Ever tried to have a conversation about the Bible with someone who disagrees with your understanding of it? If you have, then you probably know that one of the most common tactics used by those debating scripture, trying to “win” the argument, is pulling out the “context” card.
Not that anyone need “prove” that you have taken a verse or passage of scripture “out of context” by actually explaining how you did that or by explaining what the verse or passage means “in context,” mind you. They need only make the accusation. This is enough to prove to themselves and to those who might find themselves on the same side of the argument with them that you have done so and now anything you say can be easily and summarily dismissed.
If you dare ask them to “prove” their claim they will most likely expose themselves as the immature children that they are by resorting to insults and name-calling, believing that even this can “win” the argument. All they need to do, at this point, is get you to leave the discussion… and claim victory!
Since the latter is sort of self-explanatory, I want to talk about this “context” card… in light of scripture, using Paul as an example of one who, today, might be dismissed by those who like to play this “context” card.
A friend of mine wrote the following a few years ago when presented with these types of repeated accusations…. I found it very interesting. I hope you do to!
I wrote this after the “context” card has been pulled for no reason at every turn. I was led to Romans where, again, God is true showing Paul moving contrary to the “reading in context” as some today harp on.
Context (as we might regard it) is not always the rule.
Think about it…When Paul spoke of Christ he used the OT to prove Him right? If we use Paul as an example of how the Holy Spirit led him (example below) we can trace the “Spirit’s paths” as Paul shared (which I actually think is pretty awesome). Paul was NOT an “in context” expounder (as we might count one); he utilized the scriptures (and the various books) at the same time.
The most obvious place this is shown is in Romans 10:1-21. If you have a “footnoted bible” in front of you you can see this. “Footnotes” help to show (even trace) the paths of the apostle’s words where one can see (from where) these things are written. Thank God for the footnotes actually because I found this interesting. Paul is shown (below) making use of many books to write one “single paragraph”. He took only “verses” (in some places) even a half of verse (shown elsewhere) to make his argument.
This is neat to observe HOW the Holy Spirit led Paul to reason “out of” the scriptures. Just watch how Paul jumps around; its amazing really. These would sorta show the footprints of the Holy Spirit here.
An example of this very thing in Romans 10:1-21
Read it because its actually very kool to see it for yourself
Paul “plucks” verses (to make his argument in Romans 10:1-21) Here’s the ORDER (without his “interjections)
Paul starts in… Lev 18:5…
Then he turns to…. Duet 30:12-14
next he goes into… Isaiah 28:16
… he immediately turns to… Joel 2:32
… he returns back to…. Isaiah 52:7
… then skips “up to”…. Isaiah 53:1
… he then turns to…. Psalms 19:4
… reaches back into …..Duet 32:21
… and now he reaches further up to…. Isaiah 65:1-2
Just to make a “single point”.
Just those in that very small part in Romans (which is ONLY 21 verses long). If we are just looking here.
Now 10 “of those 21 verses” came from 5 different books (not so bad right?) But they are NOT from the same chapters of those same books. Only TWICE are 2 verses taken at one time. The rest “is Paul” interjecting between them as if “reasoning” with others by using them (but from everywhere). Not only so. He jumps forward in Chapters and way way back to earlier ones at a whim.
How is THAT for “in context”? (That’s if it was to be shown in the book itself)? Can you find Paul’s “sense of context” (that way) as we (today) would consider context? (“meaning” staying in the same chapter and read it through)?
When I thought about it, how many would have a fit if Paul (in our day) did this? Well… NOW that it’s “mapped out for us” (in the footnotes) we might disagree that WE would EVER do such a thing. But such a stink is made YET this is very much overlooked. The example left us appears to challenge that mindset (concerning expounding) in the book context alone (outside of Christ). He becomes (in and through Paul) the “overall context” through whom that expounding comes (present tense) forward, knowing these things were written for our instruction.
Think about it…. pretend we are in seated under Paul (imagine it was “today” ok?). He says, “everyone open the scriptures” (and we do). He begins, and verse after verse is shared (going every which way as shown above) and all over the place, and your sitting there with an “in context” mentality like this…
Wouldn’t some today (most likely) scream “IN CONTEXT” AT Paul?
OR we might say….
Acts 26:24 Paul, Thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.
I was trying to think of a half decent example to use… Here’s the first that come to mind….Take this verse for instance (you can go read it in the “context”) and certainly you can assign “poetic license to it” and push it aside as something not to think on. It’s done all the time. But here…
Psalm 90:40 For a THOUSAND YEARS in thy sight are but ~AS~ yesterday ~WHEN~ IT IS ~PAST~ (((AND))) ~AS~ A WATCH IN THE NIGHT.
That in itself tells us NOTHING though it does give us “a measure” (times and “equals” in it). This shows (in itself alone) a thousand years (regarded in his sight) and this measure pertains to yesterday (but only) WHEN it is PAST. It’s also DOUBLED (right there in the verse) God does that to establish as He showed Pharaoh (and here) its to the same shown as a WATCH in the night.
One would need to study “Yesterday” (in various places) where it is mentioned (prophetically) because it’s not “yesterday” (as in 24 hours ago) but as it relates to a “thousand years” (which are shown throughout scripture as well). There’s an “equating a thing” (in the verse itself). “What” equals “what” (adding) and multiplying after spiritual truths is shown just about everywhere throughout scripture.
What I found is that the other apostles (and NOT “Peter”) who is actually the only apostle who mentions the “thousand years” by “name” (in the epistles) actually expounds on it. But when “they do” (following their words) they use what “equals” the words (as shown in the verse) and is comparable elsewhere in scripture.
We are told to prove ourselves as a workman (unto God) NOT men one that must rightly divide the word of truth. The thousand years are TWICE TOLD as “the Day” and “Night” are divided (of which NIGHT is shown as a “SEASON”) and these are divided by God Himself but according to a “covenant” as He has a covenant with both day and night. These things are incredibly fascinating! But the “context” won’t tell you WHEN it’s PAST – elsewhere further expounds and searching these things out is just awesome! If anything God makes foolish context itself!!
Does it say God conceals a matter in vain? Or that He keeps a watch over knowledge for nothing? I certainly don’t believe that. Do we rightly divide a letter from a friend? Not at all. I don’t LOL But we are instructed by Paul to do so with the word of truth.
When I saw all this (and many other things) I thought, “no way”… or thought, wow! “how on earth”? (as if) I became fascinated by it all then slightly amused, but actually more delighted by it. I think it’s too kool.
The natural man reads the Spirit of a thing or the letter? There’s nothing at all wrong with context but in context (regarding the letter) is our natural way. Paul doesn’t violate the context in speaking anything contrary to it he just doesn’t always utilize it but shows a higher context (out of them). I can’t word this right (working on it here lol) but Christ IS his (and the overall) context. The Spirit’s (who bears witness of Him) “footsteps” (as written) show all books utilized and reasoned “out of” in regards to Him (of whom the book testifies of).
I’m actually glad for chapter verses too (despite their abuses) only in that you can direct someone “to where” you found something or check someone else (and pretty fast). They have their advantages (which be many) and disadvantages (which be some) but nothing we wouldn’t encounter “without them”.
Paul did not reference chapter verses (which were not there). He makes direct reference to the prophet saying, “does not Isaiah say the same”? OR “somewhere it is written” (which I thought was cute, as if he could not recall). He was just so filled with the word and just as Apollos who were both very mighty in the scripture itself. Even Peter said Paul wrote some things that were hard to understand and other things Paul could not write on in particular.
I’m glad I could search Paul and see this. He don’t teach a book in their chapters verses (as many do today) but Christ. I find it utterly fascinating that he doesn’t always follow a thing. He bounces around a lot, uses them to reason “out of” (prove) and instruct and interjects questions for further clarification.
Paul would be stoned and kicked out of seminary today, despite the huge protest to the contrary, I’d bet on it!!
All Blessings in Christ,
Thank you Kim, you’ve taught me much about “paying attention” to “the details”!