Reading the Bible in Context

One of the most important issues in studying the Bible—or even just reading the Bible–is reading it in context.

Maybe you’ve heard of this rule:

Context is king.

In other words, knowing the context of a passage can make the difference between correctly understanding what is being communicated and horribly misinterpreting the text.

Bible with "Context is King."

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Let’s use an example from life. Say you’re walking to your bedroom and as you pass your teenage son’s room, you overhear him say to his friend, Casey, “I don’t need to study for tomorrow’s test. I can get all the answers from Wendy, who sits next to me.” 

Now, instantly, you’re fired up and likely to have a “Come to Jesus” with him later…if not right now. But when you do, he quickly tells you, “You didn’t hear the whole conversation. I was telling Casey what Tim had told me earlier today.”

Hmmm. You’d missed the beginning of the conversation. You’d missed the context and had horribly misinterpreted what he’d said.

This is the most basic form of context—what comes right before something and what comes right after it.

There are other forms of context that need to be considered when reading the Bible as well, such a cultural context and historical contextI’ll likely write about these in a future newsletter.

Want a good book that will teach you how to study God’s Word? Living by the Book by Howard Hendricks is my top pick. Easy to understand and full of incredible teaching, you’ll love it!

Abandoning Context

Sadly, context is often ignored. Because our society is drawn to quippy sound bites, meme makers and Esty designers find a cool sounding verse and run with it. Like this:

God is within her, she will not fall--does not take into account context

God is within her; she will not fall. Psalm 46:5.

Oh, that sounds so good, doesn’t it? Add some sparkles or pretty flowers and women will eat that up!  

God is in me, and I won’t fall!” Yes, please!

Except, that verse isn’t talking about you or me or any other woman. It’s talking about a city—the city of God—Jerusalem. Simply backing up two verses would have revealed that.

How to Avoid Misinterpreting Scripture

What’s the easiest way to make sure we’re not taking Scripture out of context? 

Read big chunks of Scripture at a time. Read through an entire book. Get the big picture of a book. Heck—get the big picture of the whole Bible!

Again, let’s use a real life example. Imagine you sent a letter to someone you dearly love, and they opened it and thought, “I’m going to read one sentence each day…just one sentence, and not necessarily in order.”

What? That’s nuts!

No, they’d read all of it at once, and if they really loved you, they’d read it over and over again.

The Bible is God’s love letter to us. 

Don’t settle for tiny samples of Scripture. A nibble here. A nibble there. 

Gorge yourself! Have a feast!

You know what will happen when you do?

Not only will you have a better chance at accurately interpreting the Scripture, but you’ll “taste and see that the LORD is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him” (Psalm 34:8). You’ll know the One who sent the letter and fall more and more in love with Him!

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3 thoughts on “Reading the Bible in Context

  1. Great words of encouragement to read God’s love letter from start to finish. A series of sermons by our pastor is titled “Taken Outta Context.” It is amazing how many verses are mis-used because we don’t see the big picture.

  2. GREAT point! Very well said. It is so incredibly important to not just read the Bible on a daily basis, but to STUDY it and let it seep into every nook and cranny of our soul!

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