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  • Writer's picturePastor DJ Harry

The Danger of ‘Proof Texting’ Scripture

Updated: Oct 29, 2019


The accessibility of digital search features have made searching for ‘proof texts’ a commonplace occurrence in the lives of many believers.  Biblical texts separated completely from their contextual meaning are seen and used on a daily basis.  Consider the following examples:


1. Philippians 4:13  I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.  Was Paul really saying that he could score a touchdown or hit the game winning three pointer through Christ?  No.  The context has to do with suffering, being abased, hungry, and suffering need.

2. Revelation 3:20  Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.  Sounds like a great evangelism verse, right?  God is standing at the door of you heart, knocking and asking to come in to be your Savior.  Well, not exactly.  Christ is knocking on the door of the church of Laodicea.  These are believers that have become so preoccupied with their earthly endeavors and worldly possessions that they have become useless.  While we are on this one, consider another from the same passage!

3. Revelation 3:15-16   I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.  So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.  God hates the lukewarm, amen!  He would rather that you would be cold or hot…either on fire for God or cold to the Gospel.  Excuse me, no.

We have got to do better than this!!  We are dealing with God’s holy and transcendent words to man.  We cannot treat them lightly. The Scriptures must be handled with the proper respect and honor that are fitting for the correspondence of the King of Kings!

Here are four simple reasons why searching for proof texts is dangerous and should be avoided whenever possible.

1. It reinforces the habit of going to Scripture to find what you want instead of going to God’s Word to find what God wants for you.

When I take time to read and study God’s Word, pride alone drives me to study only what I want.  When we only go to Scripture to find the answers to our questions, we miss the opportunity for the Holy Spirit to speak to us supernaturally through His Word.  The alternative is to simply go to God’s Word and let the text drive and direct your thoughts. Let God’s thoughts become the focus of your study.

2. It separates the broad view of Scripture into pieces that are small and can often be misinterpreted.

There is something incredible about studying Romans and seeing all that Paul is communicating about the Gospel as one cohesive unit.  It was written that way!  So why do we feel it’s ok to break God’s Word down into bite-sized nuggets?  Obviously there is understanding that happens on the sentence and paragraph level,


3. It minimizes (often hijacks) the legitimate message of Scripture.

Let’s just be clear.  God’s words to man are of utmost importance and authority.  There is nothing more important to my preaching than communicating exactly what God meant when he inspired the text of Scripture.  When I fail to study the text to its fullest and simply interject what I want it to mean to support some theological position, it is an act of pride.  God help us if we care less about what God says and more about what we want God to say.

4. It often makes Scripture say something that it does not really say.

It is so easy to take one verse to prove your point and in turn make God’s Word say something that it was never meant to communicate in the context of the passage. We must be careful when handling and teaching God’s Word.  Never interject what you want or wish the text to say, let God’s Word speak for itself!!

 There is absolutely nothing wrong with searching the Scriptures to find the answers to life’s questions.  But when you find that one verse that seems to be perfect, make sure to interpret it carefully within the proper context and setting of the passage.  Let’s humbly treat God’s Word with the care and respect that it deserves.

What are your thoughts?  Are there passages that you have used as a proof text and then later realized that you had misinterpreted that passage?  Feel free to share your experiences with the dangers of proof texting in the comments below!!

DJHarry     Isaiah 64:8     We are the clay!


418 views2 comments


Kendra Chappell Andrus
Kendra Chappell Andrus
Aug 21, 2023

Is this a proof text? — Using David's lament after he raped and murdered where he says "surely I was sinful in my mother's womb" to then create a doctrine that all humans are utterly sinful before they're born? Or how about the verse where Paul frustratingly claims that he can't stop doing what he doesn't want to do and can't do what he wants to do. Does that mean all humans experience that and it's proof of our wickedness and inability to do good? They seem like proof texts to me.


Ondiek John
Ondiek John
Aug 16, 2021

Correctly put. We all fall into this kind of preaching. May God help us not to take His words literally but prayerfully ask for the correct interpretation of the text in the right context.

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