Monday, June 14, 2010

The Necessity of Biblical Context

Whenever reading your bible or preparing a bible study/ sermon or the like, it’s vitally important to consider the context of the passage. What things do the surrounding verses say about your passage and who is original audience the message was intended for? Consider their surroundings as well. This gets tricky when dealing with prophecies and apocryphal language as the imagery used can mean many things. This still doesn’t dismiss the importance of context. Without it, the message can become construed and people can make a mess of God’s word leading people to believe a message contained in scripture that was not there in the first place.

I remember being asked to preach from a particular passage of scripture by a pastor friend of mine and as we were discussing it, we were at odds with each other. By looking at the selected verses alone, the pastor saw one message. While I considered the context, I insisted he had missed the message because he wasn’t considering the context. In this particular case I stuck to my guns, prepared the message as I saw it, and it turned out to be one of the best messages the pastor had ever heard.

This is something I personally strive for when preparing any message I share. It’s also a discipline I tend to practice in my personal bible reading as well. Still, I find there are times when God speaks to me in lieu of scriptures contexts. Consider yesterdays worship service for example.

Accountability groups were being re-introduced to the congregation. To give us a taste of what its like, we were split into groups of 6 and were asked to mimic an accountability session. The pastor then asked us to interact with John 13:1-8 and answer a series of questions as it relates to our lives. At one point we were asked the question, how God spoke to us through this scripture passage. There was some talk about the cultural background and the meanings of a foot washer back in the day. However there were a couple guys in the group, myself included, who shared how Jesus reply to Peters refusal jumped off the page at them:

"No," said Peter, "you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me."(John 13:8)

Our responses had nothing to do with its context. Instead we referred to being cleansed of our sin and living a holy, sanctified life. Without this cleanliness, we can’t be a part of God’s kingdom work.

I recognize the importance of scriptures context, as stated in the first paragraph. But situations like yesterdays church service have me wonder if examining the context and including it as part of God’s message to us is always 100% absolutely necessary?

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