Many times in my life I have heard individuals, both pastors and lay believers, use the phrase “the Bible plainly or clearly says…” in order to prove or defend a personal standard or conviction. I often find this very frustrating and very interesting, because many times they are able to pick a verse or even a couple of verses to seemingly prove their point. The problem is that many times those verses are being taken out of context.
Context is perhaps the most important element to remember when determining what any verse is saying. In order to understand the context, one needs to take the time to understand the theme of the book in which the passage resides, the audience that received the initial passage, and the grammatical structure of the passage. These are just a few of the keys to determining context, but they provide the foundation for understanding. In addition, it should be remembered that the Bible will never mean something now that It didn’t mean to the original audience.
We all need to be certain that before we say “Well the Bible says…” we take the time to first actually determine what it is saying. We need to do this for several reasons. First, it will protect the integrity of the Word of God. Few things undermine the actual authority of God’s Word then believers taking It out of context. Second, it will protect the testimony of Christ. When individuals take the Word out of context they often do so to promote their own opinions or to cement control over others. This destroys the authority of Christ in our lives. Third, it opens the door real Biblical understanding. Biblical understanding is essential to growing in faith and maturity. Both of these are crippled when the Word is not contextually taught or studied. Finally, it ensures a proper foundation. When context is present, the individual can point to the Word as the standard for faith lived out in our daily lives.