Straight Outta Context

Surprised by Context

We’ve all had those moments when we hear someone quote a passage of Scripture we love. We smile, and sometimes become giddy as they explain the meaning and application. But do we ever wonder if they are using it correctly?

Most of us really don’t think about it often. We have been taught all our lives that said passage means said thing. We go along everyday, never giving other thought to it until one day––we are forced to think another way.

This was a very reality for me some years ago. I had memorized Jeremiah 29:11 and had always “claimed” the promise whenever things in my life didn’t go the way I thought that they should. Unfortunately, I was claiming a non-existent promise, or in the very least an application that didn’t fit the promise.

For many years I had been reading the Scripture out of its context. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope”. 

I been using this verse as a personal promise. But in its original context it was never meant to be such. Jeremiah was writing to the nation of Israel, assuring them that even during their exile into captivity (brought about because of their continual gross sin of idolatry and the like) that God’s future plan for His people was to bring them back to Israel. It was never intended to be a promise of personal prosperity and guidance.

Today, I still hear this verse abused the same way I abused it. As Christians we need to take the greatest care in our reading of God’s word. We should pay close attention to the context of a given passage and strive to understand it the way the original audience would have understood it and the way the original author intended the recipients to understand it. By doing this we can eliminate a lot of Scriptural errors and begin to once again rightly divide the word.

Sola Deo Gloria!



About Steven Long

I'm a correctional officer at a close custody facility in NE North Carolina. I am passionate about the laity of the church being equipped, discipled, and properly taught how to exegete and interpret the Scripture for themselves.
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