In Defense of the Proof Text 

By Steven D. Cline 

In certain quarters of the brotherhood those "who seem to be somewhat" with insistent voices, say that we have to stop using proof texts. They tell us that this is not the way to teach the Bible. Do they mean that we must not misuse the Bible to prove a point, or do they mean that we must stop using Bible texts, period?

Some may rip a verse or passage from its context, and attempt make it say something that it does not teach. Example: One may misuse Revelation 1:7 to prove that the earth is a flat square. Again, one may falsely claim that Psalms 137:9 says that happiness comes from killing your children. 2 Kings 21:13 may be misunderstood to mean that a man must wash and wipe the supper dishes.

Of course, this is not proof-texting but an absurd mishandling of the Scriptures. It is the unlearned and unstable wresting the Scriptures to their own destruction (2 Pet. 3:16). The sword of the Spirit must not be used in such a shoddy manner. If this is what is meant by those who say proof-texting is a "silly game of scissors and paste" and we need to stop it, I agree.

Those among us who disdain proof-texting may not have distorting the Scriptures in mind. I have an idea they mean that we should discard the honorable practice of giving book, chapter and verse when we undertake to teach a Bible truth. Proof-texting is deplored by the supporters of the new hermeneutic, which, as its fundamental teaching, says understanding the Bible is subjective and one can interpret it any way he pleases. This may explain why they want no objective Bible proof.

Should we use a Bible text for proof? Jesus and his inspired followers used Old Testament passages as proof texts in their teaching and preaching.

Often Jesus used a proof text. Once was when he was being tempted of the devil in the wilderness. Satan misapplied Scripture to coax Jesus to sin. The devil was guilty of the "silly game of scissors and paste," or wresting the Scriptures. Jesus answered Satan with the correct use of Scripture.

Another time Christ made use of proof-texting was in his answer to the Pharisees on the question of marriage, divorce and remarriage. "Have ye not read," said Jesus.

Other instances of the Lord proof-texting include Matthew 13:14-15; Mark 12:35-36; Luke 4:16-21; Luke 6:1-5; Luke 24:27 end John 7:37-38.

Then there was that great and powerful sermon Peter preached, recorded in Acts chapter two. Almost half of his recorded sermon comes from Old Testament texts. He used these passages to show that God raised Jesus and made him both Lord and Christ. The captious would condemn Peter for proof-texting. Here is something strange! Those who forbid the proof text are not inspired. Peter was inspired and used a Bible text to prove his point. Who, then, is the better example for us?

In Acts chapter seven Stephen's sermon is one long proof text. Philip used Isaiah 53:7-8 to convert an Ethiopian treasurer (Acts 8).

Paul publicly convinced the Jews by use of Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ, accord~ ing to Acts 18:28. The Bereans used the honorable art of proof-texting in their daily search of the Scriptures to discover truth (Acts 17:11). We are to "prove all things; hold fast that which is good" (1 Thess. 5:21).

When I was converted, my teachers used book, chapter and verse. I'm glad they did. If they had not, I would still be in Denominationalism. My questions were answered with Bible passages—proof-texting! Yet, prominent preachers tell us that it is not the way to teach. The gospel is the power of God to save (Rom. 1:16).

The proper proof text is the only valid method, even in today's high-tech, state-of-the-art, computerized, ever changing world. The proper handling of the Bible text is a tried and true method that has brought countless precious souls to the crimson blood of the Savior.

It is my hope that those popular and likeable friends of mine who urge us to quit using the proof text will return to "thus saith the Lord" preaching.

Published September 1995