In Context

©susanirenefox

©susanirenefox

So many times we hear Bible verses quoted out of context. Scripture is exploited to control people, or push them away from God, or applied in hopes of personal gain.

Below are three such Scriptures, here listed in context to better understand their meaning and intent. All emphasis is the author’s.

 

“Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19)

Jesus introduces his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew, Chapters 5, 6 and 7) with the Beatitudes, and explains the natural outcome of this character we receive through abiding in him is being salt and light. Jesus prefaces the remainder of his sermon with the statement above. He speaks about being the fulfillment of Mosaic Law (the Law and the Prophets, the entire Old Testament), yet in the same breath says not a single dot over an “i” or cross over a “t” must be ignored. To what does he refer?

He refers to what he is about to tell us – his commands to us. In this Sermon, Jesus correctly interprets Old Testament law previously misinterpreted and applied by religious leaders. Jesus focuses on the intent and meaning of the God-given Ten Commandments. By doing this, he speaks to our hearts.

He shows us what a disciple of his looks like. He illustrates, not new laws or a moral code, but what kingdom living should be. This is what calls us to be “greater than the scribes and Pharisees.” It is not simply an outward adherence to a list of items to be checked; it is an inner transformation of mind and heart which then leads to the expected outcome: love and action.

“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

 

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8)

Many Christians believe if they evoke these verses, whatever they ask of God should be given simply because they asked! The truth is, Jesus said this in the context of the Sermon on the Mount.

Don’t be angry; do not covet; go the extra mile; love and pray for your enemies; pray, fast and tithe in private.

Honor God’s name. Surrender yourself so God can use you to build His kingdom here on earth. Don’t worry or be anxious about tomorrow; simply ask for provision for today. Ask forgiveness as you forgive others. Pray to be removed from temptation of your own making and to be delivered from the evil one.

Refrain from judging; take a look at yourself and your own condition before you leap to judge another.

And in all this, ask for help from Jesus. Seek power from the Holy Spirit to accomplish this. Continue to knock upon the door of grace and compassion, and you will receive wisdom and strength to do what he has asked of you.

Why? Because the manifestation of the kingdom of God on earth occurs when we love one another.

 

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

Sports figures use it to ensure they win in competition. Salespeople use it to accomplish their goals. Students use it to get “As” on tests. “Ministers” misuse it to teach anyone can be prosperous.

James, the brother of Jesus, wrote, “When you ask, you don’t receive anything, because the reason you ask is wrong. You only want to use it for your own pleasure.” (James 4:3)

The truth about these powerful words is the apostle Paul wrote them to encourage members of the church in Philippi to being content. Paul wanted to comfort and inspire them to keep their eyes on Jesus because they were being persecuted for being Christ followers.

Paul explains that Christ helps us to be content whether we have much or little, whether we are in ill or good health, whether we have cause to celebrate or grieve. When he wrote this letter, he was in a Roman prison. Here is his complete thought:

“I’ve learned to be content in whatever situation I’m in. I know how to live in poverty or prosperity. No matter what the situation, I’ve learned the secret of how to live when I’m full or when I’m hungry, when I have too much or when I have too little. I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me.” (4:11-14)

As Christ followers, it is simply not our destiny to have lovely, perfect lives. We will have troubles in this life as we walk the narrow, difficult road behind our Lord and Savior. But it is not about us. It is about absolute loyalty to the eternity of the kingdom of God and absolute trust in the One who abides in our hearts.

“And He said to them all, ‘If any of you wishes to follow me, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.’” (Luke 9:23)

19 comments

  1. Having recently left the Jehovah’s Witness religion I have experienced 1st hand the practice of quoting scripture out of context, they are masters at it. I wasn’t until I began to read the whole sections of scripture that they quote from that I began to realise that they were twisting scripture to support their doctrines of men that they teach as spirit directed truth. It’s been 5 weeks now & I’m so glad to be free of it all & have surrendered my life to Jesus. I feel closer to God now than I had for the past 20 years. jesus seems now just so real to me compared to before as a JW.

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    1. Oh, Tony, reading this gave me goose bumps. It’s true, it’s all about our relationship with him, about getting our own egos and agendas out of the way and putting others first. If you read what he said, he used the word “love” more often than he used any other word. That repetition seems to give HIS agenda the utmost importance.
      Welcome to the family, my brother. ❤

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      1. Thank you Susan. My wife who’s still in the JW’s told me that it was announced on Wed night that I’m no longer a JW. The signal for them all to have nothing further to do with me. I had my 1st official shunning during the week from a man I’d considered a good friend for about the past 7 years. While I expected it & was prepared for it it still kinda hurts to have people who have been your friends for years suddenly turn on you. You wouldn’t believe some of the things that have been said to me on Facebook by some of them. Despite that Jesus is helping me through it all & I’ve found a wonderful & supportive church that I’ve begun attending now

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      2. Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that people who call themselves followers of Jesus behave in a way that is the antithesis of Jesus. But very glad to hear you have found a supportive church, Tony.
        Perhaps one day, as you show your wife the love and light of Jesus, she will follow, too.

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      3. I have just started a new blog that will be Christian focused as I just feel the need to share my rediscovered faith in Jesus. http://thetonyfiles.wordpress.com

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      4. I’ll visit and follow, for sure. Have a peaceful weekend.

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  2. Susan, when I look around at all I have accumulated — probably to make myself feel secure, I am sometimes struck by the fact that I will be leaving every single thing behind, no matter what.

    I think we are supposed to follow Christ’s model in every possible way, not just in his loving and tolerant attitude, but in his very simple life. So short, but powerful. Coming down to us over two thousand years. Which of us, with all our hobbies and projects and ambitions could hope to leave a mark even one year after we are gone? A simple, loving, giving, humble life. How can we not realize this, and strive for it instead of all the other things we waste time on?

    Your post made me pause and think about this once again.

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    1. Thank you, Beth.
      I have to remind myself, too.
      I have currently written on my bathroom mirror, “The Lord is my Shepherd; I have all that I need.”
      A simple daily reminder His grace is enough. It would speak well of us if we all remembered what a professor of mine once said – “It’s all about Jesus.” Daily. Hourly. Minute by minute.

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      1. I am going to make a sign, if you don’t mind my borrowing that, and put it on my mirror too! (I forgot to capitalize His earlier).

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      2. Oh, please, go for it!

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      3. I did – I put one up in all the bathrooms 🙂

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  3. rhemalog · ·

    Hello Susan!

    (I know this is the most inappropriate means of connecting with you…but this is the avenue I could find. Please forgive me).
    Calvary greetings to you in the mighty name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Awesome work you are doing on your blog.

    God be praised forever!

    My name (in short) is Tim and I am the administrator of the newly unveiled Christian Social Community:
    Would you like to join us on Rhemalog? [putting into writing(Log), your encounters in the Word of God(Rhema)]
    Can you help us be a blessing to the children of God out there?
    It will be a huge honour and we will be waiting for you.

    rhemalog.com is the address.

    Thanks and may God keep His face shining on you.

    Yours,

    Tim
    Rhemalog Community

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    1. Tim, thank you so much for the invitation.
      First, you’ll notice I’ve edited down your comment for the sake of space. I have the info and I’ve visited your site. I have read a few of the blogs and read your rules of engagement. Quite impressive. I have a few more questions and will send those off via email. I’m honored at the invitation; I’ll be in touch shortly.
      Blessings to you.

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      1. rhemalog · ·

        We’ve just sent a reply! Thanks Susan!!!

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  4. “It is not simply an outward adherence to a list of items to be checked; it is an inner transformation of mind and heart which then leads to the expected outcome: love and action.”
    Amen Susan, that’s a perfect way to describe what Jesus is trying to tell us. It’s what our heart does in relationship with Him and with each other. Love it! Blessings.

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    1. Oh, thanks, Mel. Words always seem inadequate to describe the metamorphosis that occurs when Jesus transforms the heart and mind.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I hear that! It’s funny ho you can receive a revelation from God in a moment and spend the rest of your life trying to describe it! But you’re spot-on here! 🙂

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