Who doesn’t fondly remember having their mother quote to them as a child, the following, infamous Bible verse: cleanliness is next to godliness? The verse seems created purely to justify unwanted showers and enforce thorough scrubbing behind the ears. Of course, this Scripture is one of many other notorious verses which come from the same holy book; versus such as “moderation in all things”, “this too shall pass” and “to thine own self be true”. These verses have provided hope, encouragement and clarity to a lost and confused world. Except there is one massive problem with all of these passages, none of them are actually Bible verses.
These “phantom Bible verses” are too often treated as Gospel, when in fact they make no appearance in any page of Scripture. Whilst the aforementioned verses aren’t overly harmful, others have proven detrimental to the lives of both believers and non-believers. In particular, two such quotes which negatively affected my spiritual life were the following.
- God does not call the equipped, he equips the called
- God does not call the qualified, he qualifies the called
I’M EQUIPPED! GOD HASN’T CALLED ME!
Try as you might, just as I did, but neither of these quotes are found anywhere in Scripture. Yet, it is easy to find inspirational posters, mugs and other products, all printed with the same supposedly empowering message. It is obvious that the quotations are supposed to make those who view themselves as inadequate and incapable of contributing to God’s kingdom, feel as though God can in fact use them. But as noble as the intent of the message may be, it provides only discouragement and encourages apathy.
I once believed this “phantom Bible verse” to be Scripture, and who could blame me? I heard it so frequently preached from pulpits by pastors and read it in the pages of Christian books; and a message intended to encourage, only distressed me, for too many years.
I struggled to reconcile my place in God’s kingdom, with the notion that God only called the unequipped and unqualified; the inevitable conclusion of these two quotations. By God’s grace, from a young age I had a talent to preach God’s Word, and to teach it effectively in a simple way to others, and it was my passion to pursue ministry as a fulltime career. Consequently, I felt that God had equipped me with the spiritual gifts necessary to fulfill his commission to me, and yet I had been told that God had no interest in using me, because I was equipped. I had been told that God does not want me.
This is the first problem with these phantom verses, that those who recognise the spiritual gifts which God has given them, are told that God only calls the unequipped, and thus they can play no role in preaching the Gospel, or serve any function in the Body of Christ.
I’M UNEQUIPPED! GOD WILL PROVIDE FOR ME!
These phantom verses are also problematic, in that it implies that God not given spiritual gifts to all believers. Scripture plainly teaches that the Holy Spirit equips every believer with spiritual gifts for the edification of the church, and the proclamation of the Gospel (1 Cor. 12:4-11). Thus, to say that God calls the unequipped is Scripturally false, as the Bible states there is no such thing as an unequipped Christian.
Therefore, for believers who have not yet recognised the spiritual gifts given to them, this places them in a stage of stagnation, as they await with out stretched arms, for God to deliver to them their spiritual gifts, when in fact already arrived in the mail a long time ago.
Furthermore, these concepts are predicted upon the notion that there is a hierarchy within Christianity. The quotes clearly attempt to make those who view themselves with low esteem, feel encouraged that God can still use them for his work. However, to even entertain these concepts and adopt such terminology, reinforces the false notion that Christians can be ranked according to their spiritual gifts, and that ‘D’ grade Christians should feel encouraged, because God wants to use them.
However, in God’s eyes and under the Gospel of Salvation, no such hierarchy exists within Christianity, as believers are not ranked by race, gender or capability (Galatians 3:28). All believers are of equal standing, with Christ as the head of the church (Colossians 1:8), and every believer playing a specific role in the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:12-14, 27); no function being less than or greater than the other, and every believer equipped with the spiritual gifts necessary to further God’s kingdom (1 Cor. 12:4-7).
QUALIFICATIONS OF A CHRISTIAN
So then, knowing that we have been equipped by the Holy Spirit with spiritual gifts, we must ask the final question: what does it mean to be qualified? I believe Scripture provides three qualifications for the Christian to work for God.
- They have been equipped with spiritual gifts by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:8-11)
- They admit their own weaknesses and sin, and ask God to do his best work through them (2 Cor. 12:9)
- They love God, having accepted his sacrifice on the cross and inheriting eternal life, being born again and having a changed heart which desires to seek and save the lost (1 John 4:7,8)
It’s time we abandon the phantom verses we have created, in order to give ourselves security or justification for apathy. To say that God only calls the unequipped and unqualified, discourages those who recognise their gifts, encourages apathy for those who have not yet done so, and segregates Christians into a ranked system.
Scripture provides a more hopeful, encouraging and most importantly, true perspective on this issue. Every Christian is equipped with spiritual gifts, and qualified by their weaknesses, and their love of the God who works in those weaknesses. All people, no matter who they are, are invited to participate in the Body of Christ, as they are all equal, equipped and qualified for God’s ministry.
By Christopher Petersen
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