The title of this blog post may seem to make an extreme claim, and maybe others have come across far more extreme examples of scripture twisting in their personal experience.
However, for me, the example I’m about to give is hard to beat.
I first came across it sometime in the mid 1980s when a friend of mine was trying to convince me of a “revelation” he’d received.
Whether it was a result of his own bible misreading I’m not sure, but he quite probably picked it up from a well-known Texan teacher we’d both followed.
The latter could be the case, because only a few days ago I heard that same teacher making an identical claim to the one my friend had shared with me over 30 years ago.
Firstly the claim is based on a reading from the King James Bible – a bible translation that can be prone to misunderstanding if we don’t take into account the way language use has changed over the many centuries since that version was first published. The distance from 16th Century England and 20-21st Century Texas perhaps increases the potential for misunderstanding.
Secondly the claim takes into account only PART of the intended context, before drawing conclusions about the intended meaning.
The “proof” text is Philippians 2: 5-6.
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.
The conclusion made, and taught, by that teacher is that we, like Jesus should think of ourselves as being equal with God.
And yet, surely, the whole section – especially the part that remained unquoted at this point, is clearly NOT about the exaltation of the believer (if only in their own mind); it is about the required HUMILITY of the believer.
It is not the fact that Jesus “thought it not robbery to be equal with God” that the believer is intended to emulate. What is required of the believer is stated in the following verse where we are told that the one who was equal with God.
made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.
So even though Jesus is equal with God, He humbled Himself, put aside His divine rights, became a servant and was
obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
That teacher’s interpretation is not only wrong, it couldn’t be MORE wrong. It twists the intended meaning on its head, proclaiming the complete opposite of the message of humility intended.
The NIV makes the intended meaning much clearer:
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!
There is not hint there about believers considering themselves equal with God. Such claims are not only misinformed, they reflect the pride and delusion of the one who long before said :
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’
Fortunately my friend many years ago was soon convinced of his error when it was explained to him.
Sadly however, it seems like many followers of the above mentioned preacher, would prefer to believe in their own equality with God.