Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Recovering Abused Bible Verses (Part 6) - Luke 18:25

5. When Jesus talks about a camel going through the eye of a needle He is actually talking about the gate to an ancient city.

This is a very popular idea among the Word Faith teachers. I have heard it taught in Australia, the US and Europe. The most frightening thing about this teaching is not the teaching itself (as bad as that is) but what it says about how little teachers and church members in these churches know their Bibles.

Here's an example of this teaching:

The motive behind the teaching seems quite clear. They want to say that it is good to be rich, you just have to be like the camel that has to bow down as it enters the narrow gate of the city. Likewise the rich man only has to bow down in humility to enter heaven’s gate.

Just a very quick glance at this passage of Scripture shows this teaching to be wrong. But, equally tragically, it ignores a truth that is way more exciting than anything this world has to offer. Let’s pick this up at Luke 18:22 near the end of Jesus’ conversation with the “rich young ruler”:

22When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." 23But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. 24Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, "How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God." 26Those who heard it said, "Then who can be saved?" 27But he said, "What is impossible with men is possible with God." (Luke 18:22-27)

Is the eye of the needle the gate of a city? We can be certain it is not because in verse 26 the disciples understood it as something impossible “who can be saved” and in verse 27 Jesus confirms that he is describing something physically impossible. But Jesus is explaining that salvation is impossible unless God works a miracle. I found it the greatest irony that the people who teach that the eye of the needle is the gate to a city also invite people to make a decision to become a Christian. Even though the text says that “with man this is impossible”.

Here is the great truth we learn from Luke 18:

Conclusion 5: Man is utterly incapable of saving himself. But God is fully able to save sinners – conversion is a miracle!

It is a miracle made possible by the atoning work of Jesus Christ. Once again, it all points to Christ's redemptive work. Those who abuse Scriptuire continually point away from the cross of Jesus Christ. The Cross is where we must begin and end our theology. We need to preach the Cross again and again. It needs to take center stage in our preaching. The older preachers knew this. Spurgeon was once told that his sermons all sounded alike. His response:

That may be so. I can take any verse in the Bible and make a bee-line for the Cross.

As we have gone through this series I have wanted to make these two major points. In all of the five abused Bible verses i have discussed, each can be clearly understood by reading the surrounding text. It is true in fact that most interpretive problems are readily solved by a plain reading of the surrounding text. My other major point has been that sound teachers always take the text they preach and show how it ultimately points to the cross of Jesus Christ - as we will now see as we conclude by reviewing this series.

In Part 2 (John 3:17) we learned that :

Jesus did not come to condemn because this world is already condemned under the wrath of God.

In Part 3 (Romans 2:4) we learned that:

The kindness of God that leads to repentance is shown in that He delays His wrath giving sinners time to repent.

In Part 4 (Matthew 18:20) we learned that:

Two or more of us gathering in God's Name for the purposes of church discipline gives those of us in the church confidence that we have Divine authority to deal with unrepentant sin within our camp.

In Part 5 (Jeremiah 29:11) we learned that:

Jeremiah 29:11 was a promise of blessing to a particular future generation of the Israelites in Babylonian slavery - it is not a verse that we can apply as a personal promise from God to us. If that were the case then we would also have to apply the verses personally that concern God cursing certain people. The major message to 21st century Christians from Jeremiah 29:11 is that God does not abandon His people!

And in Part 6 (Luke 18:25) we learned that:

The eye of the needle Jesus spoke about was not the gate to a city. The following two verses clearly refute this bogus teaching. Jesus' major point here is that man is utterly incapable of saving himself. But God is fully able to save sinners – conversion is a miracle!

Coming Soon - Popular Myths Embraced By Popular Teachers.

Go Back To Part 5
Go Back To Part 1


Cameron Buettel said...

I can't believe the number of times I have heard this preached . . . maybe I've just been exposed to too much "prosperity gospel"

Anonymous said...

they lack the Spirit God