Bible

The Top 3 Most Misunderstood Bible Verses

Our culture loves soundbites. We have about a 30 second attention span (I’m definitely guilty of that). And because of that we often take one Bible verse and go around quoting what it says while ignoring the context. Sometimes this gives us a half truth, other times it gives us something totally wrong. These are the top 3 Bible verses that I hear that don’t mean what people think they do.

Our culture loves soundbites. We have about a 30 second attention span (I’m definitely guilty of that). And because of that we often take one Bible verse and go around quoting what it says while ignoring the context. Sometimes this gives us a half truth, other times it gives us something totally wrong. These are the top 3 Bible verses that I hear that don’t mean what people think they do.

No. 3

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. Matthew 7:1

Part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, this verse has become a kind of mantra for many believing that we should not judge each other. You live your life, and I’ll live mine. While we certainly shouldn’t go around judging everyone’s behaviors and condemning the world, we take this verse too far to the extreme.

Jesus wasn’t trying to say we should never correct or call out sin that we see in someone. He was saying that we need to get rid of the sin in our lives and then in love help correct our fellow Christians’ sin.

That’s why Jesus also said this: If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. Matthew 18:15

When this verse is said, the people are often right, we should never judge anyone. However, that doesn’t mean that we never call out sin. Helping a fellow Christian out when they are caught in sin is not judging, it’s loving.

No. 2

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

This verse is often quoted during a difficult season in life as a promise that God has a specific plan and will bring us through it. Many read this verse and think that if we trust God, then not only will we be brought through it, but we will prosper. In other words, we read it kind of like the prosperity Gospel. If we follow God then we will have the good life, the money we want, a nice house, and plenty of vacations.

The problem is that this verse is a specific promise to a specific people, Israel. The promise is for deliverance by ending the Babylonian exile. To take this verse and apply it to our lives is taking it out of context.

The danger comes in misinterpreting this verse when we assume that God wants us to prosper by our definition. Does God want us to prosper? I would argue yes. However that probably doesn’t look like we might think or want.

No. 1

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them. Matthew 18:20

I hear this verse referenced when describing a church gathering. Often the person uses this verse to say that because there are more than three in the room God is there. When we use the verse this way it infers that when there are not two or more then God is not there. From the Old Testament to the New Testament the Bible tells us that God is with us. God is most certainly with us when we are alone.

If you were to read the surrounding verses in Matthew 18 you would see a different message. Jesus is actually giving instructions on what to do when you have conflict with a person. It’s actually a very relevant and important message for us today. When we pluck one verse out of the bunch we get a skewed view and miss what Jesus was actually trying to say.

Honorable Mention

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard an athlete quote this as their motivation to win their game. This verse is used as a personal motivation to get through whatever challenge is facing us. We use it as a rallying cry to get through a tough test, breakup, difficult workout, or finishing a project. But when Paul wrote this verse that’s not what he had in mind.

To get a better idea of what this verse is trying to communicate we must read it in context of the surrounding verses, found here. Paul is actually talking about being content whether hungry or full, having plenty or little. He’s saying that God will get him through the seasons that God brings him to.

So what do we do with all this? When you read or hear a Bible verse look at what’s said before it. Look at what’s said after it. Look at the whole context. In that big picture what does it mean? When we read just one verse it’s like only listening to one sentence your spouse says to you and tuning out the rest. It will get you in trouble real quick, trust me I know.

We need to read the full thought before we can figure out what this actually means to us. That’s the only way to get a full view of what the Bible actually means. This will give us more clarity and keep us from spreading something that is not true.

What are your top 3?

19 comments on “The Top 3 Most Misunderstood Bible Verses

  1. I love topics like this because it allows opportunity to become in alignment with God’s heart for us, but also the reference for which it was meant. 1 Cor 10:13 “He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” Normally people stop there. Some translations are “He won’t give you more than you can bear.” But they don’t read what is next: “But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” If Jesus wasn’t given a life without temptation, why should we expect a life without it? HArd times will come. In our flesh, no, we cannot endure it on our own. That’s why we have Jesus.

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  2. I agree with you almost entirely. (And I also agree with your first commenter.) I would suggest that you are limiting the Church and its Lord by the way you are reading Matthew 18. Jesus is present when people gather in his name. Gathering in his name is gathering around the forgiveness he offers and the victory he has won over evil. Of course God is always with us, but Jesus is present in a special way when believers gather in his name. The person who says, “I don’t need the church–I can worship alone in the forest or at home,” needs to be reminded that Jesus promises his gracious presence when believers gather in his name, not when one Christian tries to be one with Jesus apart from the Church. J.

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    • I think you are right in what you are saying about the importance of gathering as a body. But Matthew 18 is clearly not about that and we would be pulling that verse vastly out of context to use it as such. While I believe that gathering is good and something we should practice, we cannot force this verse to be the proof text.

      A few Bible passages that do talk about that are Hebrews 10:25 and 1 Corinthians 12.

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  3. The one that comes to my mind is Romans 8:28 (And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose). The song Your Love Never Fails by Jesus Culture has a main line that says “you make all things work together for my good” which every time I hear that line, I think “I don’t think that means what you think it means…”

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s certainly true. Especially in this culture our faith has become all about us. It’s about what we can get from God. Ironically when we do that we are missing out. It’s when we give up our desires and follow God that we get what we truly need.

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  4. I think you absolutely nailed the top three.

    But for the sake of playing along, here are three more.

    James 2:24 (at least by Catholics)

    Matthew 19:24

    1 Tim 6:10

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hadn’t thought about James, I’ve definitely seen that misused before. Also Matthew 19:24 I’ve seen numerous arguments around what Jesus was actually saying. 1 Timothy 6:10 I think is clear, ALL money is evil, right? JK.

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  5. This is so true! Although I think that Jeremiah 29:11 still gives hope for us even today about God’s deliverance, it’s important to understand context and culture to really appreciate scripture. It’s also important to not try and twist scripture for our own wants.

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  6. autisticaplanet

    To me, Matthew 7 speaks about not being self-righteous along with getting rid of any sin in one’s life, which we can’t do without asking God for help. Phil. 4:13 means that whatever God ordains, we can face. It doesn’t mean that I can do whatever I want and expect God to bless it. I cannot attend church due to autism and resulting sensory processing issues, but do firmly believe that God is present wherever He is welcome (not that He isn’t fully aware and present of places He isn’t welcome). I hope churches pray for those who cannot (not will not) attend. Thank you for your post.

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  7. Often there is the mistake of seeing “judging” and “discerning” the same thing. To me, judgement is hallmarked but the attitude behind it which will affect the outcome. If I am judgmental, I become critical which can lead to bitterness. And I am not being loving nor want to see the other person change for Jesus’s sake and their own. I want to be seen as a little above them and my response will often be harsh.
    Discernment is for the righteous good of all involved. The outcome wanted is ultimately to further the Kingdom of God, not mine. We are to be discerning, using Biblical guidelines, but not has a hammer to shape another but to come along side to augment the Holy Spirit’s work of forming them into the likeness of Jesus. The fruit of the action taken will show whether it’s judgement or discernment.
    God, help us to know the difference.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think the bottom line is, as you said, do it to further God’s kingdom. When we called something out in someone are we doing it to tear them down or point them in the right direction?

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  9. Jay Arnn

    Jeffery, please consider this when you wrote: “Jesus wasn’t trying to say we should never correct or call out sin that we see in someone. He was saying that we need to get rid of the sin in our lives and then in love help correct our fellow Christians’ sin. I agree with you that it is good not to sin – but how do we move from being a sinner the noun to receiving the free gift of righteousness from God. To assume that we can rid ourselves of sin is in essence stating that the cross if of no effect. Look to Zechariah 3:8 For behold, I am bringing forth My Servant the BRANCH. Zechariah 6:12 “Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out, And He shall build the temple of the LORD. Branch in Hebrew is tsemach and it has the definition of vine or branch. John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. Psalms 32:1-2 A Psalm of David. Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven (found not guilty), Whose sin is covered (In David’s time sin was atoned for or covered by the blood of innocent animals – after the cross the perfect sacrifice of Jesus washes our sins away by the blood). Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity (sin), And in whose spirit there is no deceit (your spirit is made pure by the blood of Jesus and now the Holy Spirit can dwell in you – in a living temple). Remember we are made in the image of God – therefore our body in God’s image is a living temple just as God is a living God. The sermon on the Mount and Matthew 7:1 is speaking to the Jews of that time concerning instruction of the law when Jesus was offering them (The Jew) the Kingdom of Heaven and presenting Himself as Messiah. This message is not meant nor is it to the church. Because the Nation of Israel was under the instruction of the law there was the demand of National Repentance under God in order to accept Jesus as Messiah – this did not happen and Jesus was crucified and the church age began – the message was delivered to Gentile nations.

    That’s why Jesus also said this: If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. Matthew 18:15 Matthew 18:15 Jesus is still speaking to the Jew when He uses the term brother – Jews are born into the covenant of God and the sign of their covenant with God is circumcision – Gentiles were never brothers of the Jews because 1: They were not born into the covenant and 2: They were not circumcised as a sign of covenant with God. Again this is not meant for the church. You are correct when you state that the agreement between two or more is to be used for correction for the Jew, but you must carefully listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 18:19 Mat “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning ( as touching, related to, about) anything (any subject, not just correction) that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. This is what applies to the church because it is through the mercy and promise of God that He answers prayers. To the Jew, Jesus upholds the law because the law is Holy and just – but because man can not meet the law God found fault with it and sent a Savior. How do you show a people who have nothing and are not capable of producing anything that they need to turn to God away from the law? Demand. God demanded of the Jews to show them that they could not do what was needed for salvation on their own – that they needed a Savior. This is a very different message than what is given to the church.

    When this verse is said, the people are often right, we should never judge anyone. However, that doesn’t mean that we never call out sin. Helping a fellow Christian out when they are caught in sin is not judging, it’s loving. Why do we call out what is no longer imputed to us? Why do we call out in order to correct what cannot be corrected by man? How did Paul help the churches at Corinth or Galatia (Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe)? No – although Paul did mention the things that were causing turmoil in those churches – He did not call out individual sin. What Paul did was remind them of who they were in God. Even Peter states that if someone was not living a godly life it was because they had forgotten or never knew that they had been forgiven a long time ago. God has made a new covenant with us – the church – through faith in Jesus Christ – we, like Abraham are righteous by faith apart from works – and to the church, God has found the believer not guilty and acquitted of all guilt for all time. Psalm 32:2 Blessed is the one whose sin the LORD does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit. Romans 4:8 Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.” why? Because you have faith in Jesus and you are made righteous by God through faith in Jesus and it is a free gift not a conditional gift. After the cross – to be sin conscious – to focus on your sin – to focus or call out other’s sin is to miss the message of the Gospel for the church. If you carefully divide the word as God has done in the bible and Paul confirms to Timothy that pastors must rightly divide the word – then you will see this – that sin is not the focus – Jesus is our focus – we confess Jesus and we confess that we are the righteousness of God through faith. When, the believer focuses on the sin or their sin is called out by others – then the focus comes off the cross and what Jesus has finished for us – the believer. Our order of salvation is (By the Gospel) to hear the word, believe the word, saved by the word and baptized by the Holy Spirit, transformed by the Holy Spirit. That last part is what transforms our character – which turns us from sin to Jesus – but even if we sin – we can go boldly to the throne and shout “I am righteous by faith in Jesus!” because God is not imputing sin to us. We are blessed not because we do not sin – but because sin is not being added to our account by God when we do. Know who you are – you are the blessed child of God, who is pure in everything through faith in Jesus and you have been made righteous by faith apart from works.

    Kind regards,
    J Arnn
    Jewish Studies for Christians

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    • Not sure I follow what you are trying to say. Are you saying we should not point out sin because Jesus saved us? And that Paul never pointed out sin?

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  10. Jay Arnn

    I am saying we should follow the Gospel – Paul – although he did speak to the errors of the church – he always reminded the believer who they were in Christ – this is the correction Paul used. Read carefully and you will see. There is a difference between the correction of a Jew who is under the law and the correction for the church. My question to pastors is: why point out something you are powerless to correct? Instead of causing shame, condemnation and guilt – that is what the accusation of sin does – when we are powerless to do anything about it? When we point out sin in another and ask them, tell them, or demand that they change to get right with God – then we alter the order of salvation and make the free gift conditional. When you remind people who they are in Christ – that God is not imputing sin to you even in your darkest moment – that Jesus is faithful to you even when you are not faithful – that you can go boldly to the throne and confess Jesus as your savior and that you are righteous by faith – then the Holy Spirit can begin or continue to transform you. We, as pastors, must remember or be reminded – it is not sin which separates us from God – but even the smallest leaven flattens the entire loaf and leaven is a metaphor for self works under the law. That age has been over for the believer since the cross when Christ fulfilled the law for us. Now, through His blood we are washed clean and pure forever – this is the promise of God. Please remember when one of your members comes to you with a concern of sin (what ever is not of faith is sin) or the church body is aware of sin in the church – you must – like Paul remind the believers who they are in Christ. Please don’t believe me – put your faith in your bible and God through Jesus Christ – let the Gospel show you the gentleness of correction through the Holy Spirit. People – I assure you – know they are sinful and that they sin – they feel condemned – ashamed – guilty – and they see no hope for salvation or doubt they are saved – even after they are saved through the promise of God. Rather than call out their sin which God does not remember through the sacrifice of His Son for the new covenant – in that God has judged the believer not guilty through the sacrifice – and has made them righteous by faith apart from works – then lift them up from their pit (Joshua) by reminding them who they are in Christ. What is better – When someone sins you tell them to stop and turn back to God? or When someone sins you remind them who they are in Christ Jesus – that sin can no longer separate them from God – that they have been loved from the foundation of the earth by God and that by the sacrifice of Jesus God has saved them by faith apart from works and out from under the bondage of the law. God is not angry with you – God loves you and His plan for you is eternal life. I tell you truly – the first is the bondage of law that no man can attain and the second is truth and life for the believer. Remember, Paul stated that he was chief among the sinners yet he confessed Jesus – that it was the grace and mercy of the Lord Jesus who saved him and not his repentance of sin. If you read and study your bible – ask wisdom of the Holy Spirit to see this revelation of the truth.

    Amen,
    J Arnn
    Jewish Studies for Christians

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  11. God's Warrior

    Great post. I agree, not only do I hear people quoting scripture, but I am also guilty of doing the same thing.

    Philippians 4:13 is probably one of my favorite bible scriptures because it was a motivator so that even if I stumbled, I could put my trust in God. Now that I read your description of the verse, I want to say thank you for giving me a better understanding of what this verse really means.

    My Top 3 Favorite Bible Scriptures are:

    1). Matthew 14:31 “O, you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
    2). Jeremiah 1:5 “Before you were conceived, I knew you”
    3). Luke 9:23 “…. Take up his cross and follow me daily.”

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  12. Pingback: 4 Things To Do When You Read The Bible – rethink

  13. My favorite example of a completely misunderstood and out-of-context verse is 2 Corinthians 6:14 – Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.
    This is often interpreted as a prohibition against marrying non-Christians (and has even been taken so far as to be the inspiration behind the name of the “Christian” dating site “Equally Yoked”), but the problem is that in this chapter, Paul isn’t talking about marriage at all. He’s talking about idolatry and pagan worship, specifically about the practice of temple prostitution. We know this because the idea of being “yoked” with pagans comes from Numbers 25, where Israelite men “began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, who invited them to the sacrifices for their gods…So Israel yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor and the Lord’s anger burned against them.” This is reference to the common practice of priestesses in pagan temples offering themselves sexually to temple patrons as a method of joining with their gods, or part of the sacrificial ritual – and making money for the temple in the process.
    In the context of 2 Corinthians 6, Paul is talking about not accepting Christ’s name “in vain” – in other words, not claiming Christ whilst still continuing this practice of “worship” in pagan temples. He goes on to say “what agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?” So clearly the issue here is idolatry and participating in pagan practices, not marriage.
    All of this of course can obviously fall under the category of “sexual immorality” that Paul often warns against as well, so in this context this verse makes even more perfect sense. To turn it into a prescription concerning marriage completely ignores its context, and additionally would go completely against 1 Corinthians 7:13-14 which states (paraphrased) that if anyone’s spouse (man or woman) is not a believer, the believing spouse should not divorce them and that “the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.” In verse 16 Paul asks “how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? And how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband?”
    If 2 Corinthians 6:14 were truly a unilateral prohibition against marrying non-Christians, then these verses would make no sense.

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