Out of Context

Bible page with many notes

Dear Pastor Andy, it seems that whenever anyone quotes from the Bible, it is automatically out of context, or that whatever the Bible says, Christians just believe the opposite. For example, It says homosexuality is wrong – Christians don’t. It says that women should not speak in church – Christians don’t believe this either. Have I now found the right context, should I just believe the opposite of whatever the Bible says?

My Reply:  I think one of the biggest issues that we have in Christianity today is that so many “Christians” are biblically illiterate and very liberal in their theology. So they don’t know what the Bible says, and even when they do, they pick and choose what they want to believe, usually based on feelings, friends’ experiences, or cultures outside the Church.

Actually, I am glad you mentioned the 1 Corinthians text in your question. For, in response to it, if you put it into the correct context, you will see that the belief of women not speaking at all in church is in fact taking that little paragraph out of context.

1 Corinthians is a reply letter from Paul to the Corinthians. Part of it is what was reported to Paul from members of Chloe’s house-church, and part of it was in response to a previous letter written to him asking about certain issues. In 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, Paul is addressing the need for order during the worship service.

In the context of this passage, the women did not understand everything being preached…it was over their heads. But instead of asking their OWN husbands(v.35), they were asking other men and other women’s husbands, thus disrupting the worship and disturbing the men they were asking, who really wanted to listen. Notice, IN CONTEXT, Paul tells them that they should shut up and wait until after they get home, where they should then ask their OWN husbands for understanding. Paul says it is disgraceful for them to speak in church because the focus is supposed to be fully on the Lord…their disturbances are preventing this (this is also in sync with Paul’s talk about the head coverings). If you have doubt of this, then notice that women were not the only ones Paul tells to shut up in service, but also prophets who were speaking out of turn, as well as those speaking in tongues without interpreters…something you will experience in many tongues-promoting churches, and you will notice the rebuke from Paul if you keep this paragraph in the context in which it was written.

So you see, Paul was not saying that women (in general) should not speak in church (indefinitely), but that these particular women needed to shut their mouths during worship so as to stop disrupting the focus from Christ.

As for homosexuality, you are correct in saying that it is wrong. However, I think that so many people attack gays with the Bible that people’s compassions cause them to see scripture incorrectly, thus judging it or counting it wrong. Then they start believing whatever they want (or feel is right), instead of what the Bible actually says. I think that if they were to focus on 1 Corinthians 6:11 (“And that is what some of you WERE. But you were washed, sanctified, and justified…”), instead of the verses before it, they will see that it is not a means of tearing gays down in particular, but helping the Corinthian Christians to understand that such is not the behavior of those within the Body of Christ…there is supposed to be a transformation by the Holy Spirit that takes place…a cleansing, sanctification, justification, and transformation. Those behaviors mentioned in this chapter are those of the culture outside the Church, and thus unacceptable as ones of those called to be Holy, as God is Holy.

On that note, notice also that Paul does not only mention homosexuals, but many other types of people, also (wrongdoers, idolaters, adulterers, the sexually immoral, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, slanderers, swindlers). I think it is wrong when somebody pulls out parts of scripture and goes after a certain group mentioned in the passage, leaving out the others mentioned (notice, people will jump on gays, but say nothing to their buddies who get drunk every weekend or their friends living with their “hetero”-sexual partners).

Sin is sin, and it leads to death, period.

Everybody needs to acknowledge their sin, repent, and accept Jesus Christ as Lord (and their Lord and Savior) if they wish to be cleansed from sin. Also, you cannot lead somebody to repentance by “attacking” them with the Bible, but nor will they recognize their need for to repent if sin is continuously candy-coated as something less serious and deadly than it is, by people who claim to know the only One who can save them from it.

—Pastor Andy G.

1 Comment

  1. Galatians 5:16-17–“So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants”. Trying to figure out the Bible based on, as you said, “feelings, friends’ experiences, or cultures outside the Church” are all ways of our human sinful nature–not the way to obey (The One who can save us, that is). To better understand the Bible, simply spend more time reading and really pondering over the different passages you read in the Bible, along with prayer (to, among other things, seek His wisdom/His way-bigger perspective), and perhaps even, if possible, read and compare different Bible translations (NLT, ESV, NKJV, etc.), all to get a better understanding of God’s awesome book.

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