A few weeks ago, I used for my text Ephesians 3:14-21 which is actually a prayer that Paul is praying for the believers in the church. In the study of the message, something occurred to me, and it is the misinterpretation that we have on certain scriptures within the church. Such as Matthew 18:20 where Jesus says, “If there be two or three gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Now for years, pastors had quoted this scripture when the crowd was low to encourage people to realize that Jesus did not need a large group to show up. Now I agree with that way of thinking, but the truth is that this interpretation of the text in Matthew is wrong. Jesus is not talking about corporate worship at all in the text, but rather He is talking about how to deal with a conflict between believers and saying that if you come together in forgiveness, then I will be in your midst. My point is that many times we take a scripture out of context or we just get caught up in a misinterpretation of the scripture and believe what we are told rather than search it out ourselves.
Misinterpreted scripture is a dangerous thing, in that over the history of humankind many have used the Word of God out of context to justify all matter of horrible things. As a church or as Christians if we are not careful, though out motives may not be wrong, we can live off of a misinterpretation and end up doing as much harm to the kingdom work than we do good. The Word of God was reading within a specific context, and if we do not the time to study the context and use it within that context then we fall into the danger of misquoting, mis-teaching and mis-living the Word of God. Now, what do I mean by context? Well, there is a lot to deal with when it comes to context but let me give you these. First, there is the original audience that the writer is writing. If you do not try to learn all that you can about the time, culture, and customs of the original audience, then it leaves you without a correct interpretation of the scripture. We have to understand that the way that people lived in the first century is much different than they do today, and though the gospel is timeless, there are things that we learn at a greater depth when we know who it was that the writers are writing.
Another area that we have to be careful of is when we change the verse. This is something that has seen in the church and the world when it comes to using Bible verses. At times we want to change the word to fit our situation, and this is something I saw when studying this week in Ephesians 3:20. Over the years I have heard many people quote this verse fit them by saying something like “God will do exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” Now that sounds good, but that is not what the verse says. Paul said, “Now unto him, that is able to do exceeding.” Now the difference is significant, in that Paul is not giving a blanket statement that God will do this for everyone no matter what. Instead, Paul is saying that Jesus has the power to do more than we could dream or hope and that He has made it available to us but it according to how the power is working with us. Now this means that we have to be living out the faith that Paul talks about in the verses before twenty that Jesus is living within our heart through faith. If that is happening then yes we have available to us an unlimited power source that can do amazing things in our life. The danger of misquoting the verse is that it traps us into this thought process that Jesus is going to give us anything and it requires nothing on our part but that is not the truth of the gospel. The truth of the gospel shown to us over and over is that like here in verse 20 God is giving us an invitation to gain more access to Him and in doing so obtain more power, blessings, and glory.
Now the thing about an invitation is that one can be given, but until you accept the invitation and commit to the invitation then the invitation is useless. The same is true with God, He has all the power here, but until you allow the power of God, the Spirit of God, to work within you, then there is no true way to access the power of God. God does not merely give us everything without us doing anything. Instead, God invites us to come into a deeper walk with Him and as we do we gain more and more access to the things of God. So it is essential for us to understand scripture so that we are not waiting on God to do something when all the time God is waiting for us.