Slideshow image

             One of the tactics that political candidates use when they are running for an office is to quote something that their opponent said but quote it out of context. The cited words may be the exact words spoken or written by the opponent but taken out of their original context and repeated can make the other candidate appear to be saying or implying something that was not intended. The media often does the same thing presenting a news story to get ratings, but the event was related out of the full context of the facts. The result is that the news viewers begin to form impressions and opinions that may be far from the contextual facts. One of the basic rules of Bible study is to remember the context. Many false doctrines have arisen because the messenger took a work or passage out of context. Let us consider a couple.
            The words “believe” and “faith” has often been isolated from the context of obedience or baptism. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). While it is true that belief in Jesus and only in Jesus as the Son of God is the way to salvation (John 14:6). However, belief in this passage cannot be separated from the context of what belief includes in the greater context. Jesus said, “Not everyone that says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). In this passage Jesus was placing belief and even confessing faith in him within the greater context obedience or doing the will of God. As the apostles preached the gospel, the message of Jesus, on the Day of Pentecost as the people expressed belief in Jesus they asked the question, “What shall we do”? (Acts 2:37). Peter could have easily responded in this manner, “We are thankful to God that you believe in Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, and because of your faith have received forgiveness of sins.” However, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit Peter responded, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized for the remission of your sins…” (Acts 2:38). Peter clearly placed their belief, faith, and salvation within the greater context of doing the will of God, obedience. The apostle Paul expressed thankfulness by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit at the faith and obedience of the Roman brethren, “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered” (Romans 6:17). James also offered his inspired response to a faith without obedience type of salvation. “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17).
            Another subject often taken out of context is “spiritual gifts”. The apostles were inspired by the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4) and in turn they laid hands upon certain faithful brethren in order that these brethren might receive the “spiritual gifts” (Acts 8:14-17) and be of service to the local congregation. There are some that have taken this subject out of context suggesting that they are equal to talents that Christians might have today, and others taking it out of context suggesting that miracles, tongue speak (speaking in other languages without studying the language), supernatural knowledge, etc., are still alive and well today. Paul wrote concerning these things and placed them in their proper context, a first century context. The “spiritual gifts” were supernatural abilities that were beyond the scope of talents, and they were for the purpose of edifying the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12). The “spiritual gifts” were placed within the context of love (1 Corinthians 13:1-7), and within the context of that their first century purpose would be complete as the New Testament was complete. “Love never fails. But whether there are prophesies, they will fail, whether there are tongues, they will cease, whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when that which is perfect has come (the New Testament), then that which is in part (spiritual gifts) will be done away” (1 Corinthians 13:8-10). The continual perpetuation of the spiritual gifts depended upon the apostles and only the apostles laying their hands upon faithful brethren (Acts 8:14-17), however, when the last apostle died that gift could not longer be passed on, and when the last person alive that had received it from the apostles had passed on, “that which is in part” was “done away”.
            Removing words from their context may be a political tactic, but it is not for the serious Bible student. Without context it is impossible to understand words spoken to us by another, and without context it is impossible to understand the will of God.