Seven Commonly Misquoted/Misused Bible Verses

Landon ChapmanChristianity14 Comments

Hebrews 5:11-14 [ESV] “About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.  For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.  But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”

The Bible is a double-edged sword and it can piece the heart.  However, when stripped of its context and mangled and twisted in order to apply to a particular situation or person, the blade becomes dull and ineffective.  As a growing student of the Bible, I’ve quickly come to realize that man of the passages I’ve oft quoted in the past were wrongly deprived of their context as I regurgitated the nuggets of Holy writ handed down to me by church leaders and friends.  We Christians read (and quote) Scripture in tiny, artificial fragments all the time. And by doing so, do we alter the meaning without even realizing it.  I invite you to comment below on these verses and add a few you might agree fit this criteria or to rebut my claims.

Without further ado, here are seven of the most violated verses in scripture:

1. Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

How many times have you seen this on a bumper sticker or in a sports locker room?  This verse is often used as a rally cry to finish the marathon, or win the football game, or succeed in a business venture.  However, this powerful verse refers to perseverance through need, not an athletic or business endeavor.  The passage gets its meaning amongst the context of contentment.  Paul  was sharing that he’d learned to be content in all circumstances; whether he was in prison, hungry, poor, full, etc.  Paul was not writing to the church at Philippi that he could “achieve” anything, no he was writing that he could “endure” anything through Him who strengthens.  That is a fundamental difference.

So, if you get put in prison for preaching Christ, beaten, and learn to live with little food or possessions, and you find yourself content because you have Christ, well, this verse should definitely be quoted.1

2. Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

If you ever wanted to market a killer motivational poster, this would be the verse to slap on that bad boy.  This verse is often quoted during times of trial and strife to encourage or inspire by pointing us to the promise that God has specific plans to help us prosper.  So, don’t worry!  Ah, but when we read the passage in context we realize this verse is dealing with a particular promise given to Israel from God.  This promise points to the end of their Babylonian exile in very specific terms, 70 years (Jeremiah 29:10) to be exact.  Willy WonkaIn 597 BC, King Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah. He rounded up 10,000 leading citizens of Jerusalem and dumped them in Babylon, 500 miles from home. They lost everything. They didn’t know what to do next.  So, the word prosper doesn’t refer to money or material blessings, but physical and spiritual salvation.

But, someone might say, God still wants us to prosper, right? Well, in terms of salvation, yes. In fact, this passage is a great reminder of the fulfilled prophecy and the perfect Word of God. This is an amazing story that points us to a greater release and redemption for all of God’s people.  But, Jeremiah 29:11 does not guarantee your personal fulfillment.

3. Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Will someone please ban this verse from being printed on greeting cards?  This passage is often used to encourage another believer who’s going through a tough time and to remind them that it will eventually work out for something good in their life. In other words, if you get cancer, or get fired don’t sweat it because God has something better in store for you.  Remember, all things work out for good, right?

When being true to the contextual position of the text, we understand that the passage first deals with those who love Him.  That’s a very important distinction because it’s not for everyone, it’s for the regenerated only.  Secondly, the “good” of which Paul speaks has nothing to do with our comfort and everything to do with our ultimate conformity in Christ.  So, rather than the good meaning the flipping of our circumstances from bad to good, here it means His glorification and our sanctification.  N.T. Wright once said, “The world is still groaning, and we with it; but God is with us in the groaning, and will bring it out for good.”  That is what Romans 8:28 is actually about.

4. Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

This verse is often used as an encouragement that God is with us in tough circumstances — all we need are two to three people in a prayer group and we’re set. In fact, you don’t even have to say the full verse, just start it out: “Where two or three are gathered … ” and other church members will shake their heads in agreement.2

Interestingly though, this passage doesn’t deal with random groups at all.  What it really deals with is the building of a testimony in the context of church discipline.  In the Jewish context, a proper, reliable testimony was critical.  This verse was an encouragement to church leaders during tough times of confrontation and church discipline (very little of which is practiced today) to say that God would be present with the witnesses as they endeavored to make matters correct and restore a fallen brother or sister.

If you’re not in the middle of some sort of church discipline, you’re likely taking this verse out of its original context.  That said, is God still with us when two or three are gathered?  Of course he is with us.  But, He’s also with us when it’s just one or one thousand.

5. Luke 11:9 “And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”

My disdain for Prosperity gospel teachers is well documented and most definitely no secret.  This happens to be one of the verses they twist and mangle until it’s on life support in order to suck money out of their “congregants”; they treat it as an ironclad promise.  It doesn’t matter what you ask for whether it be health, wealth, a promotion, the spouse you always wanted, etc., God will provide it to you.

Joel OsteenAh, but then pesky curmudgeons such as myself who adhere to Biblical Truths come along and insist on viewing the verse in its context.  This passage is part of a much larger narrative where Jesus already told us what to ask for.  In the example of Mary and Martha, he defended them for choosing being His disciple, a citizen of His Kingdom over all else.  Then, Jesus’ followers ask Him how they should pray.  He tells them to ask for things such as daily bread, the beginning of his Kingdom, forgiveness for sins, etc.  It’s only after those examples that He says, “Ask, and it will be given to you”.

So, God is not a divine butler.  Jesus isn’t saying to ask for anything you want, he’s saying to ask for His Kingdom and you will have it.”

6. Proverbs 29:18 “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.”

This is one of the more mangled and relied upon verses in the seeker-sensitive church movement.  Your church will not shrivel and die if it doesn’t sport a vision statement. In fact, vision statements are fantastic and can be helpful.  However, this passage is not a divine reminder for pastors to build a better brand.  This verse is often used to remind leaders that if they don’t have a compelling vision, and dream big, their people will be lost. The key word in this passage, “vision,” is actually the word revelation and it points to the Word of God or the revelation of God.

In other words, a more accurate interpretation could be: Where there is no revealed Word of God the people perish, but happy is he who obeys God’s Word.

This verse is a perfect example of what happened in Nehemiah.  The people rediscovered the Word of God and read it for everyone to hear and understand. The result: revival. It had nothing to do with Nehemiah’s catchy core values or the Venn diagram of his mission statement — it was the Word of God that brought life to the people.  This passage does not apply to the building project or your vision for future attendance, rather, it is a fitting reminder that God’s Word gives us life.3

7. Matthew 7:1 “Judge not, that you be not judged.”

I have a particular disdain for the mangling of this verse as it’s oft used by those not in the faith to berate Christians.  Further, it’s one of the more referenced verses in the vocabulary of the Postmodern church whereby church members will chide other members for pointing out that someone may not be exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit.  In fact, I wrote a lengthy article whether or not Christians are called to judge which can be found here.  The bottom line is that Christians are absolutely called to judge other believers, but we must judge rightly, not hypocritically.  We are not to judge non-believers, rather, we are called to preach the Gospel to them at all times.

As you can see, when stripped of their context, these verses can be made to fit many situations for which they were not intended.  What’s the harm?  The harm is that when we mangle a verse to apply to someone it was never meant to apply, we give that person a false hope or understanding of what God intends for them.  Then, if said verse fails to come to fruition in their lives they either (a) blame God, (b) think God doesn’t love them, (c) think God doesn’t exist.

As the writer of Hebrews said in the opening scripture, “…solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice…”

Are you studying the Bible in context?  Are you training your powers of discernment?

Landon Chapman

Landon Chapman

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Founder of Entreating Favor, writer, and host of the Fire Away! podcast. He is an architect by vocation and professes the Bible to be the infallible, inerrant, Word of God. He and his wife Holly have two children.

Show 3 footnotes

  1. Orme, Brian. ‘Top 5 Most Misused Verses in the Bible’. N.p. Web. 19 August 2014. <>
  2. Orme, Brian. ‘Top 5 Most Misused Verses in the Bible’. N.p. Web. 19 August 2014. <>
  3. Orme, Brian. ‘Top 5 Most Misused Verses in the Bible’. N.p. Web. 19 August 2014. <>