Literal Vs. Figurative

I’m a writer who loves to write about the world in my imagination. But when I write stories, I want people to understand that it is not an autobiography but a version of a reality that I know personally or a combination of real stories that I’ve put together.  It’s important to me that the reader understands where I’m coming from; otherwise, they will miss the important truth that I’m trying to illustrate with my words.

And I have a feeling, if we don’t look at the author’s intended meaning (whether literal or figurative) we are going to (as readers) misconstrue or overinterpret things found in scripture. (See my previous post on the Author’s Intended Meaning.)

Another main thing you must identify when reading through scripture is to ask yourself, “Is this to be taken literally or figuratively?” If you are reading through the Psalms and you are applying it as though it is literal- well, have fun with that. When you’re delving into the prayers of men, interlaced with poetry… you are in for a wild ride.

So, here’s the dealio. There’s a lot of weird stuff in scripture… (valley of dry bones, trees that clap their hands, Jesus is the light of the world… just to name a few.)  When we look at these weird things… the only thing we can do is ask ourselves- Is this for real? Or a metaphor for something? When reading through the Bible, you really need to understand grammar… or your head will be swimming.

Let’s look first at some examples of figurative language in the Bible.

Figurative

Most people, when reading the Bible, whether believers or not, usually can understand the Bible. It’s when the words point to something that they don’t agree with, or whether something seems far-fetched or confusing that brings any issues to the surface. There are ways to decipher the text’s original meaning, however. Take a look below.

Similes in Scripture

Most of us can spot a simile from a mile away. A simile is a phrase found within a sentence with the word, “like” or “as” in order to compare two obviously different things. For example, in Isaiah 53:6 we find it written, “All we like sheep have gone astray.” It’s pretty clear here that the author is comparing us to sheep who have wandered. We are acting like sheep… that wander…therefore, the author uses it to prove a point.

Metaphors in Scripture

When we look at metaphors found in scripture, it can be slightly harder to identify. According to the Merrier-Webster Dictionary, a metaphor is a figure of speech in which a word or phrase pointing to one object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness. John 14:6 is a perfect example of this, where Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” By making this statement, Jesus was declaring that only through Him (and following His Way) would lead a person to the Father. He also declared that he was the Truth of God… living in the flesh. Finally, he declared that he was the holder of the key to Life… eternal life. Whoa. (Metaphors are the braver, bolder cousin to the simile.)

Other Figurative Language

While researching to write this post, I realized that by writing this, I had opened a can of worms.

There are not only our easily recognized metaphors or similes… but there are also figures of association, personification, illusion, understatement, completion, etc. (Here’s a super detailed article on the many areas of figurative in the Bible if you want to TOTALLY geek out: Click Here!).

And it wasn’t until I was knee-deep in a Psalms Project dissecting them for figures of speech that I realized the vastness within Scripture. If you’re really wanting to thoroughly understand all the nitty-gritty of metaphoric language, Ethelbert Williams Bullinger wrote an intense book for you called, “Figures of Speech Used in the Bible.” If you’re wanting a quicker version that just highlights a couple of examples from each, check out the notes from this class lecture. But here’s the point, Scripture is full of metaphorical language. You cannot just read something and always assume it is literal.

Moral of the story: Remember that the passage of Scripture you’re trying to figure out was written to a specific audience at a specific time by a specific author. Start with historical context and work from there. Check out other commentaries to determine if they believe it’s figurative or literal… but don’t always take their word for it.

Do your research!

What is the Gospel?

Let’s walk back in time for a second. Picture this: It’s 26 A.D in Nazareth (Israel). You’ve spent the week as a stonemason and your arms ache from the back-breaking work you do, day in and day out. This Sabbath morning, you’re sitting in the synagogue listening to...

The Kingdom of God (according to Jesus): Part Two

So, what did Jesus define the Kingdom as? 

We know that God has been wanting to in a sense return us to the Garden so that we can walk and talk with God daily. How does that relate to the Kingdom?

Here’s where it gets a little tricky- so I’m gonna try to slow things down a bit. Jesus tended to speak in metaphors and similes when it came to the Kingdom. Maybe, it’s because we wouldn’t even get an idea without them. We’ve built an idea in our heads that the Kingdom only comes when Jesus returns. But the problem is- he brought it with him when he walked on this earth back in the 1st Century. So- if we stop thinking of the Kingdom like heaven (puffy clouds, streets of gold…) and start thinking about it like it’s here now and expanding– then our perspective on the Kingdom can fully develop.

 

The Upside Down Kingdom

We first read in the book of Mark 1:14-15 (The Passion Translation):

Later on, after John the Baptizer was arrested, Jesus went back into the region of Galilee and preached the wonderful gospel of God’s kingdom realm. His message was this: “At last the fulfillment of the age has come! It is time for the realm of God’s kingdom to be experienced in its fullness! Turn your lives back to God and put your trust in the hope-filled gospel!”

Jesus began preaching to those around him that it was time to experience the Kingdom. Other versions use phrases like, “The time is at hand…” or the “The time is near.”

Coming with Power

Then later in Mark 9, the entire chapter morphs around the Kingdom of God theme. (Just an FYI, I’d always been confused by this sentence found in the very first verse of Mark 9.)

Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, there are some standing here now who won’t experience death until they see God’s kingdom realm manifest with power!”

At first glance, I always assumed that Jesus was saying that some of the disciples wouldn’t die until Christ had returned. But here’s what we must remember- at this point, the disciples probably didn’t fully understand what Jesus had been telling them about what this kingdom would look like. They had no idea what an upside-down Kingdom it would turn out to be. (I mean, they probably asked themselves, “The Kingdom is here, now? They could experience it? How?”)

Here, in Mark 9:1, Jesus is talking about the power of the Kingdom of God that would begin to flow out from the disciples through them spreading the Good News. Through word of mouth, the Kingdom of God would advance on earth, through everyone that heard and accepted it. As Jesus said, in Mark 1, “Turn your lives back to God and put your trust in the hope-filled gospel!”

The advancement of the Kingdom wasn’t going to be a quick thing. Every time Jesus talked about the Kingdom, he talked in parables and similes about it. You’ll see what I mean…

The Kingdom Grows (Literally)

Mark 4:26-32

He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground.  Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.  All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 

 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.” Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it?  It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth.  Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”

>>>>> Notice how all of this relates to growth? And what takes time? Growth.

The Invisible Kingdom

Luke 17:20-21

 Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”

>>>>> Wait- it can’t be observed? So this Kingdom that is growing- can’t even be seen? But it gets even more upside-down.

From Another Realm

John 18:36

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

>>>>> Wait- another place? Another realm? Another dimension? Jesus wasn’t talking about another country. He wasn’t talking about another earthly kingdom. 

Hmmmm. Take that in for a second.

Okay…So what can we learn from all of these different verses?

The Kingdom is growing (expanding).

The Kingdom cannot be observed… but it’s here.

The Kingdom is not of this world, but from another place.

All of these verses point to the Kingdom being a spiritual one… one that grows when followers of Jesus spread Christ’s love… serve one another as well as those who are in need… and it’s in a different realm… but also here. It sounds alot like the overlapping of the realms that happened “in the beginning.” Doesn’t it?

So…

What do we need to do about it? How can we help the spread and growth of the Kingdom? First, pray for the Kingdom to continue to expand. For the Good News to be delivered to those who have not heard it yet. 

Pray.

A great place to start is the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples to pray. What’s interesting, is that most of us probably know this prayer and some can quote it. I didn’t actually fully understand the depth to this prayer until I fully understood the complete Good News and the Kingdom.

This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come,

your will be done,

    on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts,

    as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation,

    but deliver us from the evil one.

Matthew 6:9-10

 

 

Recognize the King

Here’s the deal… if there’s a kingdom- then there’s a King. And who else but Jesus? He actually inaugurated the Kingdom into our world. He was the one declaring God’s Rule was back in business here on Earth. And when we declare him to be our King and desire to follow Him- the Kingdom becomes present in our lives and in our churches.

What does this Kingdom look like for us today and in our churches? Stay tuned for The Kingdom of God: Part 3!

What is the Gospel?

Let’s walk back in time for a second.

Picture this:

It’s 26 A.D in Nazareth (Israel). You’ve spent the week as a stonemason and your arms ache from the back-breaking work you do, day in and day out. This Sabbath morning, you’re sitting in the synagogue listening to the men of your small village read from the Holy Scriptures. Suddenly, your ears perk up. This is a scripture that you’ve heard before… but it’s been years. And now with the endless exhaustion that you call your life, the brutality from the Roman empire, and your brother joining the Zealots in their fight against Rome- you just want to survive. You listen as the words ring out from the mouth of Hezekiah, an elderly man that you’ve looked up to your entire life. He is the picture of what you hope to have one day… a solid family… good business… an honor to God. 

His gravelly voice scruffs through the quiet sound of breathing and hushes from mothers to their infants in the alcove.

“‘Behold’…” he clears his voice and continues, “ ‘I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming, says the Lord of hosts.’” 

Your breath catches. For some reason… this seems to strike a chord within your heart. One of the poems from the prophet Isiah you had memorized as a child floods your mind. You feel as though the hardness of your life is cracking and light is seeping in. 

How lovely on the mountains

Are the feet of him who brings good news,

Who announces ]peace

And brings good news of happiness,

Who announces salvation,

And says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”

Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices,

They shout joyfully together;

For they will see with their own eyes

When the Lord restores Zion.

 

For some reason… you suddenly have an overwhelming sense of…. Hope. You blink to keep the tears from forming behind your dry and sleep-creased eyes and you suck a breath in. You cannot let your boss sitting a couple rows ahead of you see your emotion. Could it be? Could the return of the King be closer than ever? 

You fake an eye rub but that doesn’t slow down your heart beginning to race. You immediately recall what you heard in the river valley the other day. A man, whose voice was hoarser than old Hezekiah’s blasting a message in the desert. What was he preaching? Something about the Kingdom of Heaven is coming near? Suddenly, you have a desire to walk out of the synagogue to hunt down that crazy guy who supposedly eats insects and wears camel leather to clothe himself. Could it be true? Could the Messiah be on his way? Was this the Good News your nation had been waiting for?

Good News?

The nation of Israel had been waiting for hundreds, even thousands of years for the Anointed One (Messiah) who would come and deliver them. They had been exiled as a nation… thrown into slavery… watched as their temple was demolished and decimated… and yet still- they hoped and prayed for the day when the Messiah would come to save them. That to them- was the Good News.

Here’s the thing… in today’s day and age, we think we’re pretty smart. We laugh and giggle at how our worship and our churches have a leg up on what God wanted for the church. We believe that God is applauding us for our amazing way of ministry and church involvement. But… I think we’ve missed a lot of what Jesus would call the Good News/Gospel. We tend to make it all about ourselves… and it’s cost us dearly in our churches. We’ve lost the majority of the Good News about the reign of the King… and we hardly mention anything about the Kingdom. And repentance? Well… isn’t that a Catholic thing?

Bill Hull and Ben Sobels, in their book, “The Discipleship Gospel” write, 

“Instead of telling the gospel story of God’s kingdom coming through Jesus Christ, we’ve reduced salvation to hearing a truncated gospel with a short, one-time prayer tacked on the end. The gospel we often hear today goes something like this: You have sinned, and sin separates you from God. Jesus died on the cross for your sins. If you believe in Jesus, God will forgive your sins and you will go to heaven when you die. Would you like to believe in Jesus? Great!, let’s pray the sinner’s prayer and you’ll be saved. Boom! Done. Gospel presented. But really? Is that it?”

 

And here you see… we’ve made it all about ourselves. I’ve literally heard that this is what the Gospel is… our way to get to heaven. But dear friends, we’ve missed the main point when we think it’s all about that. Because it’s not about us at all. 

So- really—- what is the Gospel? And where did that strange word “gospel” even come from? 

What is the Gospel?

We find the phrase, “Good News” in the Old Testament first.  But this Good News isn’t just a basic phrase meaning regular good news… like your dog having puppies.  Its meaning lies specifically in the announcement of the reign of a new King. This isn’t your everyday type of good news… this is news that a new King is in town… and he’s come to stay. (See Bible Project’s video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmFPS0f-kzs). 

If you look back at the verses found in the poem in Isaiah, it’s talking about news coming from a messenger (How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news…) who’s bringing an announcement of the reign of a new King. 

This same word in the New Testament is the Greek word, “Euangelion” or “Good News” which the NT authors used to combine all of Jesus’ teachings on the Kingdom into one word. When the New Testament was translated into English, they translated Good News into the Anglo-Saxon word, Godspell (which means God Tale or God Story). So… Gospel = Good News. 

(FYI: I honestly like Good News better… so I may  stick with that for the most part.)

So… we still haven’t exactly clarified what the Good News is… so I’m gonna give you a quick peek into the overview.

What is the Good News?

Mark 1:14-15 (NASB)- Parenthesis Mine

Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel (good news) of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel (good news).”

So… Jesus preached the Gospel? I don’t know why… but I’ve missed that for YEARS. How a Bible college-educated, pastor’s wife and church planter missed that… I don’t know. (I’m gonna blame it on my underactive thyroid and gluten fog I was in for the previous 30 some years… LOL!) 

Later in that same passage in verses 16-18, it reads:

As He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”  Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. 

So… Jesus was preaching that the Kingdom of God is NOW… and to repent and believe (put your trust) in this Good News… and then to follow Jesus. 

Later in chapter 8 of Mark, verses  29-31, we read about Jesus and his disciples having a discussion as they walked to some villages near Caesarea Philippi. Jesus begins to ask some questions and then asks the disciples some specific questions. 

And He continued by questioning them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Christ.” And He warned them to tell no one about Him.

And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 

Let me give you some background first: Christ means Messiah… which also means “The Anointed One… who’s anointed? A King.)

But in these verses, Jesus begins to set up his disciples to understand more of what this Good News was (specifically about his death and resurrection.)

The Good News was (and still is):

  • The Kingdom of God is coming (or is here now… more on that in the next blog post…)
  • Jesus is King (or the Christ… or the Messiah…)
  • His Death
  • His Resurrection

And our response? 

  • To Repent
  • To Believe (Or trust in the Good News)
  • To Follow.
So… if this is the Gospel… then it’s not…
  • Forgiveness Only
  • Left (Old and New Gospel)
  • Prosperity Gospel
  • Consumer Gospel
  • Right (Conservative) Gospel
  • American Gospel
  • Social Justice Gospel

All of these gospels may have a part of the Good News correct…. But they are missing so… much… more.  And ultimately… if we make the gospel about us… then it’s not the Good News.

Because the Good News is all about Jesus and the Kingdom.

Boom. Drop mic.

 

What Have You Done?

June 1, 2020
This is not okay. Not even in the slightest.

To begin- let me first say- I don’t know if my voice on this really even matters. I’ve really had to process the last week- even the last couple of month’s… scratch that… the last couple of years, over the last couple of days. And actually, I’m positive I’ve been circling the grieving process.

You see, I am surrounded by a great church and a great community of friends… and to be really honest, when I’m with them (as when I’m with Jesus) I feel like it’s heaven on earth. Literally. There is no dissension… distrust… argumentative nature… opposition… racism… There is only love… grace… and truth. I love that our church family is actually living out the vision statement of our church.

So, when I hear of these obscene, awful, dehumanizing things that have occurred and are continuing to occur across our nation… I am sucked back to the reality that we still live in the fallen world. That the Kingdom is here… but has not fully arrived…  And that although I experience little pieces of heaven on earth that last for days… we are still surrounded by sin and hatred. And it makes me furious.

 

The fact that a man could treat another man this way makes me violently ill. The video footage made me so angry I wanted to jump through the screen and body check the cop. And I’m not usually prone to violence by any means… but the injustice and brutality was disgusting to me.

Callous. Despicable. Vile. Inhuman.

And I think that’s just it. What God created us to be- in His Image (literally meaning in the Hebrew that we are his graven image here on Earth), we keep reducing ourselves to inhumanity through how we treat each other. We keep repeating the same sin over and over. Let’s go back… clear back… shall we?

If we flip our Bibles back to Genesis 4, we see that God wasn’t happy with Cain’s sacrifice. Why? Notice something that I’ve bolded for emphasis.

When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift,  but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.

Genesis 4:3-5

Cain only brought some (not the firstfruits, nor the best fruits… just some) of his crops as a gift. And Abel? That nice guy brought the “best portions” of the “firstborn” lambs. He brought the best. And Cain knew it. Jealousy ensued… and developed into anger towards God and hatred toward his brother. God immediately noticed; he still cares for the brother pouting in the corner.

“Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”

Genesis 4:6-7

Sin is Crouching

God was right. If we cannot subdue our hatred… sin controls us. Down to a knee in the neck. Police stations on fire. African-American children needing to hear and obey “The Talk” in the hopes that they won’t be the next victim. Society as a whole being completely distrustful across our races.

But it seems that somehow sin wins… again and again.

One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.”  And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him.

Genesis 4:8

Even with Cain’s jealousy and murder of Abel, God still cared for him. Which is very hard for most of us to wrap our heads around. There’s no mention of how Adam and Eve reacted. I can only imagine the horror they must have felt when they heard the news. 

Afterward the Lord asked Cain, “Where is your brother? Where is Abel?”

“I don’t know,” Cain responded. “Am I my brother’s guardian?”

But the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground! Now you are cursed and banished from the ground, which has swallowed your brother’s blood.  No longer will the ground yield good crops for you, no matter how hard you work! From now on you will be a homeless wanderer on the earth.”

Cain replied to the Lord, “My punishment is too great for me to bear!  You have banished me from the land and from your presence; you have made me a homeless wanderer. Anyone who finds me will kill me!”

 The Lord replied, “No, for I will give a sevenfold punishment to anyone who kills you.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain to warn anyone who might try to kill him. So Cain left the Lord’s presence and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

Genesis 4:9-15

 

 

My heart thuds when I listen to God’s words in this passage. Over and over, He keeps pointing Cain back to the fact that his victim was his brother.  Isn’t that what we all are essentially? Family? Tribes? Nations? And Cain’s response is once again- all about him. He’s worried that he’ll be killed by another human. And God still protects his life. God still values and loves Cain, who murdered his own brother.

Why do we keep doing this to each others? These horrific acts against God’s own image? We are supposed to live in the Land of the Free… but the more I know and understand… the more I know it’s untrue. Until the Kingdom fully arrives with Jesus’ return, we will never live in any land of the free. We will never be fully free of any of this sin until we lay down at the feet of Jesus and ask for his forgiveness. Confess all the injustice we are apart of- through affiliation or not. And determine, once and for all to follow after Jesus… every step of the way.

But- still- we must do better. We must love more. We must forgive over and over. We must write these names upon our hearts and speak out. We must stand up for anyone who is being bullied or  terrorized due to the color of their skin. We must stand up for what Jesus asked of us: to love our neighbor and pray for those who persecute us. We must yell from the rooftops that there is no room for racism in our nation nor in the Kingdom. I don’t know how exactly… but I’m going to take a stand today.

George Floyd. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor…

And those who never even made a headline… 

What’s the Deal with Context?

I remember it vividly. A well-known and loved professor screaming at the top of his lungs, “CONTEXT IS KING!” At first, I had no idea what he was talking about. I felt out of the loop, like he had this private club that I didn’t have the key to. But the more I learn and study God’s Word, the more I understand the great importance of reading your Bible and understanding its surrounding context.

Let’s do something fun- shall we?

I know we’ve all heard this verse quoted… and it’s a doozy. 

Matthew 19:26 reads, “And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

OOOO-kaaaay. I’m gonna just throw this out there. People overuse this verse and MISUSE this verse so much. I’ve heard people use this in relation to jobs, gaining wealth (so ironic as you’ll see), getting pregnant, and buying the house they want. 

I’m gonna be really firm here: You cannot take a verse out of its context. CANNOT. If you do- you will add an application to it that was never intended. 

Yiihhhhhiiikkkes. 

Bob Utley said in his article, Intro to Revelation, “The author’s intent, not literalness, is the key to proper understanding of the Bible.” As I mentioned in a previous post, the author’s intended meaning is everything!

If we look directly to the verses before this, we realize quite a few things. Right before this, a rich young man had come to Jesus asking what he must to to inherit eternal life. Jesus asked him whether he had followed the commandments, and then asked him to sell all his possessions and follow him. The young man left, saddened, because he was very wealthy. His wealth held him back from following Jesus. I often wonder if this man ever regretted that decision. But I digress…

It was then that Jesus turned to his disciples. This is what he said to them.

“Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”25 When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?”  (Matthew 19:23-25)

 

And this… THIS… is when Jesus made our famous saying. This is where we’ve taken a verse and used to make it seem as though God is at our every bidding. We use this verse so that when we think we REALLY WANT SOMETHING, God will make it possible.

And that’s an absolutely incorrect interpretation of the scripture if we look at the Author’s Intended Meaning. If you read this passage in its entirety- you will realize that Jesus meant that God can do whatever He wants. So hard to hear. But that’s what the author is narrating here. The key in this passage is the question that the disciples ask Jesus IMMEDIATELY before the verse we are talking about. 

“Then who can be saved?”

There’s hope in our original verse now. But not what we’ve misused for so many years…. Jesus is basically reaffirming that if it were up to man- we would never gain eternal life- but with God, he can save us and give us eternal life. When we look at the literal meaning of this verse in light of the surrounding verses, the way to apply this verse is now more limiting (because we realize it has nothing to do with us… and everything to do with God.)

Before you apply anything from the Bible to your life, you must first understand the 

Author’s Intended Meaning (A.I.M.). (Find what that is here.) Without it- you will be applying the Bible INCORRECTLY to your life. And missing out on a huge factor: TRUTH.

When you first try and interpret a verse from the Bible to your life, make sure you know what the context of that verse is. Look at the surrounding verses to help you (don’t just pull that lone verse out by itself.) Next, read the rest of the chapter to determine if your understanding is correct. If the verse is at the end of the chapter, read on to the next chapter as well. Take a glance at the chapters before and after the chapter that your verse is located (make sure the theme that you are understanding doesn’t contradict the theme from the surrounding chapters.) Finally, take a gander at the theme of the entire book as a whole. Does your verse still make sense in light of the book’s theme? (You can find this in some Bibles in the Introduction of the book instead of reading the ENTIRE book just to discover the theme.)

 

Once you’ve looked at these things, it’s less likely that you will be taking a verse out of context. When you understand the context, you’ll be closer to understanding the author’s intent, the audience and the message the passage is trying to get across.

 

There is more to context… historical and culture context, literary and genre context, grammatical context, etc. But those are for another day.

And remember…

Context is King! (Welcome to the Club!)