Don't Be a Context Pharisee

Context is extremely important in correctly understanding Scripture. But we must be careful not to go too far.

Context is important for understanding Scripture accurately. But we must avoid being "context pharisees."

Let me explain. 

True misuse of context: The Hebrew Roots Movement ignores the context of Acts 10, claiming it doesn't address dietary laws. Gay revisionists ignore the context of Acts 10, claiming it proves God’s acceptance of homosexuality. Universalists use six passages out of context to refute the rest of Scripture!(1) 

It takes very little study to see that these groups ignore the actual context of these passages in order to justify their errors. 

But sometimes people go a bit too far. 

For example, when Paul says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” he’s discussing his ability to handle life whether his physical/financial needs are met or not met (Philippians 4:13).(2) 

But this verse applies to any difficulty in life. It would be taken out of context to claim “I can do selfish, ungodly things through Christ,” but it's totally appropriate to apply it to non-financial situations where we need God’s strength.

Another example is Matthew 18:20 which says, “where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Some people claim this only applies to church discipline since that's discussed immediately before the verse. It’s true that this statement confirms the previous section on church discipline, but it’s a universal principle as well.(3) 

In any context, God is present with His people as we pray, worship, and seek His will.  

I recently encountered a Christian who claimed that you can't say God is a God of order unless you are talking about worship services! (1 Corinthians 14:26-33).(4)

Next we will hear that the Great Commission only applied to those present at the Ascension! (Matthew 28:16-20)

So let’s carefully study the context of passages, but let's not become context pharisees. 

Context is extremely important in correctly understanding Scripture. But we must be careful not to go too far.
💙 Beyond 1-minute for those who want to do more research 💙

(1) To read about these three context errors see: Digesting Contradictions and Confused Views of Acts 10 and 6 Scriptures Used (misused) to Promote Universal Salvation.

(2) I encourage you to read multiple commentaries on Philippians 4:13 HERE if you think it only applies to finances/living conditions. As Ellicott’s Commentary explains, it applies specifically to Paul’s situation and “it represents the ultimate and ideal consciousness of the Christian.” We can apply this passage to any area where we need God's strength to live a godly life.

(3) I encourage you to read multiple commentaries on Matthew 18:20 HERE if you think it only applies to church discipline. As Matthew Poole’s Commentary explains, even though many associate this promise with the previous context about church discipline, it is also a “general promise of Christ’s presence with his people. Whenever they are met by his authority, or upon his account or command, whether it be for counsel, or judgment, or prayer, or the celebration of any sacred institution of his, he is in the midst of them, to protect and favour them…”  We can apply Matthew 18:20 to any gathering of God's people. God is also present when a single individual prays, but this verse lets us know that when we join together in God's purposes, whether prayer, worship, or decision-making, God is present.

(4) This is perhaps the most ridiculous claim I've heard thus far, as if God is a God of order in one situation and a God of disorder in another!

The Importance of Context: 

Why Location Matters

Context Adds Clarity to Scripture

Comparing Apples and Rocks

Every Verse in Context of the Gospel

Taking Words and Phrases out of Context

Bible Love Notes

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