Understanding Context

Have you heard of taking things out of context? Do you understand what that means? Have you ever heard something said but only one small piece of it? Have you read only a portion of a statement and misinterpreted it?

Taking things out of context can be misleading and dangerous. We have seen or heard of people claiming their statements were taken out of context. There have been legal cases taken to court for slander because someone took another person’s statement out of context.

The same is true when we read the Bible. It is especially important when we are reading what Jesus said. Without careful study, we can misinterpret His meaning. Let’s take today’s passage as an example. If we read only these two verses, we might think that God will grant anything we desire as long as at least two of us agree on it. That would be misunderstanding what Jesus said.

By reading a handful of verses just about these, we see that Jesus is talking about sin committed by members of the church. Prayer and discernment are implied as part of the process. It includes hearing witnesses. Verse 17 states the offending person is to be treated as a “pagan or tax collector,” which has been misinterpreted on many occasions. It has been interpreted to mean excommunicating people from the church. But how are we to treat those not in the church? We are not to keep them out but draw them in. For the person who won’t listen to sound advice, we are to continue to try to draw them in, convince them of the truth.

As we read today’s passage within its context, we come to understand it requires two or more followers of Jesus to spend time in prayer asking to understand God’s will in the specific situation. When they agree, it is taken as God having revealed His will to them and it will be done by God.

I pray we all commit to understanding God’s Word in context. I pray we do not misinterpret what is being said. I pray each one of us spend time studying Scripture, praying, and listening for God’s understanding. Read God’s Word. Study Scripture. Look for the context. Ask God to reveal His message. Discuss Scripture with others.

Matthew 18:19-20 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Published by martypressey

Marty is a Pastor, retired Marine and dedicated Christian who has taught adult Bible classes and preached for 20 years. He currently serves as pastor of 3 United Methodist Churches. He believes being well-grounded in the Scriptures is key to living a better life. He brings a layman’s viewpoint to all his classes and sermons, helping others understand how to apply Scripture to their daily lives. When he sees others understand the message of a particular passage, it brings him great joy. He has seen his faith increase exponentially over the years; fully believing God has a plan and is executing it. He feels blessed to be part of that plan.

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