Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Sanctifying Grace: Context

This is the second post in a series about finding sanctifying grace in the Bible instead of using it for our own purposes.  Some of the content of these posts is from the International Bible Series based on a lesson I taught at our Annual Conference this year.

  1. I firmly believe that context is important.  If I said to you that the Cardinals battled the Pirates to the bitter end, you might make a guess as to what I was talking about. The truth is, I could be telling you a story about Roman priests fighting with actual pirates, or I could be relating the results of a baseball game to you. You don’t know if you don’t know the context. The same is true of Bible Study.

As you are reading a passage, ask yourself, or find out:
  • To whom was the passage written? Was the author of the passage speaking to a particular issue in that culture?
  • How does that setting "color" what has been written? For example, when reading about the food laws in the Old Testament, is it important to know about the people and their circumstances? I think it might be.
  • What issues were being addressed in that audience? When Paul says that women shouldn't speak in worship and should go home and ask their husbands, what role does context play? Is he writing a law? Or is he speaking in a particular city to a particular group of people dealing with a particular issue?
In addition to the external context, think about where the scripture itself sits in The Bible.  So often we do not do this. We lift passages out of context and look at them as if nothing came before and nothing comes after.  If you read a parable, look at the chapter it is in. What was happening at the time? What other parables are near the one you are reading? How do those parables round out the message of your particular passage? Looking back at our previous list, knowing where the passage is placed in the Bible can help you understand who Jesus is speaking to, what issue he is addressing, and what else he has to say on the same topic.

Without context, we can really misinterpret scripture, and lifting a passage out of context is a dangerous thing to do.

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