Wrongly dividing the word of truth

Recently I have come across a classic mis-use (and misrepresentation) of the Bible by those who claim to be its best friends.

The Bible Society of Australia is currently promoting its “25 Words” campaign, encouraging people to read 25 words of Scripture each day for 31 days. So far so good, if you ignore the dumbing down of an important spiritual discipline to “catching the habit.”
But the home page then distorts the Bible and misrepresents its message, by using 1 Peter 1:23 as a by-line: “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.”

That verse in 1 Peter actually has no reference to the Bible at all, yet that is the misleading and mistaken impression created by its use on this web page.

The immediate context indicates that 1 Peter is talking about something far more profound than the Bible:

Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. 23 You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.”  That word is the good news that was announced to you. [1 Peter 1:22–25]

In their enthusiasm for promoting Bible reading who ever prepared and approved this web page have shown themselves to be biblically illiterate.

Christianity deserves better, and so does the Bible.

To quote another biblical text the web authors might take to heart:

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him,
a worker who has no need to be ashamed,
rightly explaining the word of truth.
[2Timothy 2:15 NRSV]

As in 1 Peter, this verse from the Pastoral Letters is not referring to Scripture but to the message of salvation. At the risk of “wrangling over words” (2 Tim 2:14), let’s honour both God and Scripture by exercising due care and diligence, and avoid misrepresenting the Bible as being the agent of salvation, or the centre of Christianity. It is neither. Those privileges belong to Christ.

About gregoryjenks

Anglican priest and religion scholar. Senior Lecturer in the School of Theology at Charles Sturt University. Formerly Dean at St George's College, Jerusalem. Currently serving as the locum priest at Byron Bay Anglican Parish.
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3 Responses to Wrongly dividing the word of truth

  1. E. Rub says:

    Good upon you Greg. It is very annoying to say the least, when biblical verses are taken out of context to promote anything at all, and the Bible Society ought to know better. I attended an Amway meeting some years ago and was immediately put off when a biblical text was used to encourage us to sell more of that product.

  2. Sue Emeleus says:

    Dear Greg, Do you think there is any point in writing to them? I have enjoyed a wonderful week with ten lectures from Crossan in Sydney. So nourishing. Blessings, Sue Emeleus

    • gregoryjenks says:

      So glad that the week with Dom Crossan has gone so well – as expected, of course. There is probably little point in writing to the Bible Society about the inappropriateness of their using 1 Peter in this way, but perhaps I should do that.

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