A person can either take the name of the Lord in vain or misuse His word or message. In the first, we speak or call His name in inappropriate or even blasphemous ways. Why this displeases the Lord is obvious: We show disrespect for divine authority and minimize the value and importance of our Creator Who deserves honor and praise. Any kid who tries to say its parent’s or teacher’s name discourteously will find out the consequences of such an act. And yet, not so few people can casually use the Lord’s name to make it sound like it were just another cuss word. The Lord, in fact, warns us that we will pay for every vain word we speak when the Judgment comes.
The second case is a less-avoided violation even by so many believers, although the consequences are no less grievous. The last book, Revelation, clearly warns against adding or taking away from the words or prophecies of the Lord. This warning can be found two or three times in the entire Bible – giving weight to its significance. Read Revelation again to find out what the consequences of doing this offense is. We might just think twice or a hundred times before we apply God’s word in any way.
Let us look at the four most often-misapplied Bible verses (as used by many today) whose twisted meanings have been appropriated by many denominations and individuals that anyone espousing a varying view is practically mobbed by a crowd telling that person to shut up. Before we do shut up, let us look at those verses.
First, the most generally-misapplied verse with respect to worship – one which Christian groups love to quote – in truth, talks about an entirely different matter in the original context. And yet, it has been applied a trillion times to worship itself. The verse says: Where there are two or three gathered in My name, there I Am in their midst. (Matt. 18:20). The original context of the verse actually talks about how to discipline or deal with an erring believer. One is supposed to find at least two or three witnesses to prove an offense and to approach that offender in order to bring him or her to repentance. In the event that the person continues to sin, the rest are to shun that person. And the Lord is simply saying that when the violation has been established by two or three witnesses, He will stand by the decision to cut off that unrepentant believer. He then makes up the fourth Witness; and the truth and punishment is established on Earth. No need for a big religious guy to bring down the gavel.
So you see, the verse is not talking about worship. It takes only one person to achieve worship to God. And yet, that verse has been used and misused, applied and misapplied to produce the idea of worship as an “assembly”, that is, “where two or three are gathered in My name”. Hence, so many people have come to accept corporate worship as the only acceptable or necessary worship one must fulfill. And this has led people to feel “obliged” to attend “worship services”, “masses” or “sacraments” because that is “what the Lord requires” — supposedly.
Moreover, based on this commonly-accepted concept of worship: Those who are “forsaking the assembling . . . together” (Heb. 10:25) are not worshiping or pleasing the Lord as they should. (The Greek word used is enkataleipo, meaning “abandoning”. This obviously describes people who have voluntarily abandoned meeting or desiring to meet with other believers and need not even be “voted out” by two or three witnesses. In that sense alone, they themselves have cut off connections with the Body of Christ, the reverse of the previous process we described.) Combining then these two verses, groups have succeeded in making a solid, double-whammy case FOR formal worship and AGAINST those who do not ascribe to such a formalistic religious or worship ritual. You would think preachers or theologians spent so much time studying scriptures. The fact that so many people think this way proves their failure.
The second verse has been mangled beyond shape and recognition that majority have, likewise, forgotten how it appeared in the beginning. It, essentially, describes Paul’s deep compassion for the Corinthian Christians. Again, the context of the verse has been totally missed that those who use this verse invariably misapply it in situations or to people who should never be rebuked the way Paul did those Christians. The verse says: “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (I Cor. 2:2) And he then proceeds to describe those believers as “carnal” or as “babes in Christ” not worthy to eat mature food. Those people were not only utterly divided; they were so immature! But many people fail to appreciate the way Paul approached those “babes” as one diplomatic, soft-gloved Apostle. (I Cor. 4:21: What do you want? Shall I come to you with a rod; or in love and a spirit of gentleness?) Hence, whereas he could have brought down the wrath of God upon those Christians, he sought to emulate the same love and compassion of the Lord to hardened sinners who crucified Him in order to – and here is the goal – convert them. The rest of the book bears heavily on the guilty party and declares how Paul, by becoming a “servant of all”, illustrates and expresses the compassion of the sacrificing Christ.
Indeed, Paul was talking to converted people – already Christians. His desire to make them know Christ was to bring them back to a review of what they had gained through their previous conversion in order to – and the goal is – to re-convert their minds, to give them another chance. That is what the “crucified Christ” is for – to make us guilty of our sins and, hopefully, lead us to repentance. But do we always have to take the “crucified Christ” from the closet every time we preach to struggling or even to faithful believers? Do we always have to point all people, whether sinners or saints, to the dying Jesus on the cross in order to honor Him and glorify His sacrifices on Calvary?
That is what so many have done in reality: Make images of the nailed Jesus and hang them or parade them before all to see day-in and day-out. Or make sermons reviewing daily, weekly, monthly or yearly the pain and agony of Jesus. It is a finished deed! A done deal! A completed divine act! We can move on and change over to the true and real state of the Lord Jesus: seated on the right hand of the Father in Heaven. Paul says that we are to “fix our eyes on Him” (Heb. 12:2) in that position and in that reality. But we made another reality (yes, a true historical one, but an uncompleted or unresolved one) and turned it into a literal mantra or an icon that fixates people’s minds on an event or an act that misses the whole intention of God: Christ’s death. Would not God rather want us to triumph, to celebrate, to rejoice and to overcome the world’s burdens and corruption through fixing our eyes on the Risen Lord?
We have made the Gospel an Old and Dying Way instead of a New and Living Way. And so, even our so-called “communions” or “eucharists” are mere re-enactments of that completed act of Christ. As if He Himself took pleasure in facing that ordeal before He did. And yet, we want people today to face the Lord’s own pain and agony as well, as if He did require such a thought or a duty. He never did! We bear so many real pains and troubles already in life that God would not desire to put those immense burdens upon anyone anymore. Only humans would dare do that to their fellow humans. And we know who leads people to desire that upon others — Job’s story will tell us.
Be careful; or else you might end up taking away from Christ what He alone suffered for our sake. For we might even end up claiming the glory He gained from it for ourselves and, thereby, harbor self-pride and even esteem ourselves above others – or equal to God. This has happened before, in case you are not aware — or pretend not to see.
The third verse is related to the previous one. It speaks of Christ’s argument against the Pharisees whom He rebuked for their unbelief. He said, “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life . . . .” (John 6:54) And as sure as words can be spoken and written, so many people have taken those words of Jesus and applied them word-for-word in their most gruesome literal sense! No other verse comes to matching how this one has been forced to suit a continuing doctrine of delusion. But, let us be clear-minded and consider how the words were spoken.
Christ often used parables (word-pictures illustrating common ideas that pointed to a hidden heavenly or spiritual meaning) in order to teach — or to argue against — unbelievers. In this case, He knew He was dealing with not just unbelievers but unbelieving enemies of His. Those people were not there to listen or to learn from Jesus. They came to trap Him in His words. (They did try!) Knowing that, He turned the tables around and trapped them in their own ignorance. (The rat only smelled the cheese but died before eating!) Read the conversation again and find out why people miss the meaning of Jesus and why they are forced to – surprise! – take the view of the Pharisees (the literal) instead of the intended view that Jesus wanted to present (the figurative).
Unless we truly know the Lord and His word (as given and opened to us by the Holy Spirit in our hearts, not on paper), we will never know the word of the Lord. Reading only up to that point in the Bible might lead you to take the literal sense; but reading the whole Bible and discovering its entire message will provide us with the real intent of every passage therein.
Hundreds and even thousands of passages have been twisted and inverted in this manner. We will consider a final one, one that is so common and familiar to many people and, yet, whose origin or essence is quite unknown to them. This has to do with the word anamnesis, a Greek word meaning “to remind, to remember or to think of” which has been almost always rendered as “a remembrance” in Bible translations. But we will present a fresh view that subverts most common views in the word’s applications.
When Jesus lifted the bread before He was arrested, He told His disciples to eat it and to do it “in anamnesis of Me”. He also said, “I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 22:14) Today, we all know that, with a few exceptions, people partake of the “communion” as a remembrance of Jesus’ death. But did you know that the Greek Orthodox Christians, the first Gentile converts and the closest inheritors of the Apostles’ teachings, do not agree with that meaning? (Read the book The Agape to understand the whole history and meaning of this verse.) For in essence and in truth, what Jesus meant was for His disciples to “think of” Him as He was and as He is.
He was there in front of them – not suffering, not dying, but feeding them, loving them and saving them from the coming trials and judgment. Hence, why would He want them to still “remember” Him or any deed of His, least of all His death, when He would resurrect and eat with them (spiritually in Heaven) on Pentecost Day when the Kingdom would and which did come? Why “remember” or “dwell on His suffering and death” on the most joyous day of Pentecost when Jesus had claimed victory over death and already sat on the right hand of the Father in Heaven? For what earthly purpose should we now in the present also “remember” how He hang on the cross, how He bled and how He died and how He was buried, when what He commanded was to “do this” – that is, eat and “think of Me”. We do not dine with a suffering Savior or a dead Being anymore but with a Living Lord and Reigning King! The Agapé is a feast, not a wake.
“I am your Lord. I give you food. I give you life. Eat and be refreshed always.” And you want me to “remember” His death? No, the command is to proclaim its truth and validity – along with the truth and reliability of His resurrection. The two are like night and day, hunger and eating, thirst and drinking. It may be night; but the Sun still shines somewhere – can you see the Moon? You may feel hungry or thirsty; but there is always food and water for the stomach – it is a mere feeling or longing for life-sustaining elements, whether light or food. You never fill up your car’s gas tank only when it is totally empty; for your engine will surely die on you. We think of Jesus always because He is the only source of our Life energy! What kind of person relishes thinking of his gas tank being empty or staying in the dark even in the daytime or feeling hungry and thirsty all the time?
And so, Christ died (yes, once and for all!); but He went straight to Paradise with the thief. He is always and will always be alive. And He will always be Lord. How can we think of Him suffering again? How can He stand to see us suffer what He already suffered for us? We have enough evil in this world to deal with other than what He had already dealt with and done away with.
This is now our fight, our life handed down to us by our Lord. Greater things than these (His miracles) you shall do, He once told the Apostles. Did He tell them to “remember” His deeds? For what purpose? They already had His power at work in them. They could raise the dead. They could heal the sick. By the hundreds! And so, we have His life in us now. Why dwell any longer in Calvary’s death or sufferings when we can bask in the glory of Heaven where He reigns over us? His power – through the Holy Spirit – is at work in us now, if you truly believe. Pentecost Day started it all.
Misapplying or misinterpreting scriptures is a serious matter. So serious that we have covered thousands of years of misinformation and mis-education just in this one article. Why do we always miss the mark? Because people follow the wrong teacher or teachers. And yet, we only have one sole teacher available to show us the whole Truth and Counsel of God: the Holy Spirit. (I John 2:20-27) And why do we still view things in so many divergent ways if He has been truly given to humans?
That question we will deal with, hopefully, next time.