Context is Everything


Context is everything.

It really is. Words taken out of context are left at the mercy of the imagination of the mind absorbing them…not always a good thing. Worse – the Word taken out of context is a disaster waiting to happen. It should be a principal of interpretation taught in Sunday school to the youngest…lessons in context to avoid some of the pain of taking a tool of God into the world with no clue on how to wield it.

One should never take a single verse and assume its meaning independent of the paragraph it is in. One should never take a paragraph and assume its meaning independent of the chapter; one should never take a chapter and assume its meaning independent of the book; one should never take a book and assume its meaning independent of its testament; one should never take a testament and assume its meaning independent of the whole of scripture…

Sound tiresome? It can be which is why it does not happen often. But wait there’s more – 

One has to consider that the perfect, inerrant truth of God is revealed to imperfect errant people. That it is then recorded by these imperfect, errant people using imperfect, errant human language and then re-translated by imperfect, errant albeit faithful, translators. This is the point of being given the Spirit of God as a helper (same word used to describe Eve by the way)…because Lord knows we need a helper.

But wait there’s more…

One must never interpret scripture and assume its meaning independent of the original audience it was delivered and its cultural context – its place in the world in its time.

People chafe at this. They believe that somehow this is compromising the eternal truth and God inspired inerrant of the Word because they have always assumed it was revealed solely for them in their 21st century Canadian (INSERT COUNTRY AND TIME HERE) context.

On the contrary understanding scripture within the context of when it was revealed; to whom it was revealed; the genre (literary format it took shape in – song, poetry, revelation, etc) revelation was recorded in – this is all the height of faithfulness to the Word.

But wait there’s more..

There is discerning the truth as it was revealed and the point of it in the context of the whole. There is a need to understand the point of the exodus of Israel from Egypt in light of the death of Christ and of understanding the death of Christ in light of the exodus. 

But wait there’s more…

All of scripture must be read through the lens of Christ as he is revealed in scripture…Leviticus cannot be read properly unless it is read through the lens that is Christ’s life and experience as we have it and understand it within the context of first century Israel.

Tired? I am. 

It is not easy to interpret scripture let alone apply it…heck we have not even talked about applying it.

Taking verses from scripture and cramming them into other people’s faces is not applying them. Writing John 3:16 on a placard at a baseball game is not applying it…it’s a little like taking a baseball and putting it on the ground and then beating the shit out of it with a bat and saying you are playing baseball…no…no you are not…you may have the tools and you may be using them but you are not playing baseball…there is much more to it.

The Pharisees were like this. They liked to put the uniform on and complain about how Christ and his disciples were picking grain on the Sabbath…they called it work and cited nice verses in Scripture. Christ would respond – “you think you are applying the word; you think you are being faithful…but you are not…there is more to it than that…watch me and I will show you what it looks like when the Word lives among you.”

Once the righteous gathered around a woman accused of adultery and were preparing to administer the God-sanctioned punishment of stoning her to death. After all it was right there in Leviticus…stone the adulteress…God said so.

And He did…you can read it yourself…but somehow despite correctly reading and applying the Word they were wrong.

The God stood in front of them and said…”nope…no you don’t…unless you are without sin…then go ahead…otherwise don’t because you missed the point and I am here to help you understand that you are all this woman and you all deserve to be stoned to death – now watch what I do.”


Context is everything.

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