In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, he writes, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV). Sometimes we may only quote or remember the first part of this verse which is fine when it comes to gaining a glimpse at understanding the purpose of Scripture. However, when we add the reason why all Scripture is helpful, to “thoroughly equip the servant of God for all of his or her good work,” we gain a better understanding of what Paul is telling Timothy here.

The difference between a glimpse of understanding and a complete understanding of Scripture comes in understanding the difference between context and application of Scripture. Often, we quote Scripture out of context and thus lose the knowledge of what was originally said. Therefore, if we are faced with a question about the Scripture and the supposed application based on the context, we may find ourselves grasping at the wind when someone asks us to explain our application. Especially when that application might differ from the original context. Of course, if we don’t understand that our application doesn’t align with the original context, that can worsen the matter if our application is challenged.

For example, in John 10:10, Jesus says this about the thief.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

John 10:10 (NIV)

The thief Jesus is talking about here isn’t Satan. Jesus tells us who the thieves are in verse 8.

All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them.

John 10:8 (NIV)

The thieves are false teachers. Therefore, we are in error when we quote John 10:10 and claim the thief is Satan. However, if we apply what Paul said about false teachers in 1 Corinthians, we can say that the thief Jesus is talking about in John 10:10 is a representative of Satan.

For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.

1 Corinthians 13-15 (NIV)

Therefore, we can think of Satan as the thief in John 10:10 as long as we understand the context and can explain the application as it applies to the greater context of the Bible and the character of God.

Here’s another example of context versus application from 2 Timothy.

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

2 Timothy 1:7 (NIV)

Paul is telling Timothy to not be afraid of people and what they may do or say regarding discharging his duties as a preacher and teacher of the Gospel. This is the appropriate interpretation of this verse in context.

What can we say about applying this verse? Can we use this verse in any situation where fear is present? What is the verse talking about? The Holy Spirit. What are some things we know about the Holy Spirit from this verse?

  1. It doesn’t make us timid (there’s no fear).
  2. It gives us power.
  3. It gives us love.
  4. It gives us self-discipline.

1 John gives us some insight regarding fear and love.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.

1 John 4:18 (NIV)

God remains in us, and His love is perfected in us.

1 John 4:12 (NIV)

Jesus gave us this promise in Acts 1:8.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the Earth.

Acts 1:8 (NIV)

Love and self-discipline remind me of something. The fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Without the power of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us, we couldn’t bear the fruits of the Spirit.

Since we know God’s perfect love lives within us and we know the power of the Holy Spirit, we can apply 2 Timothy 1:7 to any situation where fear is present even though the context is different.

Sometimes the difference between context and application can be subtle, as in the case of 2 Timothy 1:7, while other times, like in John 10:10, it is more complex. In any case, understanding context is critical to understanding how we apply God’s word to our lives.

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, and he wants you to know him. Jesus died for your sins and mine so we could be free of guilt, 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:

Lord Jesus, forgive me for all my sins. I repent from my ways. Wash me in your blood and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. I believe that you died on the cross, were buried, and on the third day, God the Father raised you from the dead. Right now, Lord Jesus, I open the door to my heart and receive you into my heart as my Lord and personal 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.