The Dangers of Taking Scripture Out of Context and How Not To

There are many dangers of taking scripture out of context, and unfortunately, many believers do this consistently. While it is an easy mistake to make, it can lead to damaging relationships in some cases. So how can we ensure we aren’t pushing an interpretation that isn’t what the Word is saying? 

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The key to keeping scripture in context is to know the history of when the scripture was written, and who it was written to. These context clues are essential for understanding the full picture of the writing.  Several verses are commonly taken out of context to fit our lives, such as the ones listed below:

Common Verses Taken Out of Context

So what are some common verses that are taken out of context? The truth is that people can interpret any verse incorrectly, but there are ones that people tend to go to the most. We notice these three most often:

Jeremiah 29:11

This verse is often quoted to mean that God specifically has plans for the reader. The scripture states, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for wholeness and not for evil, plans to give you a future and a hope” (ESV). 

The context for this scripture is that God was speaking specifically towards the Israelites through Jeremiah while they were in exile. This encouragement was for the Israelites. Once their 70 years of captivity were complete, they would get to go back to their homeland.

But of course, this encouragement extends to all Christians. The New Testament reaffirms this many times, but it is important to know that in this case, God is specifically addressing the Israelites. 

Philippians 4:13

Philippians 4:13 (NIV) is another scripture that is often taken out of context. The scripture says, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” This verse is often interpreted to be an encouragement to all Christians to say that “Through God’s power we can accomplish anything we set our minds to.” The truth is, this isn’t what Paul is trying to say.

In this scripture, Paul is writing to the early church in a letter. In the verses before Philippians 4:13, Paul is speaking about all of the circumstances God has put him through. He is thanking the Philippians for their concern over his well-being and assuring them that God has given him the ability to be content in whatever circumstances he is in. 

Paul states in Philippians 4:12 that he knows what it is to have little, and he knows what it is to have plenty. He then goes on to say, “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” 

What Paul is saying here is that God is taking care of him in his present circumstance. “This” is the mission God has entrusted to Paul, which is in God’s Will. The verse is not a blanket statement that God will make whatever any Christian sets out to do prosper. 

James 5:15

James 5:15 says, “And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” Some people interpret this scripture to say that if you pray ad you are still sick, then you didn’t have enough faith. The book of Job proves this line of thinking wrong throughout the story. 

What the verse does say is that those who are sick and prayed over will be “raised up” and “saved”. This means that God will do what is His will with this person, whether that will is to save them in this life from physical death or to welcome them home in Heaven.  

This is present in other Bible verses like in the Lord’s Prayer

How to Not Take the Bible Out of Context

Taking the Bible out of context is easy to do and it often happens when we do not read the verse as a part of a whole. We don’t do this with other books we read because without the context of the story, the words don’t make sense. So why do we do this with the Bible? 

Knowing the context of each passage is essential to not misinterpreting the Bible in ways that can damage people. 

Study God’s Word

Reading the Bible is part of our growth in our relationship with God. But without the proper context of what is going on in the scripture, we can oftentimes hurt ourselves and our relationships with others. Jesus Christ called us to love God and love others. We cannot do that very well if we misrepresent the words of truth in the Bible. 

Contact us for more information on studying the Bible! 

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