Part 1 – Misunderstood Biblical Texts on Evangelism and Discipleship

June 6, 2011
By dreiher2

Click here for funny video about misinterpretation

This category of posts is dedicated to answering the most misunderstood texts from the view that perseverance in good works until death are NEVER a cause, or a condition, or co-condition, or proof that a person indeed born again according to the Bible. A popular example of such misunderstanding is from James 2. That is the famous “faith without works is dead” passage.  I have it quoted to me all the time by people like Jehovah Witnesses and Catholics, and modern (and Post-Modern) Evangelicals,  when I tell them that John 3:16,17 proves a person who believes in Jesus as the granter and guarantor of everlasting life, that cannot be lost. They can be 100% sure they are going to heaven when they die, regardless of how they live. Obviously, there are many Scriptures which when you look at them, outside of their context, APPEAR to teach that a person must do more than just believe. They seem to teach a person must persevere in good works until death as either a cause or a condition, or as a co-condition or proof that a person is indeed escaping hell, and going to heaven.

I am not exactly sure how many texts I will deal with, and how much time I will spend on each one. I estimate 2 weeks on each one.  I want to cover the most misunderstood texts. I  am sure there are probably 20 which are at the top of the “most misunderstood” chart. That would take almost a year. I will be posting audio files, video files, and recommending books, responding to comments, and perhaps having several live webcasts, depending upon schedules.

What usually happens, is that people who disagree with you get mad for challenging one of their long held traditional views. For example, some people thought they were saved when they asked Jesus to come into their heart, after hearing a speaker quote Revelation 3:20 as a close. When I was 5 I told Jesus I was sorry for my sins, and I asked Him to forgive me. However, that is not how a person gets born again! My parents were confused too, so they did not really help. They basically said you have to keep on believing in order to get to heaven. There is a HUGE amount of confusion and disagreement as to what the Gospel is, and exactly what a person has to do to get 100% assurance of everlasting life (that is if you even believe it is possible!).

In case you don’t know, if you ask 100 church people exactly what you have to to to get to heaven, you will get 100 different answers. If these people start disagreeing with each other, before you know it, verses start flying back and forth, sort of like mortar rounds being lobbed back and forth. We have to admit, this is a very important issue, and our eternal destiny is at stake! It SHOULD be something we care deeply about. However, rather than lobbing more and better mortars than the other side, I want to focus on the methodology behind the interpretations, generally known as hermeneutics. Everybody brings a basic set of presuppositions to texts dealing with salvation issues. There are a number  of pre-suppositions which those of us “easy believism” folks hold to. These principles of interpretation are the basis for our understanding of verses on Salvation, Evangelism and Discipleship issues. I think there are good hermeneutics and bad hermeneutics, and hopefully I will demonstrate that the one we use is better than the one that other sides hold to.  I think that the one which is best, will be the one which does the most justice to, and yields the most consistent interpretations, to the greatest number of texts, and which is repeatable by any “non-expert” who looks at the text with those principles.

Rather than play verse lobbing one-upsmanship, It is far more productive to examine why I believe what the text says, based upon my basic presuppositions and hermeneutics. I hope those in my camp will see that people who think differently than we do about a text, may have a perfectly logical result of their basic presuppositions. For example, some (like John MacArthur and John Piper) think the Bible does not intend hard and fast distinctions between believers and disciples. They get uptight about making distinctions in the Bible, they like to “blend” things together, like justification salvation and sanctification salvation. You can see why that person would think that belief, commitment, obedience and perseverance ALL have something to do with whether you get to heaven or not.  Of course MacArthur and Piper would claim strongly these other things are not a cause for salvation, but that they are inevitable results, or conditions of “true” faith. (That is where their misinterpretation of James 2 comes in). Their understanding of every other verse in the Bible on salvation, assurance, discipleship, heaven, hell and the Christian life will be colored by that presupposition. They understand James, 1 John and the warnings in Hebrews completely different than I would. I hope you get the point.

At the moment, I have a list of 9 principles of interpretation which I think are sound, and especially relevant to the misunderstood Salvation texts. I will lay these out in my next post. I will try and relate these presuppositions and principles of interpretation to the texts as we go through them. I am sure I will adjust and/or add to list as we go.

I think we will start with James 2 as that seems to be the most misunderstood text of all time. I also expect that by the end of the study of 20 verses, some of my views on some of the texts will change. I hope your views will change too. I will probably end saying something, and disagreeing with myself later on. That happens, when you really study the Bible inductively.  I hope this will be a growing experience for all of us.

- Don

One Response to Part 1 – Misunderstood Biblical Texts on Evangelism and Discipleship

  1. Jo Ann Wiebe on June 7, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    Don, thank you for starting this blog. I look forward to reading the posts and, perhaps, participating in the discussions.
    Jo Ann

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