Misused Bible Verse #3. Where Two or Three Are Gathered
“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” — Matthew 18:20 (NIV)
This verse is often used as an encouragement that God is with us in tough circumstances—all we need are two to three people in a prayer group and we’re set. In fact, you don’t even have to say the full verse, just start it out: “Where two or three are gathered… ” and other church members will shake their heads in agreement.
However, this passage really deals with building a testimony in the context of church discipline. A proper, and reliable, testimony was extremely critical in the Jewish context. This passage was an encouragement to the church leaders during difficult times of confrontation and church discipline—that God would be present with the witnesses as they sought to make matters right and restore a fallen member.
So, it’s pretty safe to say that unless you’re in the midst of church discipline, you’re taking this verse out of its original context.
Is God still with us when two or three are gathered? Yes, of course. He’s also with us when it’s just one or one thousand.
Misused Bible Verse #4. All Things Work for Good
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. — Romans 8:28 (NIV)
This passage is often used to encourage another believer who’s going through a tough time—reminding them that it will eventually work out for something good in their life. In other words, don’t worry about getting fired—God has something better in store for you…all things work out for good, remember?
There are two major issues in this passage to deal with to keep it in context.
First, the passage deals with those who love him. That’s an important distinction. It’s not for everyone, but specifically for believers.
Second, the “good” that’s described in context is our ultimate conformity to Christ, not our comfort. So, the good here leads us to sanctification and our ultimate glorification and not the turnaround of our circumstances from bad to good. Things might get better after the job loss, they might not. Ultimately, we have redemption to hope for—and that’s the ultimate good.
Misused Bible Verse #5. Where There’s No Vision…
Where there is no vision the people perish, but happy is he who keeps the law. — Proverbs 29:18 (KJV)
Your church will not perish without a vision statement. I think vision statements are fantastic—and helpful, but this passage isn’t a divine reminder for pastors to build a better brand direction.
This verse is often used to remind leaders that if they don’t have a compelling vision, and dream big, their people will be lost. The key word in this passage, “vision,” is actually the word revelation and it points to the Word of God or the revelation of God.
In other words, a more accurate interpretation could be: Where there is no revealed Word of God the people perish, but happy is he who obeys God’s Word.
This verse is a great picture of what happened in Nehemiah. The people rediscovered the Word of God and read it for everyone to hear and understand. The result: revival. It had nothing to do with Nehemiah’s catchy core values or the Venn diagram of his mission statement—it was the Word of God that brought life to the people.
So, this passage isn’t necessarily apropo for the building project or the five-year plan for your life center, but it is a fitting reminder that God’s Word gives us life—especially when we obey it.
What misused Bible verses would you add to the list?