Imagine if someone walked up to you and told you that the gift they were handing you was free.
You would be filled with excitement, Right?
That is until you get home and realize there are minimal instructions and you struggle to use it to its full potential.
That’s what the Bible becomes for some people.
They’ve been given this book that contains valuable information for life, with a few instructions, and they struggle to use it to its full potential. As they begin to read the pages, they read through modern or self-centered lenses and now they’ve taken scripture out of context.
What does it mean to take a scripture out of context?
Taking scripture out of context means we don’t consider who the writer was speaking to or the surrounding verses. When we fail to use the surrounding verses to help us give meaning to the verse we’re studying, we are bound to misinterpret and distort our view of the Bible.
Let’s take a look at a commonly quoted verse…
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.Phillipians 4:13 ESV
This seems encouraging right? I can do all things. We’ve all seen it used as encouragement before some challenging task.
But let’s look at this same verse in context…
I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. 14 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.Phillipians 4:10-14 ESV
That same verse means something different now. All it took was adding a few verses around the selected verse to add more depth. Now let’s add some background. The book of Philippians is considered an epistle or letter. It was written by Paul to the Philippians, (the church at Philippi). The letter was written while Paul was imprisoned and served as an opportunity for him to encourage, instruct, and thank the church for sending provisions to him. In reading with context, we see that Paul was glad that they (the Phillipians) had not forgotten him and that God had used them to help provide for him. When we re-read verses 10-14 with surrounding verses and a little background, we have a better perspective on the verses and their meaning.
We can look at these words from Paul to the Philippians and get some powerful applications. We see how God has used other believers as a source of provision. We see how God empowered a believer to withstand the trials of his situation, whether they were full of abundance or hard times. Those are concepts that we can take and apply to our present situation. We understand that God provides for His children through other children and we can stand firm in the power we receive from our Heavenly Father to weather the storms of life.
Putting Things into Perspective…
When we read the Bible in context, we walk away with richer food. We feed our souls with sustenance that can keep us moving forward through life with true power. If we fail to read with perspective, we put ourselves at risk of malnourishment. Context matters. Don’t underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit illuminating scripture as you dive deeper into the Bible.
Be sure to check us out next week when we will be breaking down, Why approach matters…