Context is everything. I heard a story about a guy who had a very unique way of reading the Bible. In his effort to hear what God would say to him for that day, he would hold a closed Bible in his hands, close his eyes, than open the Bible with his eyes still shut, drop a pointing finger on the page of the bible, open his eyes, than read the verse on which his finger landed.
Well, one morning, his first attempt landed him on a verse that said,”and Judas hang himself.” Feeling unsatisfied, he dove in for something else and his finger landed on another verse that said, “go do likewise.” Well you can imagine that was the last day he played Russian Roulette with the Bible.
Come to think about it, most Christians I know approach the word of God Just like that. They reach in for something, than pull it right out of its context. But it’s important that we read and interpret the word of God by taking into consideration the context of every verse, chapter, and book. Context is everything. This is indeed how you “correctly interpret the word of God.”
It is a dangerous thing to interpret God’s word out of context. Whenever we make that mistake – error, false doctrine and heresy usually ensue. Allow me to share with you a few hilarious illustrations to show how easy it is for us to misinterpret God’s word.
I can prove anything I like simply by taking those things out of context. For example, I can prove that:
- Joseph played tennis in the Bible
- David had a motorbike, it was most likely a Harley Davidson
- God drove Adam & Eve around in a car
- There will be no women in heaven
The bible says, “Joseph served in the courts of pharaoh…” Sound like a classic tennis match with Nadal. “David’s triumph was heard through the land…” Sounds like the 25 plus Freedom Riders making a joyful noise on their way to my church a year ago. “Jehovah drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden in a Fury…” Sounds like a very fast car. “There was silence in heaven for half an hour…” That definitely means there were no women there :-)
Speaking of women, we hear all the time from people who ignore the overwhelming evidence throughout scripture, that women are called to leadership and to the pastorate, but still insist they are not. They do this by isolating one passage from scripture from the rest of scripture to argue their point.
It is important, when we approach the scripture, through humility, prayer and reliance on the Holy Spirit, that we:
- Consider the immediate context surrounding the verse
- Consider the paragraph and book in which the verse is found
- Consider other books by the author and the theme as developed in the entire Bible
- Consider the principle of the “two or three witnesses” as a guiding light
- Consider the historical and cultural context
- Consider a teachable, open and willing to learn spirit.
I pray that we will all “Do our best to present ourselves to God as approved, workers who have no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” In Jesus Name… Amen!