When studying the Bible it’s important to do so with the context in mind. Knowing the audience, events, literal meaning, and how something was to be understood in the time that it was written should all be considered. This is one reason why I am not a fan of partially quoting Bible verses. Misunderstanding can occur when something is taken out of context. Even when there’s a verse that’s only partially quoted it can be damaging because it’s not in context. Such as “without faith it’s impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6 NIV). I wrote about this at length in Mustard Seeds so I’m not going to do so now. However, we do need to be careful when we study the Bible and when we quote scripture.

Sometimes I wonder if people are confused by scripture because they misunderstood it when they read it or they’ve been taught a wrong interpretation. Part of me, the part that I don’t want to listen to but has been around other Christians for years, says that people don’t understand because they haven’t read the text. It’s not a case of misunderstanding what they have read. It’s a case of never giving the Holy Spirit the chance to reveal the meaning except in the middle of a Sunday before brunch. For people to be like the Berean Jews, who checked the scriptures for accuracy, people have to have read their Bible and be attentive to the Holy Spirit.

That might seem harsh. It seems harsh to me. However, the truth needs to be said. I hope that you receive what’s been said with the love that wrote it.

When I think of things I’ve heard over the years that make me chuckle regarding quoting out of context, I think of Matthew 27:5 and Luke 10:37.

So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself (Matthew 27:5 NIV).

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37 NIV).

Reading those two verses you wouldn’t say, “Then he went away and hanged himself. Go and do likewise.” Would you? I hope not. However, that’s essentially what’s going on when we partially quote a verse and take it out of context.

I’ve been thinking a lot about context lately because of Philippians 4:13; ” I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (NIV). There are so many warped interpretations of this verse that it sometimes boggles the mind. Anything from, “I can do anything I want” to “I can do anything” and so many nuances in between. Unlike some verses in scripture that may have a more convoluted context. Such as “be still and know that I am God” (Psalms 46:10 NIV), this verse from Philippians is a little more straightforward.

12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:12-13 NIV).

We don’t need to know that Paul is writing this letter to the people of Philippi and we don’t need to know that it’s a “thank you” letter either. What we do need to know is right there in verse 12. Paul is stating that he can endure anything because Jesus Christ gives him the strength to do so. While I strongly advocate looking at other translations of the Bible, when trying to understand scripture, I found only two versions of the 27 that I normally review, on Biblehub.com, that translated verse 13 in a way that one could “get it” by only reading verse 13.

Christ gives me the strength to face anything (CEV).

I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me to fulfill His purpose—I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace (Amplified).

While I like the Amplified Bible for use as a tool of clarification I find that I can’t just sit down and read it most of the time. There are too many brackets for my mind.

Often, after I’ve listened and read the daily Bible readings for the day I will sit down to write about something that I believe the Lord has brought to my attention. Today, when I read Psalms 46:10 I thought I was going to focus on context and listening to the Holy Spirit. However, when I read this verse in James 3:1 about teachers I was intrigued by it.

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly (James 3:1 NIV).

Before I had even started to look further into it I immediately shifted away from thinking that this meant preachers, pastors, and the like to something else in the span of a few seconds. I’ve read this verse often enough and I’ve always thought that was the intention of it. That’s to say if you’re a preacher or pastor then you’re going to be judged more severely than people who aren’t. Why? Because you know more, and if do what you’re not supposed to do, and you know it, then that’s bad. Also, if you teach other people the same thing, that’s worse. However, that didn’t line up today, with the character of God and with something that Jesus said, “‘But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers'” (Matthew 23:8 NIV).

There were people in Jesus’ time who liked the status that being a teacher brought to them. Jesus is telling His disciples of them in Matthew 23 and He’s telling them now, in verse 8, that they shouldn’t seek to be teachers for the sake of status or a title. This is what James is telling us as well. We ought not to appoint ourselves as teachers for the sake of status. If God has called you to teach in a formal capacity then God has called you and there’s nothing to worry about.

I do want to say this about context and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is alive and active for us today. You may read something in the Bible and the Holy Spirit may use that text to communicate something to you. However, as with all things, make sure that it aligns with the character of God. The Bible isn’t a Ouija board, fortune-telling machine, or anything else like that. Furthermore, consider your position and what the Holy Spirit has said to you. What has been said to you may only be for you and your situation. The same, of the Holy Spirit, can be said regarding anything that you might hear from it.

Whenever we hear anything that’s suppose to be from God we need to have the discernment to recognize whether or not it’s actually from God. When we’re reading, we need to have an understanding of context. When we’re listening to a message from a podcast, the pulpit, or anywhere else we need to check scripture. In all that we do, in whatever format we are taking in anything, we need to listen to the Holy Spirit. He’s here to guide us and leads us into all truth. So, listen to Him!

Do you know God? God knows you and He loves you. He sees you as significant because you are. No one is insignificant to Him. He’s with you today, right now, and He wants you to know Him. Jesus died for your sins and mine so that we could be free of guilt, be freed from death, and live eternally with Him. Eternal salvation is just a prayer away.

Pray this prayer with me to accept the gift of salvation today:

Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer then congratulations! You are on the first step of a brand new life. Allow me to be the first to welcome you to my family, the family of God. There are abundant resources available online for new Christians. You can visit here for more information on what to do next. You can also leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to help you on the next step of this incredible journey.