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Thursday, September 20, 2012 | Comments (10)

by John MacArthur

If you believe the Bible is God’s Word—that it’s His revelation of Himself and His plan for redeeming sinners, and that it supplies all the instruction and encouragement believers need for life, spiritual growth, and godliness—then getting the message right is of the highest importance.

However, the emphasis in many churches has shifted away from careful, disciplined Bible study to more intuitive and internal methods of spiritual formation. People who profess to love the Lord treat His truth carelessly, or disregard it altogether. Others simply lack the training and wisdom to get beyond the most basic, surface understanding of God's Word.

Over the past few days, we’ve been looking at some key mistakes people make when it comes to interpreting and understanding God’s truth, and today we want to look at one more. In order to get the message of Scripture right, don’t spiritualize or allegorize unless the text itself calls for it. Some people use the Bible as a flexible fable to back up some point or platform they want to put across. Instead of seeking the true meaning of Scripture, they make it an allegory to support whatever they want to teach.

An extreme example of the perils of allegorizing is the young couple that came to one of our assistant pastors to get counseling about their marital problems. He began talking with them, and after about thirty minutes he asked them, “Why did you ever get married? You are miles apart!”

“Oh” said the husband. “It was the sermon the pastor preached in our church.”

“And what was it?”

“Well, he preached on Jericho.”

“Jericho! What does that have to do with marriage?”

“Well, he said that God’s people claimed the city, marched around it seven times, and the walls fell down. He said if a young man believed God had given him a certain young girl, he could claim her, march around her seven times, and the walls of her heart would fall down. So that’s what I did, and we got married.”

“That can’t be true,” said our assistant pastor. “You’re just kidding, aren’t you?”

“No, it’s true,” said the husband. “And there were many other couples who got married because of the same sermon!”

Some people believe their marriages were made in heaven. Here was a marriage made in an allegory—and a silly one at that!

That kind of interpretation has gone on since the early days of the church, and it continues today. A well-known charismatic preacher did a sermon series on the book of Nehemiah. As he taught, just about everything in the book represented something else or meant something symbolic. These are among his points:

  • Jerusalem’s walls were in ruin, and that speaks of the broken-down walls of the human personality.
  • Nehemiah represents the Holy Spirit, who comes to rebuild the walls of human personality.
  • And when the pastor got to the king’s pool (Nehemiah 2:14), he said it referred to the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and from there he went on to teach the importance of speaking in tongues.

The book of Nehemiah has nothing to do with the walls of human personality, the baptism of the Spirit, or speaking in tongues. But when a preacher reads that kind of application into the story, some people think it is marvelous Bible teaching. I say it isn’t. It’s hucksterism. It makes the Bible say what we want in place of what God is saying to us (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:17).

The real danger of that kind of teaching is that it teaches believers to use the same approach in their personal study. It robs God’s Word of its true meaning, supplanting the original intent with all kinds of freewheeling, unhinged interpretations. It treats Scripture as if it can mean anything and everything. That kind of approach cuts you off from the original, objective meaning of God’s truth, and therefore cuts you off from the true source of spiritual growth.

(Adapted from Charismatic Chaos.)


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#1  Posted by Yang Lin  |  Thursday, September 20, 2012 at 5:09 AM

The truth sanctifies people, the lies destroy people. The true interpretation builds people up, the false interpretation tear people down. God has inspired and preserved His Word, and the responsibility we have is truly get the message right.

#2  Posted by Greg Tegman  |  Thursday, September 20, 2012 at 12:48 PM

Starting at age eighteen in 1978, I spent over 30 years in and out of charismatic and superficial churches. I had no exposure to church of any kind prior. I did not know where to go. I spent those years going in and out of one church to another. I came to a point where I gave up completely having been verbally condemned by a "said" charismatic female prophet. After that,I went so low that I thought all hope was gone. I still struggle with the memories. Then I heard John MacArthur on the radio in my car. I had never heard such teaching before. I kept on listening to the half hour sermon's daily. He did not back peddle on anything. Over time I felt that all was not lost after all. It has been about five years since. All those years prior I had "checked my brains out at the door". Currently, I am seeking a Bible study method that would be most effective. I came across the inductive method. This is new to me. I wrote below what I found. I know there may be a number of ways to study.

"Inductive" simply means to use logic induction and reasoning by examining the particulars, facts, and essence of a text, such as context and word meanings first before making any conclusions. Who,what,where,when why and to what extent seems to be the primary idea. I am new to this idea. I want to do it right.

#3  Posted by Michael Kennedy  |  Thursday, September 20, 2012 at 6:40 PM

GREG, my name is Mike Kennedy and God found John for me in 1979 when I got saved. I had 28 yrs. in catholicism, and then a short stint in the charasmatics too. I'm glad God got you out of there cause it is lethal! I too still suffer from the stuff I learned in them too. I'm sure you probably checked out the "tongues" thing already, which is cool, but keep up with John, cause you'll be amazed what you'll learn, big time. I suggest "God's Will is Not Secret"... and " The Certainty of God's 'Existence"... they will blow you away with wisdom and ammunition for witnessing. So, hang in there and God is Faithful, He knows what you need...being His and all. Take care now, MIke,.

#4  Posted by Faith Ann Scheck  |  Saturday, September 22, 2012 at 5:50 AM


Hello, I just want to say your post touched my heart.

You are on the right track listening to John and going to the Word through Inductive Bible Study. If you want to know the Word of God, study diligently and prayerfully using this method. God will bless your work.

God Bless, Faith Ann

#5  Posted by Lorraine Fuerst  |  Saturday, September 22, 2012 at 8:03 AM

I, too, was in a charismatic church for a few years. God protected me through what I had learned in the baptist church I attended for 10 years prior to that time, and through my natural skepticism for all things "of man".

I go to a Christian forum site to pray for people each morning after my personal Jesus time. Another member, a charismatic lady "prophet" sent me a private massage this morning containing a "word from God" about my lousy time management. :(

Now, truthfully, I am not the best at time management. But recently, the Lord moved my heart to spend much more time with Him, in prayer and in the Word. He has already blessed me in that. (thank You, Father!)

And although I initially felt condemned, my husband pointed out the "word" sent me was pretty generic, and could be true of almost anyone. And that if I was feeling condemned, I was not listening to the right voice, since there is NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. ♥

Had I felt convicted, and drawn closer to the Lord, that would have been God's voice, and the one to listen to, my husband told me. He also reassured me that if I had been doing such a bad job with my time, he would have said something. (in love--my husband always speaks lovingly to me.)

I thank our faithful God for pastors like John, who speak the Truth with no apologies for it, and for websites like this one.

I also thank Him for telling us "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow me."

Although I have feelings about God and His Word, I do not place my trust in feelings. I trust the written Word of God, and if my feelings follow it, great! But any church which bases almost everything on feelings should be cautioned against, as our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked.

I am sorrowful for anyone deceived by the idea that the Jericho story should be relevant to marriage in that way.

And ever thankful to our God for His faithfulness to us in sending those who teach the Word, dividing it rightly.

May the Lord bless us all with understanding of His Word!

#6  Posted by Greg Tegman  |  Saturday, September 22, 2012 at 8:40 AM

Thank you Yang, Michael and Faith. It is nice to share with persons whom I have not met in person regarding this topic. I pray for those who are truly seeking Christ and yet are deceived. May He enlighten them through His Word and bring them to a place where the real truth of the gospel is taught.

#7  Posted by Pierre Blanchard  |  Monday, September 24, 2012 at 8:44 AM

Great posts everyone. I don't know if I would have ever survived without the teachings I've had on Christian radio to keep me in the truths of Gods word. I feel convicted for not supporting them more financially.

#8  Posted by Jesus Rodriguez  |  Tuesday, September 25, 2012 at 8:09 AM

I wish everyone would be as tentative and open to what John & GTY are set to give to God's people as what I read here. Rightly dividing the word of God and teaching it is so scarce.

I read Charismatic Chaos when it first was printed. That pulled me away from those places(that's where my wife and me started our walk with God) as far as going ten times around the world.

Right now I have only this question. Is it wrong to believe that a Church Leader(namely the Pastor/Teacher) should know or be learning Greek and Hebrew so they can wisely preach the word of God?

Thank you GTY

#9  Posted by Fred Butler  |  Tuesday, September 25, 2012 at 9:05 AM

Is it wrong to believe that a Church Leader(namely the Pastor/Teacher) should know or be learning Greek and Hebrew so they can wisely preach the word of God?

I don't think it is necessary for a pastor to be proficient in the biblical languages. Honestly, it may be a difficult proposition for a lot of men. I would hope, however, that they would have a high view of Scripture and with that high view of Scripture, cultivate the heart to avail themselves of the tools to learn and use the original languages in their teaching.

#10  Posted by Jesus Rodriguez  |  Thursday, September 27, 2012 at 7:39 AM

Thanks, Fred

That was my intention when I asked the question. My spirit quenches when I hear from the poppet "I'm no Hebrew scholar" excuse.

God Bless