What if I told you that the Bible says there is no God? Would you believe me? What would you think about the verse that says that? If it did say that, would you believe it?
Well, I’m here to tell you that it does. I’m completely serious. Look it up... Psalm 14:1 says “There is no God.”
Of course, there’s a little bit more to it. And if you looked it up, or if you knew the verse already, you would have caught it. Those words are in the Bible, but the author of the passage is not actually saying that there is no God.
This illustrates a problem that I would like to address in this post. It’s something that Christians today have a really hard time with... Taking Scripture out of context.
Let me give you an illustration. Imagine you have two kids. And imagine their names are Fred and Bob. (Creative, I know.) And imagine you write a letter to each of them when they are younger, maybe ten or twelve. In Fred’s letter you tell him that you have all kinds of really cool plans for him. You tell him how he is going to do great things. And that you are going to look out for him. And then imagine that Bob takes a look at the letter to Fred and says to you, “Hey, right here you say you are going to look out for me, and you have awesome plans for me.” What would you think? You would most likely think that, yes, you are probably going to do those things for him, but that letter was intended for Fred, not Bob. You have a different letter for Bob, laying out the things you want to tell him. Fred’s letter is for Fred. Bob’s letter is for Bob.
If you've talked to me about this issue before, you probably know where I am going with this. Christians do this exact same thing with the Bible. The verse I want to look at is Jeremiah 29:11. It says “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
Have you ever read the passage around this verse? If you read Jeremiah 29 you will see that God is talking to a specific group of people. And that group of people is not us. The verse is contained in a letter from Jeremiah to the leaders of the exiled Jewish people in approximately the 5th century BC. Verse one of the chapter tells us this. But for some reason, we just skip over that part. Or we see the verse printed on a card, shirt, or sign and never think to look it up.
To help us not make the mistake of taking verses out of context, we need to practice a simple rule. I learned this rule from apologist Greg Koukl. It is this: Never read a Bible verse... Yes, you read that right. Never read a Bible verse. This does not mean to never read the Bible. I want you to read the Bible. But never read just a verse. Look at the context. Know what the paragraphs around the verse say. Know who is talking to who and what they are talking about. Know the author’s intent.
It is true that God wants good for us. (Romans 8:28.) And He may have plans for us to prosper and not be harmed. Plans to give us a hope and a future. But this verse is not how we know. It was not written to us.
The Bible is the Word of God. Think about how awesome that is. It’s actually from God, the creator of the universe, the one who sacrificed himself so that we can have life. It’s a sacred thing. We should be responsible with the text God has given us. I encourage you to search out what God is actually telling us and stand on that. I believe God will reward us if we do. There is an enormous amount of things that He has said to us and wants to say to us... There is no need to steal someone else’s promise. We have plenty of our own.
Check out this video of Greg Koukl on this verse.
What awesome promises has God actually given us? (Leave a comment if you'd like.)