I came across a Meme yesterday which I thought was hilarious but at the same time when a text is taken out of context, it’s not so funny. Here it is,
We have all read, heard or seen people take the Bible out of context, whether we realize it or not. There is the Jehovah’s Witness with “the firstborn of all creation” (Col.1:15), or the Mormons with the teaching of the plurality of gods from 1 Corinthians 8:5. How about the prosperity gospel promising health and wealth as a guarantee of the death of Christ through Isaiah 53. The list can keep on going like the Energizer bunny.
I am not sure where or who this quote originated from, but it is true and was taught to me when I was very young in the faith. “A scripture taken out of context is a pretext to error.” This quote has been a guiding principle in my teaching and preaching ministry. The last thing I want to do is take the truth of God and peddle it around so that others believe a lie, God forbid.
How can we avoid taking scripture out of context?
Context Is Key
When reading the Bible one must read the verse in the context of the chapter, narrative and book it is a part of. Many times reading a verse in context will prevent you from buying the lie.
Scripture Interprets Scripture
Let the Bible speak for the Bible. Many times we take one portion of the Bible and rip it out of the Bible’s overall unity. For example, when Jesus says,
If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. – John 14:14
Is he really offering a blank check to believers, can we really ask anything and he will do it? If you turn to 1 John the Bible speaks again,
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. – 1 John 5:13-14
Do you see the qualifier, if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us and we will have it. Asking in prayer is not a blank check, it is submission and conformity to His will.
Unifying Nature of the Bible
The Bible is a unified collection of writings, they will never contradict. So when we take a scripture out of context we are disrupting that unity. Which is a good indicator that you are taking the scripture out of context.
Genre is Important
The Bible is a collection of books, written by men inspired by the Holy Spirit. These men inspired by the Spirit used specific literary genres to write. We cannot interpret a proverb like we do the Gospels, or apocalyptic writing like we do narrative. Genre is important when interpreting a passage of scripture.
Do Not Interpret In A Vacuum
Find out what others are saying about the scripture. Don’t just assume you are right in your interpretation or understanding. Go to solid orthodox commentaries, develop friendships with people who study scripture and pass your ideas to them, ask your Pastor. Go to the past and see how the text has been interpreted throughput history.
Be willing to admit you are wrong. Honestly, this is probably the biggest problem, we always want to be right. Remember whose words you are twisting or taking out of context. The Bible is God’s word to us and when we continue to twist it or take it out of context, we are in grave danger, because God takes His word seriously. Consider these warnings,
You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you. – Deuteronomy 4:2
“Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it. – Deuteronomy 12:32
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. – Revelation 22:18-19
Until Next Time
Soli Deo Gloria