How do we know if we understand the correct context when we study the Holy Bible?
I have often wonder why we sometimes if not often misunderstand the context of chapters and/or verses when we study God's word. One can read a verse or chapter a number of times believing they understand it's meaning , then suddenly we realize our initial understanding was wrong. Why, is it that correct context is so difficult, at times, to obtain the first time around when studying. Isn't context of God word the most important part of study? And how does one know when He/she undestands the correct context? So how important to you is context or does it matter to you?
Taking scripture out of context is often done. I have seen it over and over again. To understand scripture you need to know the who and why it was written for in the first place. I wrote a hub the other day talking about this same thing. Here it is if your interested, ("Answering an age old question on Christians and demons. Taking scripture out of context leads to trouble. Understanding the true meaning of the scripture 2 Cor 6:14-18. Can light and darkness co-exist. Or can Christians have demons.)
I don't just read a single verse I read a few verses above it and below it then apply it to my life and how I feel God is speaking to me. We also take the words of our pastors on what the bible says, believing since they are pastors they should know exactly what it is saying, but I have seen some pastors be wrong in their interpretation as well but we would not know it if we did not study the word our selves.
When you take the "text" out of context all you have left is a "con," Don't be a con. So how do we trust we have the correct context, by reading and studying your bible.
CarrieG- Thanks for your answer.When one studies God's word, often times they can spot wrong teachings or doctrines. Most cases wrong teachings or doctrine is generally due to taking scripture out of context. Again thanks.
Yes, Out of Context! And if you keep telling people Black is Green, after awhile they "truly believe" it!
If a believer, we know by first seeking the guidance of the holy spirit. However the Bible says to test the spirit, then we study to show ourselves approved as the Bible says, we take what we understand and compare it to the context of all 66 books of the Bible looking for continuity of meaning of words, phrases or doctrines. If there is still ambiguity or disagreement on a scripture's meaning the Bible says it is wisdom to seek counsel of those more knowledgeable who by the Holy Spirit can demonstrate scripturally that they have understanding within the context of the entire Bible. More often than not it is best to have study aids of the original language the scripture is written in and a perspective on the life and times of the inspired author when the said scripture was written.
Today we are blessed with these resources beyond imagination at our fingertips, knowledge and information of hundreds of years of research. Sadly few people take this approach, especially unbelievers who often read a verse of the Bible literally without context or understanding and solely rely upon their first impressions to conclude it doesn't make sense or they disagree. Sure there's lots of garbage interpretation out there, but it can be tested by looking at credible apologists and teachers who have researched virtually every question and have answers. If you study you soon find who are the charlatans and who are not and where to go to get the truth.
A reason why an unbeliever cannot understand the Bible is he is void of the helper, the Holy Spirit and the Bible itself says one cannot find and understand God lest he believe that he is. "And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him."~Hebrews 11:6 However an unbeliever can understand the Bible well enough to know that he wants to reject its redemptive message. The Bible has proven to be more historically and archaeologically accurate than any other ancient book. It has been subjected to the minutest scientific textual analysis possible to humanity and has been proven to be authentic in every way.
The purpose of the Bible is given to us in 2 Timothy 3:14-17. It's main purpose is so you know how to be saved and sanctified. If you want to learn anything what do you do, just read about it, or do you have to study it? Should the most published book in the world, the revelation of God to man just be read, or diligently studied?
I have never met a disciple of Christ that has not mentioned the various conditions you talk about. I have the flesh vs the Spirit battle going on. On the flesh side I study to refute all those wrong people out there. On the spiritual side I study to show myself a workman for God. The man vs God battle happens daily for me. Christ knew this when He said I was to daily pick up my cross. There is always something out there that I need to die to.
The store house of man’s opinion on the Word of God is massive. The natural tendency is to learn the ways of man and proceed. You have seen the debates where the “rules” come out for proper analysis of the Word of God. Naturally if you follow man’s rules you will come to the same conclusion as the institutions that peddle the word of God for money. I mention the system only because I came from that system as you did.
Our journey that desires more knowledge of the Kingdom of God starts when by His spirit He shows us that Jesus is His Son. Peter was asked who He thought Christ was. Christ statement that The Father had shown him who Christ was is what happens with us. God will fill us up to over flowing if we empty the vessel that is to be filled. He must increase and we must decrease. That process makes room for His word. It is when there is room for Him that He will fill that space.
The illumination of His word happens when we study the scripture. One day the light is on because there is room to receive. Last week I may not have been open or emptied enough to receive. Knowledge of the Word of God is but the first step.
James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
James states the real reason we study the scriptures. We are to be doers of the word. There is about 950 uses of the word “do” in the New Testament. Some are do and some are do not, none the less action because of knowledge of His written word. God said HE would write his laws on our minds and in our hearts. The things you mention sound like common things that happen when we do study.
Those that never wear out the pages on their bibles don’t have these problems. Those sitting back waiting to be told what to believe don’t have these problems. Freedom in Christ does have up’s and down’s. Having to read something many times to understand is but one of them.
Rich- Thanks for your answer. I have many hours of study and still there are times when I get these " verse that jump out at you moments". It's these moments when I believe the Holy Spirit opens up understanding. Without the Holy Spirit we're stuck.
"The letter killeth!" Who do believe the Holy Spirit or study (man)? You are right in saying "Without the Holy Spirit we're stuck." Why go deeper studying? He said study Scripture not books!
Grace, I was hesitant in responding to your question, but Something told me to respond!
After my mother and father passed, I began to "search Scripture" for "myself" to see if their understanding of the Gospel of Christ was right. In doing so, the Holy Spirit, revealed different interpretations of Scriptures. The Holy Spirit has given me interpretation of Scripture that no one (including my parents) have heard of!
When "you suddenly realize that your "initial interpretation" was wrong," you can be assured that you were not reading the Scriptures "in the Spirit!" For he will lead and guide you into all "truth!" However, if you continue to read with "initial interpretation," the Holy Spirit will place something or someone in your life to make you say "Ummm! Let me take a look at this and "see" if this "ignorant" person is right?" (Acts 17:11)
Philip and the Eunuch comes to mind: Acts 8:26-40 but pertaining to your question Philip asked, "Understandeth thou what thou readest?" The Eunuch replied, "How can I, except some "man" should guide me?" The morale of the story is Jesus places people (also) in our lives when He wants us to "Grow!" Again, this is where the Holy Spirit comes in - To discern those speaking "in the right context" from the Word of God or those who are not able to "boldly" back up what is written in His Word within the right dispensation!
Another Scripture comes to mind: Romans 10:14-16 (v14) "How, then, shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? (v15) And how shall they preach except they be sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! (v16) "But they have not all obeyed the gospel." For Isaiah saith, "Lord, who hath believed our report?"
You see Grace, One can "believe," but if the Holy Spirit hasn't given it to them (which will definitely be in the "right context), then they err! Therefore, "man" can try to put it "into the right context," or change the wording and/or meaning, but the Scriptures don't lie - The Holy Spirit will reveal it unto you for He "teaches and guides us into ALL truth!"
Case and point, without the Holy Spirit's guidance, one will greatly err! This is a mystery, a Walk in the Spirit, in which discernment can "only" be given by the Holy Spirit! Therefore, Holy Spirit guidance is more important!
Norine- I agree. I believe when one tries to interpret the bible they do so based on their own efforts. When one UNDERSTANDS scripture it's because the Hoy Spirit revealed truth to them.Interpretation is subject to err. "Understanding" does not err.
Grace: I Agree! The Holy Spirit's "understanding" or "interpretation" will NEVER err!
My answer in this is to read the whole text before and after the verses you are looking at. You have to know what the situation was. You also have to check your knee jerk reactions at the door. And, you need to read with an open heart so to hear the Holy Spirit guiding your study.
Peter studied with an open heart and then his visions came explaining that Gentiles were also heirs in Christian salvation.
My niece, on the other hand, saw one passage about God sending two she bears to kill a group of boys mocking God's prophet for being bald and decided that God was heartless and abusive. She isn't Christian and could never be made to understand the fact that the passages spoke of these young people coming from a city that regularly refused God's teaching. The situation wasn't a small group of children pestering an old bald man, but a large mob that were out to abuse a prophet, more than 42 all together. God protected his prophet and punished the mob by sending the bears. 2 Kings, Ch. 2.
Not looking at the context and not having an open heart to hear the Holy Spirit left her with no understanding.
Sherry- Great answer and thank you for sharing it with us. I also found it to be a good idea to pray for understanding before studying. Again, thank you.
"Understand' and 'interpret' can mean the same thing, but often there is a subtle distinction. 'To understand' is what you think it means; 'to interpret' is to be able to draw conclusions from a concept which you understand." (Wordreference.com)
This is a marvelous question that I followed with sincere interest. Your choice of best is a fine choice indeed. The discussion reminded me that an important part of "searching" is others. Truly I learned much from Rich's rich answer. And some from each and your comments. We are so blessed to have others. For sure we do not just gobble down what they say like a mantra or manna from heaven, but in sharing we learn much about ourselves, others and God. Careful lest the pauper be an angel of even God Himself. For while he may not take actually form, certainly He communicates to us through others. Personally I take the approach of time, meditation and prayer along with repeat, repeat and repeat, contemplate and then repeat repeat. So this good question "stirs" me into action of including others. Thank you
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