Promises That God Never Made

High School
Age 19 and still disabled

Jesus healed a badly disabled woman who had suffered with her condition for eighteen years.

10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” 13 And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God. 14 But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” 15 Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” 17 As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him. ~~Luke 13:10-17 (ESV)

As an 18-year-old girl who had been born with Cerebral Palsy, I “claimed” this passage as a promise that the Lord would, at some point during the course of that year, heal me.  Clearly, I’d made an application of this passage that completely missed the point of that particular healing, thereby skewing the passage and forcing an incorrect interpretation. Christ healed that woman as an expression of His compassion, certainly — but also as a rebuke to the hypocritical Pharisees.

My folly back then underscores the truth of the quote I read on Twitter a couple years ago:

In your approach to  Scripture, If application is more important than interpretation than you’ll inevitably misinterpret and misapply.

While my teenage misapplication of Luke 13:10-17 is obvious (and somewhat amusing), let’s admit that Christians often are too eager to apply snatches of Scripture at the expense of proper interpretation. The most infamous example is making Matthew 18:19-20 a promise about “agreeing in prayer.” In context, Jesus intended that verse to highlight His judgment on unrepentant sin and church discipline:

15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” ~~Matthew 18:15-20 (ESV)

In context, this passage instructs Christians on how  to deal with a professing believer who persists in   sinful behavior. When two or three agree to bind such a person  away from church fellowship and loose him to Satan, they do so in the Lord’s authority. This passage should cause us to tremble at the seriousness of sin rather than to suppose that we can manipulate God’s will by group prayer.

While I certainly plead guilty to twisting Scripture far too often for the sake of application, I believe the Lord is curing me of such sin, teaching me to understand His Word in its proper context. Once I find the correct interpretation of a passage, I can make a correct application. And it’s applying the Word correctly that honors the Lord.

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