This story has been told as a joke for many years, but Joseph Parker, the famed 19th Century British orator and evangelist claimed it actually happened to him.
Following a sermon where he was preaching in London an older lady waited to thank him for his sermon “You do throw such wonderful light on the Bible,” she said.
“Do you know that until this morning, I had always thought that Sodom and Gomorrah were man and wife?”
Various Barna research groups have shown through the years a woeful knowledge of the Bible among American adults. Shockingly in one survey only half of those claiming to be Christians knew who delivered the sermon on the Mount.
In another survey of 1210 adults, only 9% of the respondents accurately defined the Great Commission. And only 25% of those claiming to be Christians could offer a definition.
However, ignorance of the Scriptures is not new. Jesus encountered it in His day. Sometimes even among the religious leaders.
On one occasion the Sadduccees, a small but powerful sect of the Jews, sought to trap Jesus with a ridiculous question about a woman whose husband died and they had no children. According to the law of Moses, she married his brother. But he died, leaving her no children. Finally, she married all 7 brothers. And all died.
“Whose wife will she be in the resurrection?” They asked.
The question was asked because they did not believe in the resurrection. Furthermore, they insisted that the doctrine of life after death could not be proven by the Pentateuch. Jesus’ response is classic. “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.”
Jesus pointed out that in the resurrection people will not be given in marriage. But will be like the angels in heaven. Then he added:
“But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” (Matt 22:23-33).
Jesus quoted Exodus 3:6 to further demonstrate the folly of their position on the resurrection. God is not the God of dead, decaying corpses. He’s the God of the living.
Being mistaken about what the Bible teaches will get us into all kinds of trouble. The religious world is filled with false teaching based on some erroneous interpretation of Scripture.
Issues regarding salvation, faith, works, and baptism have been propagated due to mistaken doctrinal views that lead to incorrect conclusions.
Problems understanding creation and evolution have been exacerbated due to an improper understanding of the Bible by both scientists and preachers.
Marriage and sexual relationships are suddenly being questioned by religious leaders due to a failure to understand the Bible.
One huge mistake is isolating one truth to the exclusion of all others. This will inevitably lead to an erroneous position. For instance, I’ve heard it affirmed that the “law of love” is supreme over all other laws. While the two great commandments are indeed important, they do not trump truth on any issue. What God has revealed about the church, salvation and our Christian responsibility must be believed and obeyed, regardless of our personal views.
The problem is too often our opinions get in the way of what the Bible says. Or Scripture is taken out of context to justify our position. It’s worth noting that Jesus did not answer the Sadducee’s argument with his opinion. He proved it with Scripture.
I read facebook debates where personal opinions are debated on religious matters, but little or no Scripture is ever offered. Let’s get back to the Bible as the basis of our beliefs.
Jesus’ retort, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures,” may well be spoken of us.
Heed the warning. Read the Word. And hear what God says.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman