mentioned! It is evident that to pray
"without ceasing" speaks of consistent and faithful prayer. It is
not a command to do the impossible.
JUDGE - THOSE LEAST ESTEEMED?
Some believe that Paul instructed the Corinthians to "set
them to judge who are least esteemed in the church" (1 Cor.6:4).
The fact is, Paul was not telling them to set someone least
esteemed to judge. This is what they were doing. "Ye... set them
to judge who are least esteemed in the church." The very next
sentence clarifies the whole thing: "I speak this to your shame
"! If Paul was telling them to set people least esteemed to
judge, who would decide who was least esteemed in the church? The
scriptures teach that we are to esteem other believers highly
(Phil.2:3; 1 Thess.5:13).
The Goodspeed translation shows the point that Paul was
making: "If then you have ordinary matters to be settled, will
you submit them for judgment to men who are nothing in the
church? I ask it to shame you. Has it come to this, that there is
not a single wise man among you who could settle a disagreement
between one brother and another, but one Christian has to go to
law with another, and before unbelievers too?"
When this portion is studied in context, it is clear that
Paul was not instructing the Corinthians to set those least
esteemed by the church to judge.
Sometimes gospel songs - though beautiful and often express-
ing a good thought - have been based on a verse out of context.
Millions have heard the song made famous by Roy Acuff, The Great
Speckled Bird. It has a haunting melody. The title is based on
Jeremiah 12:9: "Mine heritage is unto me as a speckled bird, the
birds round about are against her." In the song, the bird
represents the church, which, having a high standard, is despised
by others. But when God's heritage was likened to a "speckled
bird" in the Bible, it was not used in a good sense. It had
corrupted the worship of God with heathenish rites, had become
like a lion roaring against God, so he hated it (verse 8)!
Another song says: "Lord build me a cabin in the corner of
glory-land, in the shade of the tree of life that it may ever
stand..." The writer had a good thought, but these words do not
line up with the Biblical text. The tree of life is mentioned as
being "in the midst of the paradise of God" (Rev.2:7). If the
cabin was built in the shade of this tree, it would have to be in
the center - not the corner - of glory-land.
It is said that when they first began to plan the Panama
Canal, some felt it was against the Bible to build a canal
between North and South America. The scripture that was used was
this: "What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder"
(Matt.19:6). This was really taking a text out of context!
It is commonly supposed that the canal (which shortened the
voyage between Atlantic and Pacific ports by as much as 7,000
miles) crosses Panama from east to west. But from Limon Bay to
Gatun Lake, the canal runs due south, then takes a turn eastward
so that the Pacific side is actually more than twenty miles east
of its Atlantic beginning!
Not only have verses been used out of context, some ideas
have even been built an part of a word! One article I read
attempted to link "Gog and Magog" (Ezekiel 38) with Jews -
Russian Jews! What was the proof text? Revelation 2:9: "I know
the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but
are the synaGOGue of Satan"! Notice the word "Gog" appears in the
This reminds me of some who teach that when the Bible says
Jerusalem it really means the United States of America because
the letters U.S.A. appear in the word JerUSAlem!
Some go to great lengths to find the United States in the
Bible. Some years ago I read material which quoted Joshua 21:41
which mentions the number 48: "And the cities of the Levites
within the possession of the children of Israel were forty and
eight cities." An attempt was made to link this verse with the
United States because there were, at that time, 48 states! Now,
of course, with the annexation of Hawaii and Alaska, there are
fifty states. With this, the little theory built around the
number 48 became obsolete.
THE AMERICAN FLAG
In 1961, I attended a meeting in San Diego, California, in
which a fairly well-known minister spoke along the lines of
healing and faith. At the close of the message, he asked if there
were any questions. One lady stood and asked: "Brother ----,
don't you think the United States has committed a horrible sin in
changing our flag from 48 stripes to 50 stripes since we took in
Alaska and Hawaii? Jesus took 48 stripes upon his back and this
was symbolized by the 48 stripes on the American flag. Now this
has been changed!"
The speaker was careful not to put the woman down for the
gross ignorance displayed in her question and statement. He
merely pointed out that we are not told exactly how many stripes
were placed upon the back of Christ. According to the laws of the
Jews, not more than 40 stripes were to be inflicted (Deut.25:8).
But the number of stripes inflicted upon the back of Christ has
nothing to do with the American flag!
There never were 48 stripes on the American flag. The
stripes on the flag were not changed when Alaska and Hawaii were
granted statehood in 1959-1960. It was the number of stars that
was changed from 48 to 50.
One night while speaking at a church in Nevada, I mentioned
the nine gifts of the Spirit that are listed in First Corinthians
12:8-10. After the service someone came to me and told me there
were ten gifts of the Spirit. This was a new one to me! The proof
for thus, I was told, could be found in Genesis 24:10: when
Abraham's servant went to seek a wife for Isaac, he didn't take
nine camels, he took TEN! I still haven't been able to figure out
TOWER OF BABEL
One minister whose writings have had a wide circulation for
quite a few years, teaches that there were 600,000 men employed
in the building of the tower of Babel. He states that it was
about 60 miles around its base and that when it was destroyed, it
was 3,650 MILES high (this is not a misprint!). When it fell, he
says, it fell with such force that it broke the earth into
continents and islands as it is today! The scripture that was
quoted is Genesis 10:25: "In the days of Pelage the earth was
divided." The way the article was written, if one didn't know
better, he could easily assume that this information could all be
found somewhere in the Bible.
It was only a month or so after I read these things (back in
1960) that I happened to meet this man on a train. I asked him
the basis for these things. He said much of this knowledge came
to him "by revelation." The reader may judge for himself the
feasibility of a tower in ancient times being 3,650 miles high.
A FLAT EARTH?
When Columbus sought to establish that the earth is round,
he met much opposition. He was told that his idea was against the
Bible. Besides, if the earth was round, and he sailed down under,
"the rotundity of the earth would present a kind of mountain up
which it would be impossible for him to sail, even with the
Church fathers such as Lactantius, Eusiebius of Caesarea,
Jerome, Chrysostom, and Augustine all thought the earth was flat,
a surface bordered by waters, and upon which the dome of the sky
rested. In 535 A.D., Cosmas of Alexandria wrote "Christian
Topography," a book which became a standard for centuries. If the
earth was not flat, the book argued, how could men on the other
side of the globe see the Lord descending through the air at his
Even in more recent times, the idea that the earth is flat
has been held by a few. This was taught by John Alexander Dowie,
founder of Zion City, Illinois, and famous preacher at the turn
of the century. His successor, Wilbur Glenn Voliva, offered
$5,000 to anyone who could prove to his satisfaction that the
earth was round. At his death in 1942, he had not paid out the
money. His successor, M.J.Mintern, also insisted that the earth
is flat. In 1948, photographs were taken from rockets 57 miles
above the White Sands proving grounds in New Mexico. The curve of
the earth's surface was evident. These photographs were shown to
Mintern, but he was unimpressed. "When you have something really
worth-while in the way of proof that the earth is spherical", he
said, "let me know" (The New York Times, October 23, 1948).
The first letter of every continent's name is the same as
the last - AmericA, AntarcticA, EuropE, AsiA, AustraliA, and
Years ago when there was talk about how someday it might be
possible for man to go to the moon, some said that God would
never allow it, that it was contrary to the Bible. (The tower of
Babel was mentioned. However, there was actually nothing in the
Bible to indicate that men would not go to the moon. We have
lived to see this actually happen, though there are some who
suppose it was a gigantic hoax performed on a sound stage at
Believing that God carried out his judgments by using
lightning, some churchmen in Massachusetts argued that Benjamin
Franklin's invention of the lightning rod was an attempt to
offset the intentions of the Almighty. They felt the use of
lightning rods had angered the Lord and that is why he sent the
earthquake of 1755.
ELECTRICITY - SATAN'S SPIRIT?
A few years ago I read an article which set forth the belief
that lightning or electricity is the spirit of Satan, just as the
Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God! Luke 10:19 was quoted: "I
beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven"! Revelation 9:1 was
also worked into the theory: "And to him was given the key to the
bottomless pit." This was taken to refer to Benjamin Franklin,
the "key" being the key that he tied to a kite when experimenting
with electricity. The verses that follow speak about the air
being darkened. These were taken as references to modem
factories, most of which were made possible through electricity
to run machinery, lights, etc. The writer was opposed to modem
inventions. Yet, the inconsistency is apparent, for it was an
electrically operated printing press that printed his article
that said electricity was the spirit of the Devil. Oh, well.
There was a time when some objected to street lights. It was
argued that people: would stay out all night and catch cold. Some
even claimed it was wrong on Biblical grounds - after all, God
had divided the light from the darkness (Gen.1:18) and to
interfere in anyway with this order was wrong!
A practice that has become quite widespread in this century
is "daylight-saving time." This sets the clock ahead one hour for
several months so that there is an additional hour of daylight in
the evening (as it were). I have heard it said, on at least one
occasion, that this is "against the Bible" - that somewhere in
the Bible it said the Devil would change the times and seasons in
the last days! (Daniel 7:25).
On the other hand, someone in favor of daylight-saving time
could quote the scripture which says: "It shall come to pass,
that at evening time it shall be light" (Zech.14:7), but neither
text has any connection with daylight-saving time.
A preacher was informed by an obstetrician that his wife
could be delivered of their child only by Caesarean section. He
refused to grant permission because of God's pronouncement to Eve
that in pain women were to bring forth children. The result was
that his wife died. He soon married again - but he was sure he
had kept the letter of the scripture.
It is widely supposed that the pronouncement to Eve in
Genesis says that in pain women would bring forth children, but
what Genesis 3:16 actually says is this: "...in sorrow thou shalt
bring forth children." Judgment was also pronounced on Adam - the
ground was cursed with thorns and thistles. He would experience
difficulties in working the soil and obtaining food from it. In
the sweat of his face would he eat bread. To deny the available
help to a woman in childbirth - because of the pronouncement to
Eve - would be just as silly as to say that a farmer should not
have a tractor to plow his field, because God cursed the ground
for Adam. By the same reasoning, a person should not have air
conditioning, since God wanted man to sweat; and since God wanted
man to sweat, man should not hinder it by using deodorant!
WAITING ON MINISTRY?
If verses are taken out of context, people can find Biblical
statements to fit almost any situation or provide an excuse. I
knew a man once who hardly ever worked. His family lived in
poverty. He told me he was called to serve God, that his ministry
had not developed yet, but he was "waiting" on his ministry. He
quoted Romans 12:7. But does this verse about "waiting" on one's
ministry mean to do nothing? No, just the opposite!
Here is what the passage says: "Having then gifts differing
according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let
us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry,
let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth on teaching;
or he that exhorteth, on exhortation" (Rom.12:6-6).
The simple meaning is that if one is called to prophesy, let
him prophesy. If one is called to minister, let him minister. If
one is called to teach, let him teach. If one is called to
exhort, let him exhort. In other words, what one is called to do,
let him do it. When the King James translators put the words "let
us wait", they never intended to convey the idea of waiting a
period of time. By waiting on one's ministry, the intended
meaning is that one would do what he was called to do, to serve
in that capacity. It should be understood in the same sense as a
waiter in a restaurant waits on tables. His "waiting" does not
mean he is to stand around and do nothing. He does his job.
If a church is growing and prospering, some say in effect:
"Look at us. We are growing. We are getting the job done. We are
the ones God is blessing. We must be the true church!" Others
that have only a few people and seem only one step from failure
quote the scripture which says: "Fear not little flock", with the
emphasis on the word little!
One preacher told me he wasn't upset about the small
attendance in his church. "The Bible says that only a few are
saved anyhow", he reasoned. "We already have a few, so why try to
get more?" Another preacher told me once that if he tried to get
any more members, he might get troublemakers, these might split
his church, and the latter end would be worse than the first!
In an effort to link world events with verses in the Bible,
some prophetic teachers have been guilty of taking verses
entirely out of their proper setting to make a point.
Some years ago a prophetic ministry taught that Mussolini
would be the Antichrist. Even Isaiah 14:11, "...the noise of thy
viols", was quoted as though it referred to Mussolini playing his
Others tried to link Hitler with certain scriptures. When
reports came of his death, some felt this could not be. I can
remember articles years ago which stated that Hitler wasn't
really dead, that he was re-organizing his forces in South
America, to finally appear with a revived Germany. But as of this
year (1979), Hitler would be 90 years old. At this age, he hardly
seems a likely candidate for world dictator!
Some tried to link John F. Kennedy with the prophecy
concerning the "Beast" of Revelation 13. When he was
assassinated, it was pointed out that the beast would be wounded
in the head (Rev.13:3). In the Biblical symbolism, however, it
was only one head of a many-headed beast that was wounded, and
that, not with a gun, but a sword (Rev.13:14). Perhaps Kennedy
isn't really dead at all - some reasoned. Perhaps he is still in
Dallas being kept alive by doctors in a secret room of Parkland
Hospital, for Revelation 13:3 says, " ..his deadly wound was
What novel ideas some try to read into the Bible!
In order to keep records of contributions that are made,
some churches use a system in which each member is assigned a
number and offering envelopes which have this number printed on
them. I know a man who insisted that no one was about to give him
a number. He not only quit contributing to his church, he also
quit the church! His strong opposition about being given a number
was based - supposedly- on Revelation 13:18: "Let him that hath
understanding count the number of the beast ... his number is six
hundred threescore and six." But what could this possibly have to
do with offering envelopes?
If someone thinks being given a number is the mark of the
beast, then everyone has the mark! In order to receive mail, we
have an address number (street or box) as well as a zip code
number. We have a telephone number and an area code number. We
have a social security number. Code numbers appear on almost
every canned or packaged good we use. The license plate on our
car has a number and there is a number on our driver's license.
Numbers appear on our money, as well as on checks and credit
cards. Even the Bible is divided into chapters and verses which
can be located by referring to certain numbers. Numbers are
everywhere. Only a person given to gross superstition would think
numbers are evil.
A young minister told me about a lady who quit his church
because she discovered his car license had three sixes on it. She
figured the minister was cursed! I received a letter once that
expressed the view that a church in a certain city was under a
curse because its phone number happened to be listed on page 666
of the telephone directory.....
The previous eight studies were taken from Ralph Woodrow's book:
AMAZING DISCOVERIES within the Book of Books."
Entered on this Website August 2004