How do Christians deal with Biblical contradictions?


For example…

Matthew 7: 21 - "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

Acts 2: 21 - “And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Unless I’m missing something, this seems like a blatant contradiction. I’m sure there are many others, and it is deeply troubling to me. Can someone help me with this?


By reading it in context.


What is implied in these statements is faith. Without true faith behind your cries, the prayer means nothing.


Context helps. Would you read Shakespeare by taking a passage from Hamlet and one from A Midsummer Night’s Dream and saying they contradict each other?

Read the entire chapter in question, and you’ll see what is meant.


When ever I deal with verses I would first look at the entire context, reflect, and determine the message. Then I double check my thoughts with the footnotes or sermons that can be found online, just for confirmation to know I am on the right track.

In this chapter of Matthew, advice is given to those teaching the word of God and a warning to those who are falsely proclaiming the message of the Lord. False prophets preach and say one thing but do the complete opposite never truly giving their all to the Lord. Thus not everyone who says His name may enter His Kingdom because the condition of their heart is not truly to the Lord and their actions speak the opposite of God’s Commandments. Actions speak louder than words, and we must really practice what we preach.

In the Acts of the Apostles we are looking at the birthday of the Church, Pentecost. The descent of the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles in flames of tongues and because they spoke in various languages (as was needed to spread the word of God to all nations effectively) witnesses thought they were drunk. Peter’s words in verse 21 was reaching out to those who really did not understand Christ and his purpose versus the false prophets who knew Christ and His purpose but did not back up their words. Peter was evangelizing in Acts, and Matthew warned us about false prophets… hope this helps.


Yeah I really dont see the conflict on this one. I think Matthew speaking similar to Jesus didt about the pharisee’s. Jesus chastized them for making themselves first in church, using phylacteries, etc, showing off their faith, and then leaving the widow and orphan without help, Similarly Matthew is saying, those who mouth the words but don’t do the actions wont be find heaven.

Acts assumes that one who asks with sincerely will be saved. It presupposes one will act in accordance with one’s beliefs.


Amen, in order to value a the word of God it must be viewed as a whole. Here is the online New American Bible:

Definately book mark this for quick reference.


The so called “contradictions” actually serve to clarify each other. You have to take them in context with each other. In this case, it seems obvious that just because you pray, and “believe” it doesn’t mean you have a relationship with God. The person in the first example is hardly calling on the name of God, but rather simply asking him something.

It’s the same idea with scriptures that say Jesus came as “prince of peace” but then said he comes not to being peace but a sword. He is clarifying himself. He gives peace to all who follow him, the best kind of peace. Peace in the soul, but it will cause strife in the world because that kind of peace is not natural to this world.

Also with “it is by grace through faith we are saved” and “we are not saved my faith alone” it is stating that works with no faith are in vain, and faith with no works isn’t faith at all. Both are necessary, because you can’t have true faith and no works.

Some people call these contradictions, but they really aren’t. Also, think about the way the bible was written. It wasn’t written all at once. The epistles cover almost 90 years and several thousand miles. What the church n corinth was struggling with, wasn’t the same as the church in ephesus. The letters were written to a people, in a time. Not to be timeless pieces like an instruction manual.


Exactly. :thumbsup:


Yes, you must read passages in context. However, there is an even greater fundamental point to be made regarding studying scripture that has not been mentioned. That is, the bible was not originally written in English. I constantly remind myself that my 21st century interpretation of English words is inadequate in understanding scripture.


Acts 2: 21 - “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

The word ‘name’ comes from the original greek word ‘onomo’. It means authority. If a police officer tells you to ‘Stop in the name of the Law’, he is not calling on the word LAW to make you stop, he is calling on the authority that the Law represents.

After defining the word ‘name’, doesn’t Acts 2:21 support Matt 7:21 rather than contradict it?

Matthew 7: 21 - "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

Calling on God with your lips, “Jesus” is not the same as doing what He commands his followers to do.

Here are two links that I have bookmarked and use frequently in defining the original text of scripture:


Hope this helps. :tiphat:


The thinking behind the original question seems based on a protestant outlook on the bible, where fundamentalists rip verses out of their context and attempt to build doctrines on them in isolation.

So where it says “believe and be saved” this gets twisted into making a commitment at a prayer meeting and being rewarded with eternal security. Where of course believe and be saved, or call on the name of the Lord and be saved is actually shorthand for accepting the Lord and FOLLOWING HIm. That is trying to do what He says.


Luke 9:49
"Master," said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.”

Luke 10:17
The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”

Acts 19:13-16 (New International Reader’s Version)

13 Some Jews went around driving out evil spirits. They tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus to set free those who were controlled by demons. They said, “In Jesus’ name I command you to come out. He is the Jesus that Paul is preaching about.” 14 Seven sons of Sceva were doing this. Sceva was a Jewish chief priest. 15 **One day **the evil spirit answered them, “I know Jesus. And I know about Paul. But who are you?” 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on Sceva’s sons. He overpowered them all. He gave them a terrible beating. They ran out of the house naked and bleeding.

There is power, authority in the name of Jesus and even non-believers on occasions have used it to effect miracles. These people have misguided faith. They belive in the miracle power of Jesus name without believing in the salvation angle of his name.

Yes, they had some faith, but they did not have true active faith that is described in Matthew 25 and in James. Basically, true faith puts legs on it, to feed and care for hte poor. These people in Matthew 7, were going for the spectactular without the substance of faith. The key to Matthew 7:22-24 are the words “I never knew you”, that is they never had a real personal relationship with God, for if they had as John in his letters points out, they would have put feet on their faith, becoming active faith by helpping the poor by performing the basic acts of charity, feeding, clothing, housing, comforting the poor. They took advantage of the name of Jesus without having true active faith.

James 2:14-26 (New International Version - UK)
New International Version - UK (NIVUK)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Faith and Deeds
14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?
15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.

16 If one of you says to him, Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed, but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?

17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18 But someone will say, You have faith; I have deeds. Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.

19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that— and shudder.

20 You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?

21 Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?

22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.

23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, and he was called God's friend.

24 You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?

26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

Like I said, they lacked active faith or salvation faith.

One of your texts speaks of salvation or active faith.

The other speaks of those whom takes advantage of the name of Jesus while lacking active salvation faith.

They like Hebrews 6:4-6 tasted the power of the age to come, but did not know the King of hte age to come.

4 It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit,

5 **who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age,**

6 if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.

Basically, it is like apple pie, one can just Taste it or one Can devour the whole pie.

Hebrews 6:4-6 and Matthew 7:22-24 speaks of just tasters, whereas your other text speaks of those who eat the whole pie.


Acts 2.21 is itself a quotation of an OT passage: seeing NT quotations in the OT contexts that most of them - not all - have, can tell us a lot about the meaning of the passage as used in the NT

The Matthean passage - not just that half-verse - is a rejection of false miracle-workers. For people can work miracles in the name of Christ, & use His Name to do so, without being His (just as they can prophesy truly but not be true prophets). This is what the sons of Sceva in Acts 19 attempted to do, with uncomfortable results for them. Calling on His Name as a source of semi-magical power (as they did) is not the same as having faith in Him; it is a form of putting Him to the test, of using Him: which is utterly forbidden, & has nothing whatever to do with faith in Him as Messiah, & Saviour, & Lord. Far from it - it is a form of unbelief, because true faith in Him utterly excludes the sort of attitude that allows one to use or manipulate Him, just as true married love excludes adultery.

So there is no contradiction - for the two passages are talking about entirely different things. The contradiction is in words, not in subject matter.

Hope that helps.

When I find a contradiction, I leave it to look after itself in its own time. Sometimes it turns out not to be a contradiction, sometimes it can be put down to a variety of traditions in the history of the traditions which underlie the Biblical text.


I’m a protestant fundamentalist who finds this trend disturbing. That is why I am a protestant with my beliefs rooted in the fundamentalism of the protestant reformation. Eternal security within that tradition is closer to being raked over the coals with repentance when in error. The Lord disciplines those who are his children. He returns his children to the fold. Otherwise, they are illegitimate. They are no children of God’s. I can’t stand OSAS protestants who bred false assurance rather than real faith. Real faith being: Faith that is alone in seeking and trusting in Christ but one also replete works out of gratitude, never out of necessity. I can only commend them to the extent that they try to preach Christ and Him crucified. I can’t commend their easy believism.

I would say that in difficult circumstances follow this order.
Immediate context > other portions of scripture > commentaries/tradition.


Kingdom of Heaven, is a place where God’s loves reigns, not heaven, pie in the sky when you die. In Acts they are talking about the pie in the sky when you die.


but then sometimes, it is not enough to just look at the context whenever we are “solving” biblical contradictions:

for example, in the gospel of mark, the rooster crowed twice (Mark 14:72) while the other gospels say that the rooster crowed three times.

how do we reconcile this?


The other Gospels just say that the cock crowed. The fact that the other Gospels left out the detail about the number of crows doesn’t indicate any sort of contradiction.


The gospels are not “Eyewitness News” reports - the Pontifical Biblical Commission has clearly stated this. The gospels existed in a oral/preached form long before they were written down and such small differences are a natural result of their evolution.


The Church teaches that every *book *of the Bible is inerrant. Whatever was written down in the original texts must be true in every respect.

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