Have you ever heard someone tell you that the time has come for them to “step out of the boat”? Hard to say when such moments come upon us isn’t it? I myself don’t make a practice of stepping out of any kind of boat. I am not a very good swimmer and would sink like a rock. I don’t think that is what they mean though….
Generally when a TV preacher makes this comment he or she is talking about a figurative boat. The boat could by anything you want it to be, and stepping out of it could also mean whatever it is you want it to mean. The idea is that taking a leap of faith compels God to act in your favor. The best part is you get to apply this analogy to whatever you like and believe that it’s a Biblical teaching. That’s really the issue though isn’t it? Does the Bible teach that we need to watch out for our “boat stepping” moments in life? Let’s look at the text and see what it says.
That’s the verse right there. You almost don’t even have to put it into context really I mean it kinda says it all. Jesus is talking to Peter and giving him some one-time directions. This passage is what is called descriptive narrative. What is that? Simply put it’s a story.
Imagine for a moment that you wanted to learn how to bake a ginger bread house. What book would you turn to? Would you buy a cook book or Hansel and Gretel? One of those will teach you how to bake a ginger bread house and the other is a story. The answer is simple when we are talking about normal activities and regular books. For some reason though people quote the Bible and think it’s okay to just read it however you like. God chose in his sovereign free will to convey his truth to us in writing. He used human languages, genres, and even slang.
The Bible is meant to be read as it was given, it’s a book. The normal rules of literature apply, you don’t get to make it say whatever you want it to.
So simply based on that, interpreting this passage as a form of instructions rather than an accurate rendering of a historic event is simply false. This alone categorically removes the doctrine of “boat stepping”.
The other problem with reading the passage like this is to do so you have to believe that the stories in the Bible are a metaphor for your life. It’s as if they all got written down thousands of years ago pointing to you. One day you were destined to arrive on the scene and then suddenly all of the Bible would be fulfilled in your deeds. But that is not what we find in scripture is it? Instead we know that it is about the Messiah, who is Jesus, not you.
Imagine that, the Bible is about Jesus. Who would have figured that one eh?! Hey, if anyone is going to accuse me of twisting the scriptures let them say that I twisted the Bible to make it about Jesus. You can write that on my tombstone if you like. The thing is I don’t have to twist it, the scripture screams this from every page. Read a few of my posts on Eschatology if you would like a break down on a few examples.
This is so obvious in scripture that Jesus is even called the Word in human flesh:
What we lose when the boat stepping narrative is twisted is the point of the story anyways. It isn’t really even about what happens to Peter. It isn’t an object lesson of faith even. See in our narcissism we try to read ourselves in and then miss out on the whole point! Read the rest of the story to the end and look for the part that doesn’t get quoted or emphasized by any TV Preacher.
Something that might help in understanding this is that the notion of a first century Jew worshiping anyone less than God and keeping a written record of it is unheard of. They might as well of been signing their own death warrants for breaking the Torah. The only conceivable reason the Apostles would do this and publish the act under pain of death is that they genuinely believed Jesus to be God.
So what I am really saying? First and foremost I am pointing out that it is not okay to twist the scripture. Simply put, this passage is not teaching that your acts of personal piety have the cosmic power to bend the Will of God and speak miracles into existence. As with most things, the truth here is more compelling than the fiction anyways. God has come to earth manifest in the flesh, took our sins upon him to the grave, and risen in Glory. We don’t need parlor tricks, false Christs, or false signs and wonders from TV preachers.