Book, chapter, and verse

by Hugh Fulford

There was a time when all preachers in the church of Christ were known as “book, chapter and verse” preachers. By this it was meant that they endeavored to “speak as the oracles of God” (I Peter 4:11), and to prove every point they made by the Scriptures.They shunned the religious doctrines and commandments of men, they refused to preach their own opinions, and endeavored instead to set forth the will of God about any and every matter of which they spoke. I am thankful that we still have many such preachers, men who wish to be known simply as gospel preachers, men who can back up what they proclaim by a “thus saith the Lord.”

Unfortunately, “book, chapter and verse” preaching has sometimes been wrongly characterized as “proof texting.”Proof texting is an abuse and misuse of scripture.It ignores the larger context of a verse and uses the verse to “prove” a preconceived notion or point of doctrine. As someone has observed, a text taken out of context is a pretext. Every passage of scripture must be understood in the light of its larger context, including the total teaching of the Scriptures on a particular subject. For example, all the verses ascribing salvation to faith in Christ must be understood in the light of all that the New Testament teaches with respect to what one does in response to the saving grace of God.

On the other hand, to cite a single verse of scripture in support of gospel truth, facts, commands, promises, threats, and warnings is not wrong. In fact, we have biblical precedent for such.In Romans 3:9-19, the apostle Paul, in establishing the sinfulness of the Jews (in spite of their numerous spiritual advantages), strings together a number of isolated “proof texts”(as some would label them) from widely separated passages in Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and Isaiah to prove his point. Often, he uses but part of an Old Testament passage. And he is not averse to even combining parts of various verses in order to drive home his point!

Similarly, one might spend time studying the Book of Hebrews and noting the frequent quotations from the Old Testament found in that “word of exhortation” (Hebrews 13:22). Thus, before one speaks too condescendingly about “proof texts,” it might be well to ask, “May gospel preachers today use the New Testament in the way the inspired writers of the New Testament used the Old Testament?” May we cite book, chapter and verse (in context, of course) in support of what we preach?

It is rather apparent why many in contemporary society (even religious society) do not appreciate book, chapter and verse preaching. It condemns their life-style, their religious biases and prejudices, their religious practices and beliefs.Little wonder that they do not want certain texts read or quoted to them!

Those who believe there are many ways to God and to heaven do not like to hear John 14:6 and Acts 4:11-12.

Those who think that one church is as good as another do not want to hear Matthew 16:18, Ephesians 1:22-23 and Ephesians 4:4.

Those who believe that one is saved by faith only do not want to hear James 2:24, 26 and Mark 16:15-16.

Those who think that one living since the death of Christ and the inauguration of His last will and testament can be saved without baptism do not like to hear Acts 22:16 and I Peter 3:21.

Those who think that sprinkling or pouring constitute acceptable baptism do not want to hear Romans 6:3-4 and Colossians 2:12.

Those who profess to be able to be “good Christians” whether they go to church or not do not want to hear Acts 2:42, Acts 20:7 and Hebrews 10:24-25.

Those who advocate for women preachers and women church leaders do not like to hear I Corinthians 14:34 and I Timothy 2:11-14.

The practicing homosexual does not want to hear Romans 1:26-27 and I Corinthians 6:9-10, but how he/she so desperately needs to hear the next verse and the promise of forgiveness that it holds out to all who will repent of their sinful lifestyle.

Those who believe that everybody will ultimately be saved do not like to hear Matthew 7:13-14, 21 and II Thessalonians 1:6-10.

But make no mistake about it: We need book, chapter and verse preaching! Such is the only way to accurately set forth the true will of God and to proclaim the gospel of Christ, the power of God for salvation to all who will believe and obey it (Romans 1:16-17; I Corinthians 15:1-4).

Speaking Schedule:

  • September 2: Bethlehem Church of Christ, Lebanon, TN (all services)
  • September 5: Bethlehem Church of Christ, Lebanon, TN
  • September 9: LaGuardo Church of Christ, Mount Juliet, TN (a.m. only)

Hugh Fulford

Hugh’s News and Views

August 28, 2012

#preaching, #proof-texting, #sound-doctrine