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Once I paused during a sermon on faith, delivered by the pastor of an upscale mega church. He’s handsome, poised, articulate. Networks beam his messages across the world. He emphasizes the necessity of an “anointing” from God, and insists that his own teaching is “anointed.”
He abruptly turned to Hebrews 12. Often labeled the “Hall of Fame of Faith,” this chapter identifies successful warriors, agents through whom God worked miracles, and others—nameless—who were martyred for their faith. The preacher didn’t mention the context, but quoted just these words from Hebrews 12:35: “Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance.” Then he said authoritatively, “Those who were tortured weren’t delivered because they didn’t have enough faith!”
I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. He wrenched from this verse a meaning that’s opposite of what the Spirit-inspired author intended. They weren’t delivered because they wouldn’t deny or compromise their faith, which were requirements for their release.
A cursory look at the context shows these nameless persons were objects of praise, not reproof. They didn’t accept their deliverance “that they might obtain a better resurrection” (v.35) They, along with others cited in verses 36-37, were heroes of faith “of whom the world was not worthy” (v38). They wouldn’t renounce Christ, or in Old Testament times, wouldn’t engage in idolatrous practices insisted on by their captors.
I’d call that a positive endorsement of their faith, wouldn’t you?
None of us is an inerrant interpreter of Scripture. In addition to a daily dependence on the illumination of God’s Spirit, we teachers must stand on the shoulders of godly scholars and commentators when we study. But this is a flagrant example of eisegesis, at the very least stemming from laziness: the failure to look at the context of verse 35.
No teaching of the Bible is merely a human endeavor. God’s Spirit must channel what we say from the ears of listeners, to their hearts. If this is what that TV preacher means by “anointing,” so far, so good.
But just as study without the Spirit of God is futile, so is a so-called “anointing” to teach without the hard work of study! “Be diligent to show yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).
No wonder God reserves stricter judgment for those of us who teach (James 3:1).