Proverbs 27:17 (NIV) As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.
I am sometimes in a quandary, perplexed about how to respond when I hear the Scriptures mishandled. Not wanting to be labeled with a critical spirit, I often simply pray for the one who has not divided the Word of God rightly. We’re talking glaring errors here, not “differences of interpretation.”
Is praying enough? Do I need also to speak in love to those who err? Is this a situation where iron must sharpen iron, where the Spirit must speak through a brother or sister to the one in error? Paul writes to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:15 (NASB) “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” Paul is iron, and he is sharpening Timothy. If we cannot speak to one another in love, bringing truth, how will anyone grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ Jesus?
Here are some examples of what I’m talking about:
I’ve heard Romans 8:19 used to call men to “step up” in their Christian walk: “For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.” (NASB used here.) Is that a correct use of the Word of God, or did the person speaking take a verse out of context to make a point? The “sons of God” spoken of here are the saints, both male and female, and the passage refers to the church of Jesus Christ being fully revealed when all is concluded. Could misusing such a Scripture cause harm? What if a new female believer heard it and believed she is not a “son of God”? Maybe I’m crazy, but I think we’re supposed to handle the Word of God very carefully and never, never use it out of context. I grieve at the twisted gospel preached in many churches today, the sad result of preachers lightly esteeming the Word!
In the same way, I have heard prison ministries teach that we should go into prisons to give the gospel message, using Matthew 25:36 as a text. But it is His brethren that He is speaking of: “The King will answer and say, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” (NASB, my emphasis.) I am not saying, “Don’t evangelize in prisons.” My husband and I did that for three years! But we surely didn’t use that Scripture to prove why we should go. After all, In 1 Peter 3:17 (NASB), the the Spirit-inspired Peter writes, “It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” Are those who do evil brothers of Christ? And just two verses before that, in 1 Peter 4:15 (NASB), he writes, “Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler, but if anyone suffers as Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.” Those who profess Christ and land in prison for committing a crime should be ashamed of their sin, but we must go to give them (and the lost among them) the Good News that there is a Savior who will not only save them from their sins but from the sin nature that keeps them captives of sin. If the Son sets them free, they shall be free, indeed!
My friends, my colleagues, my brothers and sisters in the Lord, I beseech you to treat the Word of God with the reverence it deserves, rightly dividing it, handling it accurately! I do not want any of us to be ashamed before Jesus Christ when He examines our work.