Home > doctrines, evangelism, hermeneutics, Old Testament, Sermon illustrations > Bible Verses Misused: Missionary and Other Topics

Bible Verses Misused: Missionary and Other Topics


Many of us can think of particular misapplications of scripture verses, such as topical sermons where the preacher starts with the topic and then picks out certain Bible verses to “fit” that topic—especially a problem when the text chosen has nothing to do with that particular topic.  Often, indeed, the idea being taught is found in the Bible, but we realize that other verses, more to the point, would have been more suitable.

A particularly bizarre time, from a layperson filling in for the regular pastor, involved a sermon about the salvation of children and how children come to know the Lord – from Jeremiah 48:11:

 ​​​​​​​​“Moab has been at ease from his youth and hassettled on his dregs; he has not been emptied from vessel to vessel, nor has he gone into exile; so his taste remains in him, and his scent is not changed.”

The book of Revelation, including narrative sections describing events such as Revelation 11 or Revelation 13, being taught only as basic soteriology, is another obvious example.  The way some preach through Revelation, one wonders why God chose to give us that book of the Bible and why it was included in the canon of scripture.  After all, the way it comes out in some sermon series, the only truth found in Revelation is that which is already taught, very clearly and in abundance, elsewhere in the New Testament.

Another common area for scripture misuse, that I’ve especially seen in the last few weeks:  Old Testament texts treated as having to do with the spread of the gospel and missionary work throughout the world in this age.  A visiting missionary with a pragmatic topical message about getting people involved in evangelism and sharing the gospel with all the foreigners now among us in the U.S., who took part of Exodus 9:16 as the sermon verse:  “But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.”  Only the last part of the verse was referenced, of course, because Exodus 9:16 is actually a great statement about God’s sovereignty, God’s sovereign purposes especially in election of saved individuals: the same meaning of which is taken up by Paul when he quoted it in full in Romans 9:17.  The missionary took a declarative statement, similar to other great statements such as Habakkuk 2:14, about God’s name and God’s glory being proclaimed throughout the earth, as the purpose statement for mission work.

Agreed, mission work is important and not to be neglected:  but so is the truth and context of God’s word.  Many other passages are suitable, ones that actually relate to mission work: the “Great Commission” of Matthew 28, for instance, as well as Romans 10 and especially parts of the book of Acts, the main book describing actual missionary work, its adventures and its fruit.

Furthermore, such misuses of Bible verses lead to error, perhaps subtle, but nonetheless error – what would be avoided by careful teaching and preaching of the actual verses that do speak to missionary work.  The subtle, implied idea behind Exodus 9:16 as a missionary statement, is man’s involvement and even the necessity of man doing the work, in bringing about what God has already declared: that His name will be declared in all the earth.  Yes, agreed, God uses means to accomplish His work, and that work does include the work of missionaries to foreign lands, bringing the gospel to areas so that people can hear God’s word – so well brought out in Romans 10.  But to take Exodus 9:16b as a statement for missionary work comes across as a way of attempting to rob God of His glory, since that verse especially has to do with God’s power and sovereignty, a passage and section of God’s word focused on the attributes of God, not on men doing evangelism and missionary work.  My glory will I not give to another  (Isaiah 42:8) comes to mind.

  1. November 13, 2012 at 11:00 am

    Well said, Lynda.

    • November 14, 2012 at 8:48 am

      Thanks, bography.

  2. November 14, 2012 at 6:29 am

    While we may not see everything just the same, you have touched a mutual sore point with this blog! So much of ‘Bible preaching’ seems to mix testaments/covenants and toss it all into one pot. Then these teachers pull out whatever they like regardless of the context and put it to work for their purposes…not that their intent is necessarily bad. It has bothered me so much I have been developing a book, Revisiting Scripture, which tries to address this issue.

    [If you allow, I would add a link to my page, http://www.revisitingscripture.com where I have addressed some other instances of wrong-handling of Scripture]

    • November 14, 2012 at 8:58 am

      Thanks, Tom. Yes, it is a common problem at least in our day, biblical illiteracy and mixing and matching ideas from different places, all thrown together for a desired end purpose.

      That’s an interesting blog you have, good information, and I’ll look at it some more.

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