To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said,
“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants
and have never been slaves of anyone.
How can you say that we shall be set free?”
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth,
everyone who sins is a slave to sin.
Now a slave has no permanent place in the family,
but a son belongs to it forever.
So if the Son sets you free,
you will be free indeed. John 8:32-36
Is it possible for Christians to know the absolute Truth?
How can it be that two sincere Christians can read the same text and come up with totally different understandings?
Can they come to opposite conclusions, and both have found the Truth?
Today, we will answer these questions, and the answer to all three is found in one word: CONTEXT.
Recently, a very sincere but confused Christian said to me: “I believe that anyone, however well intentioned, who says that they know the will of God is in danger of leading people astray. None of us is perfect; we all make mistakes ... so for anyone to say they know the truth is, to me, opening the door to leading someone astray or driving them away.”
I responded as follows: God's truth will never lead people astray. To the contrary, God’s Word will lead them to the Savior. On the other hand, the Bible out of context, can be used to lead many sincere, but unsuspecting ... astray. That is God’s truth: “But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” 1 Timothy 6:3-12 We know that God’s truth will turn away those who do not want to hear it. That is to be expected ... Jesus warned us of this; “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” John 15:18-20.
We also know that those with a worldly point of view will be drawn to teachings that are consistent with what they want to be true; or believe to be true; or that are logical to them; and will often believe false doctrine, regardless of the Truth. The fact that these ideas are appealing does not have anything to do with God's Truth. We can be sure that Satan always appeals to men in three distinct ways; this is taught from the beginning: Gen. 3:1-6; in the middle: Mat. 4:1-11; and at end of the Bible: 1 John 2:16-17 "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. “The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” All sin can be categorized under one of these three headings. God’s Truth is absolute and never changing, and it is not hard to understand the difference between God’s truth, and the lies of the enemy.
I asked my friend, if he understood and applied the basic Rules of Biblical Interpretation when trying to understand God’s Word. The answer came back as follows: “no ... I could speculate to their meanings but that would simply be hyperbole.” The challenge is that if Christians do not know how to interpret what they are reading, it can often mean to them ... whatever they wish it to mean. So I ask you: do you understand the Rule of Context and apply it when you are reading and studying scripture? God expects no less of you. “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2
In this post, we will discuss the Rule of Context. It is one of the first disciplines everyone should practice when seeking God’s Truth.. Context is a key to all interaction. When statements are taken out of context, people can easily get confused and start a chain reaction of wrong decisions.
Not long ago, I was sitting at home with guests and the phone rang. My wife answered; and walked into the room and said; It’s Dan. She then handed the phone to the person sitting next to me, who thought it was a different Dan and said; to him loudly and jokingly, and with an angry voice; “What do you want.” He was then surprised by the caller’s reply; and soon learned that it was a totally different person, someone I had not talked to in years; a relative he had never even met, on the line. The phone was immediately handed to me, and I attempted to explain the mistake ... and that it was not me, but apparently I did not explain it well enough; because a week later another person related the story to me; as if it was actually me who had lost my temper on the phone. The truth, my explanation and (the context) was completely missing. The false rumor going around was that I was in the midst of a heated confrontation with someone ... when in actuality; I was just calmly watching football, and having a pleasant afternoon with my family.
The same thing happens with pretty much any conversation that is passed from one person to the next. By the time it gets to several others and then back to the original person, it is a totally different story. How many of you have written a letter or an email, and had someone totally miss-read and misunderstand what you were saying. For me, sometimes people knowing I am a conservative, automatically assume that I am a promoter of the Republican Party. As a Conservative Christian, some assume that I fit the negative, judgmental, fundamentalist, false stereotype that they have created in their mind: this picture is surely not of anyone who is a true ambassador for Christ. They then frame what I say in the context of this false stereotype, resulting in false conclusions. In reality, all I want to do is help them find and understand God’s Truth, as it applies to their life, and to be reconciled to Him. “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh" or from a worldly point of view.
2 Corinthians 5:14-21.
So why is all of this so much more important, when we are searching for the Truth of God’s Word? Because we need for the foundation we believe in to be God’s truth … and not some false conclusions believed to be true, that have been filtered through our personal or political worldview, causes,beliefs, feelings or desires. We can’t even have an intelligent Biblical discussion unless we are all looking into God’s Word in its proper context.
What is the rule of context? It states that “a text apart from its context is pretext.” And, what is pretext? “A reason given in justification, of a course of action that is not the real reason.” And; “An effort or strategy intended to conceal something.” In other words, Interpreting the Bible; out of context, inevitably leads to false conclusions. And a verse can only mean what it means in its context, and must not be taken out of its context. A lack of understanding and applying the law of context leads sincere people to false understandings, and wrong conclusions. This is why you often hear people say “you can make the Bible say anything you want.” That is true if you do not understand and apply the rules of context.
One might ask; “Won’t the Holy Spirit keep me in the Truth, and guard my heart and mind? Yes, but we still have free will, and our old nature is still present ... lust, and pride have a way of rationalizing what we want to be true, and then finding a verse out of context to support that belief. We are all potentially guilty of following our feelings or human logic, personal wants and desires. “All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the LORD weighs the motives.” Some teachers, leaders, and pastors are continually teaching others: out of context, and the result can be “leading someone astray” An innocent misleading has the same end result as a deliberate one: doctrines of demons prevail. That is why we are told to: “be like the Bereans and examine the Scriptures every day to see if what was said is true.” Acts 17:11
Combined with the leading of the Holy Spirit … then, and only then, can we know the Truth. Think about it for a moment. In the Biblical context of spiritual matters, there are only two ways to believe: God’s Truth; and doctrines of demons. Don’t you think it is a good idea to test everything you believe by the Truth of God’s Word … in the proper context? “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2 Many false understandings are innocent, but if they are leading us away from God’s Truth; or misinterpreting God’s Truth; or taking God’s Truth, and presenting it as men’s wisdom … who’s cause is being served? Christ or Satan?
Therein lies the problem; even the Words of Jesus taken out of context can easily be untruthfully presented. The context of Jesus’ coming is explained and foretold throughout the Old Testament. So apart from understanding the overall context of Jesus, we can easily come to wrong conclusions. In other words, if we look at Jesus, in the context of the truth that: “He and the Father and the Holy Spirit are One; and that He was in the beginning with God.” John 1:2. One can hardly consider Jesus to be; an elevated man, who happened to be a good teacher, or a prophet … He either is God, or He is a liar; as C.S. Lewis rightly pointed out. I say Jesus and the Creator are One, and His Word confirms that this is the Truth. Therefore, I know the Truth, and my statement stands the test of His revealed Truth; and is in context with His revealed Truth. Without the proper context, people can conclude whatever they wish, and that is exactly what they do. Entire religions have been formed on false teachings such as this, and then they call it a Christian religion … as they follow one verse after another, out of context, leading sincere, committed followers in the wrong direction.
TO BE CONTINUED ...
God bless you my friends, Bob
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