Monday, 8 April 2019

What is Context?

Context means the setting in which a quote is placed. For example, we say it's raining cats and dogs when a downpour occurs. We don't mean that domesticated pets are falling out of the sky but that the rain is coming down in torrents.

A classic example of misunderstanding the context of a verse is Matthew 18:18. Pentecostal Christians believe it means we can bind and loose demons. This is most certainly not the case since demons aren't even mentioned in the chapter.

We see that the chapter starts off with the disciples asking who will be the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven. As Matthew 18:3 (BBE) says, "And said, Truly, I say to you, If you do not have a change of heart and become like little children, you will not go into the kingdom of heaven."

We read next in Matthew 18:6 (BBE) how Christ felt about those who mislead believers who trust in him. "But whoever is a cause of trouble to one of these little ones who have faith in me, it would be better for him to have a great stone fixed to his neck, and to come to his end in the deep sea."

After explaining how people should get rid of believers who mislead others, Christ spoke about how the heavenly Father seeks the lost. Matthew 18:12 (BBE) records this parable. "What would you say now? if a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone wandering away, will he not let the ninety-nine be, and go to the mountains in search of the wandering one?"

In Matthew 18:15 (BBE), Jesus starts a conversation about disciplining sinful church members. "And if your brother does wrong to you, go, make clear to him his error between you and him in private: if he gives ear to you, you have got your brother back again.

And just as there are no mentions of evil spirits in the chapter, there is no mention of poorly-attended prayer meetings. Matthew 18:20 (BBE) is often misunderstood to mean that Jesus will be in our midst when we gather. It actually means that he'll lend his authority to the decision of church elders who exercise church discipline. In Judaism, the word of one witness isn't enough to bring a case against somebody.

Look at what Hebrews 10:28 (BBE) says regarding how wayward and unrepentant believers were punished under the law. "A man who has gone against the law of Moses is put to death without pity on the word of two or three witnesses:"

These are just two examples of scriptures being wrenched out of context. The first was the supposed binding and loosing of demons. The second was twisted to mean a gathering to worship or pray when it actually means meeting to judge a wayward Christian.

I'll be dealing with this in my You Think You're Going to Heaven? book. Pastors, often without realizing it, are misleading their flocks. May the Lord use my writing to straighten them out.

On Thursday, I'll deal with the topic of biblical customs and why they were done. I'll also point out the reason we need to know the instructional purpose of these ancient rites.

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