We Need a Proof-text, Don’t We?

by Terry Wane Benton

Some may misuse a text, and if that text is not carefully examined, it becomes a “proof-text” that sounds, on the surface, to support the user’s point, and that is not good because they have used the Bible to legitimize a point not made or implied by that particular text. So, we must be careful about this kind of “proof-texting.” That is “handling the word of God deceitfully” (II Corinthians 4:2). The devil had this kind of “proof-text” when he misused scripture in his testing of Jesus to throw Himself down and see if the angels would protect Him from injury (Matthew 4:6). Jesus did not cave to this misuse of scriptures. One text cannot be used to contradict another clear textual principle; otherwise, it is a pretext for deception.

However, there is another way we can use texts as proof, and we should ensure that we are doing it. Proof-texting is good when your motive is to provide legitimate texts as proof of a point you need to make from God’s word. An example of this needed kind of “proof-texting” is seen in Romans 3:10-18. The point being made is that Jews and Greeks are “all under sin,” and the proof of that point is a string of verses lined up together as proof. Paul uses Psalms 14:1-3; Ecclesiastes 7:20; Psalms 5:9; 140:3; 10:7; Isaiah 59:7-8; and Psalms 36:7. There was no attempt to tell where these verses were found, and no attempt to give context to each scripture, yet they all serve as proof-texts to legitimize his charge that all are under sin. Did he do wrong? No! Nor do we do wrong when we do something similar. We need to prove what we are saying is true to the scriptures, and people need to be able to go to the texts we use and see if we misused them (Acts 17:11).

There is a danger of misusing a scripture, but there is a greater danger of not using a scripture to prove what you say is true to the word of God. So, prove what you say with scriptures (II Timothy 3:16-17), and ensure you use the Scriptures correctly by checking the context and whether that scripture says or implies the point you are making. Be leery of those who rarely use Scriptures to prove their point is true. Check behind those who give Scriptures to check out the context and usage. That is what good students of the Bible do!

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