Bible context is profoundly important. Many people have taken verses out of context to push forward a specific belief or narrative that they espouse too. Please understand that I’m no exception. I’ve made this error before, and when confronted with the proper context, I had to change my mind. So, we should always be open to changing our minds if the truth is before us. James 1:6 says that we should not arbitrarily change our mind like a wave back and forth. But study the Bible in proper context, obtain the truth, and then believe the truth steadfastly.
Studying the Bible
First, you take a verse or group of verses. Then you review the entire book or letter to start developing a proper context. Then you take into consideration that moment in history. What were the customs? Who were the people in leadership? What was the circumstance of the event or scene? Then finally, you take into consideration the entire Bible. Will your interpretation agree with the rest of scripture? If your conclusion is refuted by other scripture, your conclusion is wrong. If your conclusion agrees with the rest of the Bible, your interpretation is correct. Remember, extrabiblical sources of information do not hold the same weight as scripture. You must not base any doctrine on an extrabiblical source. If you follow this simple path I’ve laid out, you should be able to understand the Bible correctly.
Bible Context Example
Let’s consider James 2:14-18. One thing that many people fail to take into consideration when studying scripture is history. In other words, the historical setting, who was it written for, and what was happening then in history. The epistle or letter “James” was written to Jews. Specifically, born-again Jews in the early Christian church. So, James, the brother of Jesus, was addressing Jews that had grown up in the very works-based system of Judaism. When he addresses them, he is speaking to them from their work-based perspective.
James then states, “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?” James 2:14. James was asking if sharing your faith alone will save a person, and the answer is yes. But you would assume the answer is no if you don’t put it in the proper context. Because the context is saying, if a person has no clothes or food, shouldn’t you do more than share your faith. James further states, “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” James 2:17. So, James is speaking to saved, born-again Jews in the early Christian church. He is not talking to unsaved people. So, in these passages, James is sharing that once you are saved, you can’t just sit back and do nothing because faith without works will fail to fulfill our purpose as Christians.
The Purpose of Christianity
Our purpose as Christians is sharing the Gospel, loving God, and loving and caring for our neighbors. And with today’s technology, virtually every person on the planet is your neighbor. Loving your neighbor as yourself can encompass many good acts, but the most important is sharing the Gospel. Then, as a result of our commitment to Christ, we will be compelled by the Holy Spirit that dwells within us to do good works.
Bible Context Reveals the Truth
We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. This truth is demonstrated in Ephesians 2:8, so it should have been clear from reading Ephesians 2:1–7 that the Lord owes us nothing but His wrath. This truth is further illustrated in Ephesians 2:9-10. Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, said, “Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” Galatians 3:3. In other words, you started by faith, so why do you now desire to try to work your way into heaven? Paul further emphasizes this by saying, “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Galatians 3:6. So, it is by our faith in Jesus as Lord, God, and Savior that we are saved, and works follow salvation as a natural progression of our sanctification.
It would be best if you took the scripture you are studying, put it in the proper historical timeframe, review the context, and then reconcile it with the whole of scripture. It’s pretty easy if you follow this simple formula, but it does require a little extra study. So, don’t be a lazy Christian. First, you must be born-again. Then study your Bible as an act of worship to “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:21. Once you have the truth, in context, and reconciled with the rest of the Bible, then hold on to that truth with steadfast ferocity.