Thursday, May 28, 2009


A preacher sent a short and sweet telegraphic message to his friend to reach her on the day of her wedding. The message was submitted to the telegraph office as ‘1 John 4:18.’ This verse from the First Letter of St. John explains the excellence of love, “There is no fear in love; perfect love drives out all fear.” The telegraph operator was a non-Christian. He did not know the significance of the ‘1’ at the beginning of the message. By error, he did not transmit the ‘1’. Hence the newly married couple got the telegram as ‘John 4:18. Thus the verse from the letter of St. John was replaced by a verse from the Gospel of St. John. With enthusuiasm they opened the Gospel according to St. John and read the verse 4:18. To their surprise, the verse was, “You have been married to five men, and the man you live with now is not really your husband. You have told me the truth.” Their enthusiasm gave way to embarassment!

It is common to quote verses from the Bible during sermons, and counselling and in articles. A proud preacher who was in the habit of quoting verses lavishly to show off his memory and proficiency, once announced in a speech a verse as from Mark 17:18 . The people who heard him searched again and again for the verse in their Bibles. Finally they understood that St. Mark has written only 16 chapters in his Gospel and the preacher was wrong.

These incidents highlight the importance of accuracy when Biblical verses are quoted.

It is a common custom among many believers to blindly open their Bible and read the first verse that catches their eyes, and act according to it, assuming that it is God’s instant message for immediate action. But we must realise that God may not speak always through this short-cut method of man.

A student in a very depressed state blindly opened the Bible expecting God’s direction. The verse he got was: “Then he went off and hanged himself” {Matthew 27:5}. He was really confused. So he closed the Bible and blindly opened another page and read the new message: “You go, then, and do the same” {Luke 10: 37}. Worried about the tragic message , he tried again and repeated his search. This time the message was clear but cruel: “Be quick about what you are doing!” {John 13: 27}. Luckily, he consulted the Vicar before executing the message and so he was saved. The Vicar explained that the three verses were from three different contexts and should not be connected to arrive at a dangerous conclusion.

The Bible is to be read and studied systematically, assimilated actively and practised properly in daily life.

Jesus Christ is the Word of God incarnated as man.

The Bible is the Word of God incarnated in the language of man.

“King David sings in the Psalms, “Your Word is a lamp to guide me and a light for my path” {Psalms 119:105}.

St. Paul exhorts us to get ready for the war against Devil using the Word of God as the sword of the soul: “And accept salvation as a helmet and the Word of God as the sword which the Spirit gives you” {Ephesians 6:17}.

“The Word of God is alive and active; sharper than any double-edged sword. It cuts all the way through, to where soul and spirit meet. It judges the desires and thoughts of man’s heart” {Hebrews 4:12}.


This is story No. 137 in this site. Please click ‘older posts’ at bottom of page to read previous stories in this site.

By: Dr. Babu Philip, Professor, Cochin University of Science & Technology, Fine Arts Avenue, Kochi-682016, Kerala, India.

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