the truth really will set you free…

Sometimes I wonder who decided which verses of Scripture would be the most commonly memorized. While some of them are good, many of them are incomplete in what they say about the nature of God or of salvation or of whatever they talk about.

This wouldn’t be so huge of a problem except that a lot of Christians know nothing more of God or of Christianity or of the Bible than those few verses that they memorized as children.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
-Ephesians 2:8-9

This is good. It teaches us about salvation by grace through faith… it clearly denies salvation by works… but in the long run, I think this has been a pretty damaging memory verse because of its incompleteness. Many people take this to be cheap grace–grace that costs nothing and leads, as Bonhoeffer puts it, to the justification of sin, instead of the justification of the sinner.

It continues in verse ten to say, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” This verse is rarely, if ever, memorized by Christians. Here Paul is clearly saying that saving faith is followed by “good works.” Of course there are a lot of different ways to interpret what kind of works it is exactly talking about, but I think it probably includes things like service, mercy, love, caring for the poor and downtrodden, that sort of thing, more than it includes things like not smoking, not cussing, not drinking, and handing out tracts.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

I don’t even need to give the reference for that one. I think this verse has caused more of the easy-believeism that plagues evangelicalism today than anything else. Sure, it is true. It is only by grace through faith that we are saved. But what about verse 21? “But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” Once again, things concerning the Christians obligation to actually follow Christ in faith are left out. Jesus called his disciples to have faith, sure, but he also expected them to follow him.

John 8:32 “and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” We’ve all heard that one as well. But it doesn’t really make much sense on its own. The verse before it says, “If you abide in my word, then you are truly my disciples… and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” We need to abide in his word. Not simply memorize a few random verses. Abide.

I don’t do it nearly enough. God’s word is powerful. God’s word is authoritative. God’s word is the power unto salvation. The whole thing. Period. And it really will set you free.

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6 thoughts on “the truth really will set you free…

  1. I agree with the wife.

    That “the truth will set you free” verse has worked its way into the American lexicon to the point that many people who quote it (about all kinds of strange things, such as politics) likely have no idea they’re quoting Scripture.

    But this also hits on something I’ve been thinking of a lot lately… I want to start really focusing on memorizing, not just reading, Scripture, yet I don’t know how or where to start. And I want to be holistic, avoiding the practices you outlined above. I already have most of those down, anyway… I want to go deeper, but how? Hebrew boys and girls used to have the Torah committed to heart. Rich Mullins writes in his song, “Playing Hard to Get,” “I’ve memorized every word you [Jesus] said.” And me? All I’ve got are a few verses from my youth that are, in all likelihood, poorly extracted.

  2. A big part of the “decision” happens in “preacher training schools” where these verses are used as prooftexts for doctrines, and this leads to those preachers using those verses a lot in sermons, which leads to increased familiarity, which leads to Sunday School teachers teaching them to children, because it’s good to memorize Scripture…

    And, I would think, most of us only want to memorize Scriptures which support what we believe anyway.

    This is a great post, Brandon. Thanks.

  3. I’m not sure exactly what you mean by “preacher training schools.” I’m not very familiar with Fruitland, but from what I have gathered, it wouldn’t surprise me if Fruitland was a big proponent of proof-texting.

    But the fact is, most seminaries, bible colleges and christian universities loathe the idea of proof-texting. At North Greenville, and now at Liberty, I was repeatedly taught the dangers of proof-texting.

  4. Some of my fave verses in scripture, but i absoultely agree with you, that if not taken in context to the message of the Gospel, they can prove to hurt the authentic christ-like living more than help!

    I don’t know when it happened but somewhere along the lines, salvation became a product that was given out for free, so long as you mentally acknowledge or say a few words… Then somebody reads the Gospel’s and realizes there is far more to it! This presentation of quick and easy, drive thru faith has hurt many and i’d even go so far as saying has killed the authentic call to costly grace and faith! It’s very difficult to encourage and teach people about the cost of faith, when they’ve been conditioned to how easy the call of Christ is and that all the other ‘difficult’ stuff must be legalism!

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