For the next several months–maybe the whole year–I’m going to be preaching on the words Jesus spoke. The series is called “Red Print,” because for a bit over 100 years some Bibles have been printed with the words of Jesus in red.

This coming Sabbath’s sermon will be based on Matthew 5:13 – 26. To get ready, I first print out this passage in four English versions (NKJV, NIV, ESV, NRSV) plus the Greek. This ends up being three sheets of paper, which I staple together and carry around in a black notebook. This week I’ll be going over them and over them, again and again, taking notes on the ideas I’ve found there. Later I’ll put these ideas into an outline and create my sermon from that.

One thing I’m obsessive about is to ignore any section headings a certain version might have. For example, in the New King James Version, just before verses 17 – 20, the heading (inserted by a well-meaning editor) says “Jesus Fulfills the Law.” That’s true–He says so in verse 17.

But to title that whole section with that heading might give the casual reader the idea that God’s law is no longer important. But Jesus Himself follows His fulfilling-the-law verse with three more verses which say that God’s law is very important, and that unless you and I are more righteous than even those champion law-keepers the Pharisees, we will not enter the kingdom of heaven. And then the rest of the Sermon on the Mount insists that we internalize God’s law, living it out from the heart.

That’s what can be so limiting and misleading about chapter headings and section headings. And it’s the same with study Bibles with footnotes. These additions give the verses the “spin” the editor or study Bible compiler wants them to have. They are not inspired Scripture. They’re helpful, of course, if carefully done and even more carefully used. But the serious Bible student ignores them and does a thorough study of the unadulterated Word of God as the first priority.