Choosing a Preaching Text (Pt 5)

Many people believe that the Bible can be made to say whatever we want to make it say. In part this is true. However, this is only true when we use the Bible inappropriately by chopping complete thoughts into partial thoughts. When we do this we are able to make the Bible say anything we want. This dark art is called prooftexting. Prooftexting is an age old practice that enables a person to preach lies and half truths from the very pages of Scripture.

An example of prooftexting is chopping Matthew 26:39 into two parts. Matthew 26:39 reads:

And going a little farther He fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

What might happen if we preached only the first part of Jesus’ prayer, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me” – full stop? Our sermon might conclude something along the lines of this: Jesus did not really want to go to the Cross. Or: Jesus was crucified unwillingly. The implications of statements like these are devastating to the Person and mission of Jesus, and therefore, to the Gospel and our understanding of salvation made possible in Christ. Of course other Scriptures, such as John 10:18 or Hebrews 12:2, clearly disproved the truthfulness of such conclusions. However, the preacher need not draw on these other verses if he only preach the full thought: That though painfully difficult to bear, Jesus desired to go to the Cross according to the will of God, which was both His will and the will of His Father.

Prooftexting leads to all kinds of heresy. The prosperity gospel is just one of many perversions of Scriptural truth that is leading millions and millions of people astray in North America today. If you listen to popular prosperity preachers on television, you will notice that they consistently prooftext the Bible, lifting a half verse here and a half verse there to form unbiblical ideas from the very pages of Scripture. As faithful preachers of God’s Word we must be intentionally careful to choose a preaching text that contains a full thought. Otherwise, even with good intentions, we might lead others into death. For, when the guide is blind and the lamp is dark then all is utter blackness.

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