Out of Context

One of my pet hates is when Christians, especially preachers, take a verse out of it’s context and use it to say that the Bible says so and so. Usually I think they mean well, and the Bible often does actually say that somewhere, but just not in that verse.
Sometimes I think they are just plain wrong.

Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares Yahweh, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Now, while I think God does have plans for you and me. And those plans are definitely for our good. They are not necessarily to prosper us in the financial/good life kind of sense.
Just look at the apostle Paul. He was hardly what we would call prosperous! But God certainly had plans for his life. Big plans. And he was surely blessed.
But so many Christians take this verse out of context and use it to claim that God has plans to prosper them financially.
That’s rubbish.
I find it interesting that they don’t take the verse before this one, where God says, in 70 years I will fulfil these plans... they want it now, so they only take the middle part of the message. In fact, in the next verse God is basically saying that the Jews are wasting their time calling on him right now, and that when the 70 years are finished, then they should call on him, and then he will answer because he does have long term plans to prosper them as a people.
Not quite the same message is it?

Philippians 4:13
I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Again, I am sure that Jesus will in fact help us to do anything that he asks us to do.
But this verse is bandied about as proof that Jesus will enable you to do anything. Like, run a marathon, or build a business. That is NOT what this verse is saying.
If we look back a few verses and get the context. Paul is saying that he has learned to be content in every situation he has found himself in as he labours for the sake of the gospel. Then he is saying that the Christ has helped him in everything.
It’s not a generic “Jesus will help you do everything you decide you want to do” verse. It is saying the Jesus has helped Paul in everything that Jesus has asked him to do. And I guess we can take encouragement from that that Jesus will presumably help us if he asks us to do anything for him as well.
Again, it’s not quite the same message.

Revelation 3:20
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.
This verse is often quoted to non-Christians to imply that Jesus is knocking at the door of their hearts requesting to come in. While Jesus does in fact want entry to the hearts of non-Christians, that is not what is happening here.
This is part of a letter to a church with a problem. They think that because they have become rich they don’t need anything. They don’t realise that they have become lukewarm towards God. They don’t realise that this is so bad, that Jesus is about to spit them out (the whole church).
Jesus then offers those in this church, that if they let him in, he will come into the church and eat with them. He will give them salve for their eyes, clothes for their nakedness.
Jesus is saying this to a church. To Christians, not to non-Christians.

So, if someone else “quotes a verse to you”, always read at least a few verses either side as well, preferably the whole chapter, if not the whole book.

And let’s be careful what words we put into God’s mouth when we quote single verses out of context ourselves. Make sure you at least understand the context of the whole chapter before you start quoting it to others.

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