Test the word (teaching) and the Spirit Behind the word (teaching)

I have posted this for that person whom puts their trust into a man, to do all the work of understanding scripture for them. We are all to test every word, and to test the spirit in which the word is given, lest we be deceived. This is also a warning for teachers: if you must make an appeal, appeal to the truth. If your appeal is based in a lie, your truth becomes a lie.

It is my belief that the Word of God is infallible and un-contradictory, and it must be “rightly divided” or “rightly handled” (2 Tim 2:13, ESV). Hebrews tells us that the immature believer is one whom, “is unskilled in the word of righteousness,” (5:13) and a mature believer is one whom has, “their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (5:14). The warning in Revelation is not just for the apocalyptic letter of John, but is applicable to the entire revelation of Jesus Christ, of which all Scripture speaks, and, “all Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Tim 3:16). Lest I make similar mistakes to those that will be discussed, I acknowledge, at the time of writing, it is likely that Paul did not know he was penning Scripture, and that he applied the above statement to the books of the Old Testament. However, from the position in which I am sitting, the writings of Paul were given by the Holy Spirit and are recognized as Scripture. Therefore, his statement in 2 Timothy also applies to his own writings as well as the writing’s of the other apostles. Particular attention must be given to the sayings of Jesus, as He is the Word of God become flesh (John 1:14), “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb 1:3), and the Father, “in these last days He has spoken to us by his Son” (Heb 1:2).

In the past few weeks I had the opportunity to listen to a recorded sermon given at an organizations baptism ceremony. The sermon is rife with interpretive mistakes. The only Scripture sited is Matthew 28:19, in which the Lord says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” It is important, at this point, to give the Greek behind this translation in order to point out the various interpretive mistakes.

From the United Bible Societies, The Greek New Testament: Fifth Revised Edition:

πορευθέντες οὖν μαθητεύσατε πάντα τὰ ἔθνη, βαπτίζοντες αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος

From the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament: 28th Edition:

πορευθέντες οὖν μαθητεύσατε πάντα τὰ ἔθνη, βαπτίζοντες αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος

In the sermon, this particular pastor, with great conviction and vigor, declares,

We also know that the word baptism, when it says, and when Jesus commanded, ‘Go and make disciples of all people, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,’ the word baptism there, or baptized, is from the Greek word γινοσκω which means to ‘fully submerge.’ The words definition is ‘full submersion,’ and, so that means going fully under the water, which you will see happen today.

A cursory review of the Scripture quoted shows that γινώσκω does not appear in this passage, and a wider search for γινώσκω, accounting for all of its inflected forms, reveals that the word is used seven times in the book of Matthew, never as ”submerged.“ The best explanation I can provide for this is the Superior Knowledge Fallacy, which arises from “human ignorance rather than any fault in the text itself” (William Barrick). In this case, the speaker has chosen to emend the Scriptures because he has “insufficient knowledge to make sense of the text as it stands” (Barrick). Worse, he has spoken his own presuppositions into the message, likely sourced in doctrinal traditions, passed on by word-of-mouth, without properly he teachings no he received or the spirit beh8nd the teaching as commanded by the Word of God (1 John 4:1).

Additionally, the speaker is guilty of the Selective and prejudicial use of evidence fallacy, which is the “appeal to selective evidence that enables the interpreter to say what he or she wants to say, without really listening to what the Word of God says” (D.A. Carson). In this case, the evidence is false in two ways: 1) the word appealed to does not exist in the context, and 2) the meaning of the word is not “fully submerged.” This meaning is not even part of the potential semantic range of γινώσκω. The closest sense for γινώσκω in relation to baptism is, “to know (experientially).” With this sense, one might appeal to γινώσκω as the fulfillment of baptism in that a person has entered into the death and resurrection of Christ (Rom 6:3-4), and in so doing has become one with Him (Eph 4:4-5; John 17:11, 21-23).

To say, however, that γινώσκω is synonymous with βαπτίζω is entirely inaccurate, and inapplicable in the sited verse. To see these two words as synonymous falls under the category of Problems surrounding synonyms and componential analysis in that “the fallacy is the unwarranted belief that ‘synonyms’ are identical in more ways than the evidence allows.” (Carson). Of course, these words are not synonyms, but in the sermon the presenter treats them as such, literally replacing the word βαπτίζοντες with the word γινώσκω.

The argument this pastor lay forth in the rest of his sermon could have easily been based in the words found in the passage. It was unnecessary to appeal to a word that is not present. This kind of reckless handling of the Word demonstrates the reason why not all should be teachers; James warns, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (James 3:1). This statement of strict judgment merely validates what Christ said, ” I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” (Matthew 12:36). As Barrick so aptly prays and warns, I also pray, may we “dare not make the Word ‘lordless’ (ἀκυρόω) by making our human understanding the authoritative factor in interpretation” (Matt 15:6).

Unless stated otherwise, all Scripture comes from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016.

Aland, Barbara, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, and Bruce M. Metzger, The Greek New Testament, 5th rev. ed. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2014.

Aland, Kurt, Barbara Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, and Bruce M. Metzger. Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th ed. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012.

Barrick, William. “Exegetical Fallacies: Common Interpretive Mistakes Every Student Must Avoid.” The Master’s Seminary Journal, 19, no. 1 (Spring 2008).

Carson, D. A., Exegetical Fallacies, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996.

One Comment on “Test the word (teaching) and the Spirit Behind the word (teaching)

  1. Thanx for good messages. You are warmly welcome to TANZANIA. Still more need to be reached with the GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST.


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