“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:26-27).
One of the time-honored strategies of false teachers involves the act of taking a Biblical passage (or portion of a verse) out of context to support a non-Biblical doctrine. One example can be found in a publication distributed by the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ organization entitled The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom or simply, The Watchtower. The December 1, 1981 edition of that publication contained an article that made the following statement…
“Unless we are in touch with this channel of communication that God is using (i.e. the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ organization), we will not progress along the road to life, no matter how much Bible reading we do” (page 27).
This article went on to reference Acts 8:30-40 to support that premise. That portion of Scripture relates the account of the Apostle Phillip and his encounter with a representative of the Ethiopian government. Phillip heard this high-ranking official reading aloud from the Biblical book of the prophet Isaiah and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” The Ethiopian official replied, “How can I understand unless someone explains it to me?” (Acts 8:31 NET).
Some religious organizations may reference this passage to assert the belief that others cannot understand the Scriptures without the aid of their teaching materials. But before we accept that claim, we would be wise to consider the portion of Scripture that precedes this passage. There we find that it was the Holy Spirit who directed Phillip in this encounter. Philip was simply the vehicle by which the Holy Spirit communicated the truth about the Scriptures to this man (see Acts 8:26-29).
So when taken in context, this passage doesn’t say that we need the aid of an individual or organization to understand the Scriptures. Instead, it tells us that we cannot fully grasp the meaning and application of God’s Word without the direction of the Holy Spirit.
In a similar manner, some may view this statement from Galatians 3:26 (“For you are all sons of God…”) as a pretext for universalism, or the belief that everyone will eventually find salvation. Unfortunately, that view is not supported by the context of this passage. You see, it is not all who are children of God but “…we are all children of God through faith in Jesus Christ” (TLB).
This reminds us that it is important to establish a good contextual basis for interpreting the Scriptures. If we fail to do so, it’s possible to make the Bible say some very unbiblical things.