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It is said that you can make the Bible say almost anything you want it to say. That’s why paying attention to context is so important—it helps safeguard against proof-texting, which is the practice of bringing your ideas to the biblical text and forcing the text to prove your own presuppositions. In this series of Seven Minute Seminary videos, Dr. Craig Keener walks us through a number of biblical passages that are often ripped out of context and forced to say something the Bible never intended to say.
1) John 12:32 - "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself."
In this passage, being lifted up refers to Jesus being crucified, not his worship or exaltation.
2) 1 Corinthians 3:16 - "Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in your midst?"
In this passage, the apostle Paul is critiquing celebrity cults and highlighting the unique value of God’s church, which is the fruit of the apostles’ labor and what really counts before God, as opposed to the apostles themselves.
3) 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 - "Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away."
In this passage, Paul is not alluding to the New Testament—the concept didn’t exist at the time. Rather, he is speaking of the second coming of Jesus, at which time we will see the fullness of Jesus face to face.
4) Philippians 4:13 - "I can do all this through him who gives me strength."
In this passage, Paul is not claiming that Christians will be victorious or successful in everything they do. On the contrary, he is saying that even in the midst of failure or adversity, Christians can be faithful in their walk with God and in their vocation.
5) Matthew 3:11 - "I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire."
In this passage, fire signifies judgment, as is clear from the surrounding context (vs. 10 & 12). While some in the audience will receive the Holy Spirit, others will be baptized with fire, which is a negative experience.