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I have a confession to make: I’m guilty of quoting the Bible out of context to make a point. In my defence it was unintentional, but since realising this I’ve noticed that we Christians seem to do it just a little too often. Have a look at these commonly quoted Bible verses that don’t actually say what we seem to say they do:
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
I’ve quoted this, and heard it quoted often, to say that…’all have sinned’. Nobody’s perfect. But to take this verse to prove that the Bible says that everyone’s sinned isn’t logical, because the sentence continues:
 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,  whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.
Logically speaking, if you’re going to use verse 23 to ‘prove’ that everyone’s a sinner, you must accept that all are justified – and that’s not the case because those that are said here to be justified are justified through faith in Christ Jesus. So the ‘all’ means ‘all Christians’. Can we please stop using Romans 3:23 to say that everyone needs to become a Christian?
For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.
I’ve heard this one quoted in probably every other prayer meeting I’ve been to: ‘O Lord, you said that when two or more gather in your name you are there, and we are gathered in your name so you are here with us…’
But that’s not what the passage is saying! Have a read of Matthew 18:15-20 and you’ll quickly spot that it’s talking about church discipline! Jesus is saying that if someone has sinned against you and won’t repent when you approach them or when independent witnesses validate your claim, you should bring them before the church because the collective witness of Jesus’ body, the church, reflects Jesus’ own view.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
Perhaps this is my favourite. This is always used as the call for conversion: ‘Unbelievers, Jesus is standing at the door of your heart, will you open the door and let him in?’
But again, look at the context! This statement is part of a rebuke to a church who were being ‘lukewarm’ – they were claiming to be Christians but living as if they were atheists. Jesus’ knock isn’t a gentle ‘let me in for intimacy’, it’s a sarcastic ‘Helloooo! I’m right here, you say you believe in me, but you’re acting like an unbeliever!’
Right. Let’s be clear here – I actually believe that all have sinned. I believe that Jesus is present when we gather by his Spirit. I believe that Jesus is calling unbelievers to faith and repentance. But how about we treat the Bible the way it should be treated? Instead of taking soundbites from it, how about we read it, study it, and apply its lessons.