Hugh’s News & Views (Proof-Texting)



When it is insisted that what both the world and the church need today is plain, simple Bible preaching”book, chapter, and verse” preaching, it is not infrequent that the charge of proof-texting is made. Understandably, when one holds to a religious doctrine or practice that is shown by any number of biblical texts to be false, it is to be expected that the person will cry “proof-texting.” What else would one expect when a Bible verse is cited that knocks in the head a cherished yet palpably false doctrine or practice?

It is true that a biblical text can be misused and abused. There is an old hermeneutical adage that says, “A text taken out of context is a pretext.” By this it is meant that if a person has a theory, hobby, doctrine, or axe to grind (an agenda that he wants to promote) and lines up texts that he thinks support his view, but the texts when examined in their context lend no support to what the person is teaching, then he has no proof-text at all. He has a mere pretext!

On the other hand, for a preacher who has been diligent in his study of the text in its context to cite a single verse (or even part of a verse) in proof of what the Bible teaches on a particular subject is not to be guilty of proof-texting. Jesus frequently used a single verse of Old Testament scripture to drive home a point. (See Matthew 4:4, 7, 10; 11:10; Mark 7:6-7; Luke 13:35; John 10:34; etc.) May a faithful preacher of the gospel today use the New Testament the way Jesus used the Old Testament? May a preacher today cite a single verse of scripture to drive home a point of biblical teaching?

The four Gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, in telling the story of the birth, life, teaching, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Christ often resorted to Old Testament texts consisting of but one or two verses to succinctly set forth some important aspect of Christ’s life and ministry. (See Matthew 2:6, 18; 3:3; 4:15-16; Mark 11:9-10; Luke 19:38; John 2:17; 12:38-40; etc.) May a gospel preacher use the New Testament the way the Gospel writers used the Old Testament?

A study of the sermons in the Book of Acts will reveal that the apostles and prophets of Christ often resorted to quoting Old Testament scripture in support of what they preached. (See Acts 2:17-21, 25-28, 34-35; 3:22-23, 25; 7:3, 7 [in this latter verse Stephen quoted/paraphrased parts of two verses, one from Genesis and one from Exodus]; 13:22 [again, part of a verse from Psalms and part of a verse from I Samuel], 33-35, 41; etc.) Once more, may a faithful preacher today use the Scriptures the way the preachers in the Book of Acts used the Old Testament? May a preacher drive home his points by citing specific verses of scripture that verify what is being preached?

Consider the twenty-one letters of the New Testament. In Romans 3:10-18, Paul strings together a series of succinct statements from widely ranging portions of the Old Testament to prove his point about the universality of sin. He quotes from or alludes to passages in Isaiah, several widely separated sections of the Psalms, and the Book of Ecclesiastes. He provides no context for his quotations, but simply cites them staccato style to impact his readers with the fact that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). A study of other of Paul’s letters will reveal a similar pattern of writing. May a preacher do today what Paul did then?

Make a study of the Book of Hebrews. Note how often the writer reaches back and quotes verses (in part or in whole and sometimes only paraphrased) from a wide range of Old Testament books: Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Joshua, II Samuel, the Psalms (many quotations from this book), Proverbs, Jeremiah, Habakkuk, and Haggai. Once more, may a gospel preacher use the Scriptures, and especially the New Testament, in the same manner as the writers of the New Testament used the Old Testament?

From studying the New Testament, I have learned that the writers frequently cited Old Testament texts in proof of what they wrote. Therefore, in this essay I have provided proof-texts to show that it is scriptural to proof-text!

Preachers have different strengths and different styles. We do not all have to preach the same way in order to be faithful and effective preachers of the gospel. Some are fine expositors, others excel at preaching textual sermons, and others are superb at presenting topical sermons in a compelling fashion. There is no one method of preaching that is superior to another. The versatile preacher will use a variety of approaches, expository, textual, and topical, in declaring “all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).

In all cases, the true servant of the Lord will undergird his message with a faithful treatment of the divine text, giving book, chapter, and verse to support his message and in no wise hesitating to back up what he says by citing well chosen verses in support of the truth he is presenting.

Speaking Schedule:
February 23: WestHuntsvilleChurch of Christ, Huntsville, AL Men’s Retreat
February 24: WestHuntsvilleChurch of Christ, Huntsville, AL (a.m. only)
Hugh Fulford
February 18, 2014

#hughfulford, #preaching, #proof-texting