I once heard some advice that is well worth repeating: “Never read a Bible verse.”
As a Protestant, “never read a Bible verse” might sound more like pre-Vatican II Roman Catholicism. This couldn’t be further from the truth!
The point in the phrase “never read a Bible verse” means “never interpret a verse outside of its context.” After all, the three most important rules of interpreting the Bible are (1) context, (2) context, and (3) context.
Unfortunately, many times we read and interpret a verse(s) of out of context. Let me give you an example: Philippians 4:13 is a well-known verse of Scripture: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” The problem with this verse is that people substitute “all things” with whatever they want:
- I can win a gold medal through Christ who strengthens me.
- I can become a multi-millionaire through Christ who strengthens me.
- I can beat cancer through Christ who strengthens me.
- I can lose forty pounds through Christ who strengthens me.
- I can pass my final exam through Christ who strengthens me.
All these examples take Phil 4:13 out of context.
Truthfully, as was recently preached, the context of “all things” in Phil 4:13 is contentment. The passage teaches us that in Christ we can live in contentment in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in (Phil 4:11). We have power through the grace of Christ to be content!
Of course, many other passages are routinely taken out of context. Here are some other examples:
- Where two or three are gathered (Matt 18:20)
- Money is the root of all evil (1 Tim 6:10)
- Train up a child (Prov 22:6)
- Ask anything in my name (John 14:13-14)
- Do not judge others (Matt 7:1)
Can you think of any more verses of Scripture that are routinely taken of out of context? If so, never read a Bible verse . . . outside of its context.