When we read scripture, it can be SO tempting to make it about us, our life, the people we are mad at, or the things we should do. Don’t get me wrong, the Bible speaks into all of that.
But when we approach God’s Word, we have to remember the context. This is why anytime I’ve led Bible studies, we spend the first session understanding the 5Ws:
Who wrote this text?
Who was it written to?
When was it written?
Where was it written?
Why was it written?
All of these details tell us a little bit about the culture, the people, the time period, and the reason it was written to begin with. When we have this understanding, , we can approach the text in the way it was intended to be read and understood.
Can we often apply the same principals and promises to our lives today? YES. But not all of them. That is why understanding context is crucial to biblical literacy. I also briefly review the 5Ws at the beginning of each bible study as a reminder of how we will observe the text.
Think about it this way, we wouldn’t open a random page in a novel, read a paragraph, and then assume we have a good understanding of what is happening in the story, right? So how could we do that with the Bible?
When we read scripture through our personal filters, we often give meaning to the verse that is not there. We miss out on the riches of His story and His mercy because we want it to say something directly about us.
But remember, we read the Bible to first know about God. It’s about Jesus. Is it applicable to our everyday life? ABSOLUTELY! But it’s only through the lens of understanding what it meant to the original audience. Scripture cannot mean to us what it did not mean to them.
How do you know when you’re making a verse mean something to you that it didn’t mean to them? In your own words, explain (either out loud or by journal) the context around that verse and how it relates to that audience. By that, you will know the true intent and meaning. If you’re unable to explain this, there is a chance you could be giving it your own meaning.
The moment someone starts a sentence with “To me, it means…” That is a sign that they might be understanding the text incorrectly. BUT the reality is, we are all growing and learning!! People who have spent their entire lives studying the Bible learn new things all the time.
I highly encourage any believer out there who desires to be a real student of God’s Word to get a great study Bible and at least one commentary. Right now, I personally use the ESV Study Bible, as well the Moody Bible Institute Commentary and the John MacArthur Bible Commentary. Commentaries and study bibles can he helpful tools in our growth and understanding of God’s Word!
But remember, we can’t be student’s of His Word without getting in the word! Even 10 minutes is better than 0.
As you understand the meaning of scripture as it is intended, trust that the Holy Spirit will teach, convict, counsel, and lavish upon you the riches and glory of His love and truth.
What are popular verses you’ve seen taken out of context?.