4 Bible Verses Christians Always Use Out Of Context

Jan 10, 2017 by Will Maule

As Christians, we should always be seeking to understand the Bible in more depth. It is the word of the Lord, and thus we cannot ever get enough of studying it! But too often, we are misinterpreting certain verses to suit our own world view. We need to re-assess some of these, and learn to understand what they truly mean. Thomas Turner at Relevant highlights 4 key examples.

1. Philippians 4:13
“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
This is a verse where an infinite, all powerful God meets very finite, not-so-powerful human beings. Sure, the possibilities are endless with God. The spiritual gifts, holy callings and life journeys available to the Christ follower can be endless. The keyword is simply can. Can is not the same word as should or will. One of my Bible professors from college said it best when discussing taking a literal interpretation too far. As a new believer, he tried to test this verse by putting way too much weight onto a barbell to bench press because he figured this verse meant he could really do all things. He ended up with the bar against his throat.

2. Jeremiah 29:11
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you, and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
"This verse, along with a bunch of others in both the Old and New Testament, can tell us more about our own view of God than it does about what God is actually saying in the Scriptures. The problem we have is with the collective you. In passages like Jeremiah 29 or the armor of God passage in Ephesians 6, we over-individualize the Scripture to such an extent that we equate it with God speaking directly to every individual Christian. But, in fact, if we look at the context, we find that God is speaking to the whole people of God, Israel and the Church."

3. Luke 4:18–19
“He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives.”
When Jesus took up the scroll of Isaiah and read from it, He was reading it to members of a synagogue in Nazareth, a town that had become an outpost of Roman colonialism. Under the thumb of Roman imperialism there was the pax Romana, but it came at a cost: The loss of freedom. These people lived in a country where the provincial ruler could order every baby boy under two years of age slaughtered and no one stopped it. This context is often missed on us who take for granted physical freedom. We are not slaves, yet we live in a world where it still exists. Not knowing the context of this verse, we spiritualize captivity. An old pastor of mine, when I mentioned that I worked at International Justice Mission, questioned why I would spend my time as a Christian working to set free people who were not saved. In responding, I mentioned this verse (one out of many), and his reply was that Jesus came to set people free from only their spiritual captivity—from their sin—and not from any physical captivity. The context of this passage simply does not allow that kind of response."

4. Matthew 5:18
“Blessed are the poor in spirit” and Luke 6:20 “Blessed are you who are poor.”
The Beatitudes are written down in two Gospels—Matthew and Luke—and while basically the same, the difference in the very first line is stark. Matthew’s Jesus says “poor in spirit” while Luke’s Jesus says “poor.” One is spiritual, the other is a physical and economic need. This argument usually descends into which interpretation is right."

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