The Taboo Scriptures

I was asked today by a friend, and a couple days ago on Facebook, if the Scriptures that I claim are “taboo” to American Christians all concern faith and works.

The answer is that verses on works comprise the majority of taboo verses, ones that modern Christians may know are in the Bible, but we’re not supposed to repeat them … at least not without explaining why they don’t mean what they say.

Today, though, I had a little time to think, and here’s some other categories:

The following verses are taboo. You can read them, but do not say them without explanation, and certainly don’t be deceived by what they say!

Note: Some of my choices of subjects below are going to make you think I’m “Church of Christ.” I am not, and if I were, I’d have my own list of ignored or explained away verses, especially ones having to do with walking in the Spirit.

Baptism:

  • 1 Peter 3:21: “… baptism now saves us”
  • Gal. 3:27: “As many of us as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”
  • Acts 22:16 “Why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”
  • John 3:5: “Most assuredly, I tell you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
  • Titus 3:5: “Not by works that we have done, but according to his mercy he has saved us, by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit.”

Trinity:

  • Col. 1:15: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation”
  • Prov. 8:22: “The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, before ever the earth was. When there were no deeps, I was born. … Before the mountains were settled, before the hills, I was born.”
  • John 17:3 (Jesus praying): “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and King Jesus, whom you have sent.”
  • 1 Cor. 8:6: “For us, there is but one God, the Father … and one Lord, King Jesus, the Son of God.”

Money:

  • Luke 18:24: “How hard it is for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God.”
  • Luke 12:32-33: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell what you have, and give alms. Provide yourselves with bags that do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail … for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
  • 1 Tim. 6:9: “Those that want to be rich fall into temptation and a trap, and into many foolish and harmful desires, which drown men in destruction and perdition.”
  • Luke 14:33: “Whoever of you does not forsake everything he has cannot be my disciple.”

Fellowship:

  • Heb. 3:13: “Mentor one another day by day, while it is called today, lest any of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
  • Acts 4:32: “And the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul, nor did any of them say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.

Miscellaneous:

  • 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 (head coverings)
  • 1 Tim. 3:15 (church is the pillar and support of the truth)

Not all churches ignore 1 Corinthians 11:1-16. Some address it, and they explain it as cultural. Not all churches ignore Acts 4:32. They say it only happened in Jerusalem. (History says that’s not true.)

I don’t want to fault people where their interpretation is reasonable. Paul and James both talk about rich people in the church, so how could they have shared everything? Where churches are addressing those questions in some reasonable way, even if they disagree with me, I’m not complaining.

However, I think every other Scripture mentioned here, outside of the two I just addressed, are usually ignored like they don’t exist or dismissed with an excuse. I don’t want to honor those excuses by calling them an explanation or an interpretation. They are not. They are so pitiful that it is clear that the people making them do not care what Jesus or Paul or Peter or James or God himself is trying to tell them through that verse.

Really, though, that last paragraph is off subject.

My Point

My point is that these are verses that we just don’t say, except to explain them away. We direct them at no one. There is no situation where we would say to anyone the words of any of these verses.

When it is taboo to repeat things apostles said, or when we cannot think of any circumstance in which we would say or do what Jesus and the apostles said and did, then we have a problem.

Borrowing a phrase from the Declaration of Independence, I declare that truth to be self-evident, at least for “Bible-believing” Christians.

For any of you that feel I have my own list of ignored verses, you would only be doing me a favor if you pointed them out to me.

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10 Responses to The Taboo Scriptures

  1. Jon says:

    By the way, your criticisms and disagreements–though you’re not always criticizing or disagreeing–are more helpful than any others I get

    In that case the other criticisms you get must be really, really rubbish! But thank you, anyway.

    I actually agree far more on your your takes on these verses than I thought (Romans 7 is the only one I’m unsure of). I knew that 1 Cor 5:5 must mean repentance in the light of the rest of the NT, but in isolation it could appear to mean something different.

  2. Jon says:

    The thing is, it could be said that any bold doctrine will have its taboo scriptures. I could not help mischievously perhaps) but compile a list of scriptures that I found those that promote a more erm… ‘hard’ version of Christianity have really weird takes on. (some of them you may have used yourself, others I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t)
    All of the following I have heard or read from preachers, teachers or writers at some point (their interpretation is on speech marks and my response is in brackets).

    Romans 7:15-19
    I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.
    “Paul wouldn’t have struggled with sin so he couldn’t possibly be referring to himself in the present” (despite the fact that here he clearly refers to himself in the present)

    2 Tim 2:13
    If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.
    “This really means that God will disown us if we are faithless since God being faithful means that he is not faithful to us but faithful to his intention to disown us if we are faithless” (erm… yeah really clear)

    1 Corinthians 5:5
    You are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord
    “Cleary it was intended that the man would eventually repent so his spirit would be saved” (Though this passage says absolutely nothing about repentance)

    Matthew 7:1
    Judge not, that you be not judged
    “No, that’s only referring to a specific situation – we can and should judge others , particularly their eternal status” (not surprising as judging seems to be a favourite pastime of those that interpret the verse this way)

    Luke 23: 42-43
    And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
    “A perfect example of repentance. The dying criminal demonstrated by his actions that his repentance was worthy of eternal life” (nonsense, it was a dying man’s desperate plea for salvation – he had absolutely nothing to lose)

    Romans 4:4-5
    Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness
    “Works here only refers to Sabbath keeping and circumcision – not the rest of the law” (despite the fact that Paul doesn’t differentiate. Also, since when did anyone describe a man who rests on the Sabbath and who had his tip snipped as ‘one who works’?)

    1 John 1:8-9
    If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
    “John is talking about non-believers getting saved. Christians don’t sin” (Yes, because a letter to non Christians he’s sure to address them as ‘my dear children’).

    Matthew 11:19
    The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.
    “Jesus was not really a friend of sinners, he just appeared to be” (Though he spent lots of time eating with them and they seemed drawn to his presence. I can’t think of anyone who I eat with and am drawn to who is not a friend, and I don’t even have the high view of table fellowship that they’d have had back then)

    John 3:16, Romans 5:8 etc. (you know them)
    “Well Jesus has two kinds of love – merciful love which is temporal and simply means that he’s not sent you to hell yet” (I’d hardly call that ‘love’) “and acceptance love. You have to be good enough to earn the latter” (I have no idea how one can dream up such a bonkers interpretation)

    And from the school of wack job pelagians (no joke, I have come across these takes being espoused before):

    Luke 23: 42-43 (again)
    “The dying criminal was only crucified for political reasons. He was actually a good man who served God all his life, hence why Jesus granted him paradise” (of course, it explains all about this man’s righteous deeds in Luke 25)

    Matthew 11:30
    For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light
    “His yoke is not easy – that’s a mistranslation ” (so all those expert bible translators, masters of ancient Greek were wrong on that one same word. Sure.)

    Romans 5:6
    For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
    “Ungodly here really means gentiles, well the ones good enough for salvation” (So, ungodly really means ‘godly gentiles’ . The logic is impeccable)

    • paulfpavao says:

      Most of these verses wouldn’t be on my list. I understand most of them just as written. I would like to respond to a couple of them because I don’t agree that the interpretations you lampoon (sorry for the strong word, seemed accurate enough, and I don’t mean it rudely) on those couple verses are really untenable. I’d like to defend them.

      Doing that would make this comment longer than I want. I’d rather make it a blog post.

      By the way, your criticisms and disagreements–though you’re not always criticizing or disagreeing–are more helpful than any others I get. I have some real hardheads who always criticize. You don’t see most of them, because most email, and those who comment I usually delete. Their criticism is worthless. It’s an alternative view, but it’s a useless, nonsensical alternative view.

      Your criticisms and questionss help me understand how some people perceive what I say. When I speak publicly, I can see faces. If I know that someone is a follower of Christ whose conscience shouldn’t have been pricked by what I said, I often ask a person what they thought. Was I just boring? Did I say something I didn’t realize I said? What did that person hear?

      On the internet, it is difficult to get that feedback. Trolls and hardheads are real honest, but their opinions are without value. Few other people feel free to criticize, especially if they like me. You are extremely free with criticizing me, but it’s been rare that I haven’t benefitted from it.

    • paulfpavao says:

      I take back what I said. There’s no good context for making my respones a blog post. So I’ll answer here:

      Rom. 7:15-19: I don’t think Paul was talking about himself. I think he was talking about the general state of humans in an unregenerate state. He uses I to identify himself with everyone. Rom. 7:24-8:4 is clearly an answer to the Rom. 7 “law of sin and death.” We have been delivered from it, and it is no way for a Christian to live. Rom. 6 & Rom. 8 are both answers to Rom. 7. If we are living in Rom. 7 it is our fault.

      2 Tim. 2:13: This says that if we become faithless, God remains faithful. This has to be saying something to us. It can’t be saying that the unrighteous will inherit the kingdom of heaven because Paul tells us not to be deceived about that. It must mean something, though. My take on it is that if we become faithless, God does not abandon us. He will do everything he can to bring us to faith and repentance. God has been faithful to all the world in that respect, in that he has loved us while we were yet sinners, then sought to draw us by sending his own Son to bring us the new covenant, forgiveness of sins, the new birth, and great and precious promises that even prophets and priests of the old covenant did not get to partake of. If we become faithless, we are not abandoned. To a point, God will strive to bring us to repentance. That’s my take, anyway.

      1 Cor. 5:5: John 3:16 says nothing about repentance. Acts 16:31 says nothing about repentance. Eph. 2:8 says nothing about repentance. Should we then assume that no repentance is necessary for anyone to become saved? If that’s true, then Jews don’t need faith to be saved. Peter said nothing about faith in Acts 2:38, just repentance and baptism. It is repentance that leads to life (Acts 11:18). No one can be saved without it. It is entirely safe and fair to assume repentance is what Paul was after in 1 Cor. 5:5, whether it is mentioned or not. Take a “not mentioned and it’s not there” stance, and you might as well just throw your Bible in the trash.

      Matt. 7:1: Jesus tells us John to judge with righteous judgment. If Paul and Peter and Jesus say in their letters that an adulterer will not enter the kingdom of heaven, then we are not doing an adulterer a favor if we tell him that he is. We will be judged by the standard with which we judge, but we should not hope that if we let everyone off the hook, then we will be let off the hook for things that God says will send us to hell. The purpose of the Scriptures includes rebuke, correction, and instruction. That said, it is true that we should choose mercy over judgment everywhere it’s possible so that we might receive a merciful judgment as well. I know mercy is way up on my list of priorities because I know I’m going to need it. I recommend the same attitude to everyone.

      Luke 23:42-43: Yeah, the thief on the cross didn’t do anything but believe. He told a guy on a cross that he wanted to be in that guy’s kingdom. That’s some serious belief! And he got more than a promise to walk with Jesus in paradise. He was going to walk with Jesus in paradise “today.” Jesus gave up his spirit on purpose. I don’t think the thief could do that, and a cross could take three days to kill its victim. Maybe it took broken legs to get the thief to die “today,” but the thief was spared three days of hanging on the cross.

      Rom. 4:4-5: I have good friends that believe that Paul was only talking about works of the Law of Moses when he said no works. I don’t agree. I think he meant trying to be justified by works, period. It can’t be done because of Rom. 7. We simply can’t do it in our own power. We must be born again and justified, and that can only happen by faith because we’re slaves to sin. After we are born again by faith, though, we are no longer slaves to sin BECAUSE we are under grace and not law.

      1 Jn. 1:8-9: You act like the interpretation you’re referencing is ridiculous. I agree. It’s ridiculous.

      Matthew 11:19: I’ve never heard anyone deny Jesus hung out with sinners while they were sinning. How could they? He made fine wine out of water for a bunch of drunk people at a wedding. However, I have met people so snotty that they could never hang out with sinners, so I guess those are probably the people who have denied such an obvious truth.

      John 3:16: Rom. 5:8; etc.: I don’t believe righteousness and judgment are love issues. If my son becomes a murderer, I may love him, but if I’m afraid he’ll murder again, I would turn him in and let him face incarceration or even death. It’s not right to save my son at the cost of other lives. (Well, at least in the case of lives lost to his continuing to murder.) God loves us, so he sent his son to enable us to be saved rather than perish. He loved us while we were yet sinners and murderers, making a way for us to repent and not perish. He loves us even if we fail to repent and we do perish.

      No comment on the last three. You did a great job of displaying the craziness of those interpretations.

  3. nealmatt says:

    Buckstop77, some understand Colossians 1:15 to mean that Jesus was the first created being, thus denying His eternal preexistence. Usually, those who believe in the trinity interpret this verse differently and say that Jesus is firstborn over creation (i.e., He is supreme over it). I talk more about this verse on my blog at http://nealmatt.wordpress.com/2012/04/21/colossians-115-firstborn-of-all-creation.

    • Buckstop77 says:

      I read your blog entry about Col 1:15. Very helpful. So many verses in Colossians clearly present Jesus as divine, it never occurred to me that anyone would see this verse in any other light. You have to ignore the entire context to use this verse as proof of His non-deity.

  4. Buckstop77 says:

    What version of the Bible are you quoting from? It has some interesting word choices.

    • paulfpavao says:

      Sometimes I quote the KJV and freely update the language myself. I am very careful to make sure that I am not changing the meaning by doing so. I compare other translations if there’s any doubt about that. I look up Greek words as well to help with that.

      I also often quote the World English Bible. It is public domain, reads similar to the NASB, and it is available online. It’s available on YouVersion as an app for iPad and iPhone. Most popular Bible program in the US, and it offers many versions for free.

  5. Buckstop77 says:

    I was surprised to see Col. 1:15 on the list. What problem do people have with that one? Maybe I don’t understand the verse.

    • paulfpavao says:

      I don’t think many modern Christians are familiar with the idea of Jesus being begotten of God before the beginning of creation. They consider Jesus to be coequal and coeternal with the Father; in other words, just like him in every way. The early Christians understood him to be the offspring of the Father, begotten before the beginning, and eternally existing inside the Father as his Word, Wisdom, and Reason before he was begotten.

      Col. 1:15 jives with this view of the Father and Son, but it does not jive with the idea that the Father and Son are exactly the same in all ways. The Father is unbegotten, the Son is begotten. Thus the Son is the firstborn over all creation, but the Father is the begetter of the Son, and through the Son created all things.

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