How to Read the Bible in Context (Pt2)

In Part 1 of this series we looked at the three main different periods in which the Bible time line can be divided up into. In this article we will look at some examples of misquoted scriptures, and a simple test we can conduct whenever we read the Bible to determine under which Covenant (Old or New) this scripture can ben classified.

There are also further means to establish what the context of scriptures are, such as studying Bible history or Bible commentaries to know by whom the specific book was written, to whom it was addressed, why and when it was written, etc. Here are three examples of misquoted scriptures:

Example 1

Matt 18:9 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire. (NKJV)

Matt 5:28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (NKJV)

To establish the context for these verses, let’s look at which period it falls into. Jesus spoke these words before He went to the cross and in this instance He was addressing people who prided themselves in having the law and commandments that God gave to Moses and Israel. So generally we would expect His words to be as sharp as a knife.

Through the centuries these people had watered the law down to a standard that they could “keep”. Here Jesus was simply telling them that the standards of the law were much higher than any man could ever hope to keep and that mankind really needs a Savior! In essence He was saying “The standards of the law are so high that you’d have to mutilate yourself if you wanted to fulfill its requirements”.  These verses are Old Covenant Law and not meant for believers to try and live by.

Example 2

1 John 3:4 Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. 5 And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. 6 Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. (NKJV)

These verses are almost near the end of the Bible, which means they could possibly be New Covenant. But at a first glance they seem so condemning! Whenever this happens, it’s always good to read the surrounding verses and if need be, the entire book as well. Let’s read the next few verses too:

1 John 3:7 Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. 8 He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. 9 Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. (NKJV, emphasis added)

The apostle John was writing to his “little children” to encourage them and establish them in the revelation of just how secure they were in Christ. They had just come out from under the influence of teachers of Gnosticism and John was by no means trying to scare his beloved flock or point out their mistakes. Instead he was speaking about their sheltered position in Christ. The key is the first part of verse 9: “Whoever has been born of God does not sin”.

But how can this be? Since we allmake mistakes sometimes, does this mean that nobodyis born of God? The reason why John can make such a statement is evident: Any person that has been born of God is made a partaker of the nature of God; such a person derives their life and very inner character from God. 

1 Cor 6:17 But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. (NKJV)

This principle of divine life (called the Seed of God) remains spotless and untainted in that person regardless of their behavior, because it is impossible to corrupt the nature of God. So it is clear that the context of this book is not about man’s behavior, but about their righteous born again spirit.

A born again believer is the righteousness of God and whether we do good or bad, we remain righteous.

Example 3

Gal 6:7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. (NKJV)

It seems as though these verse are saying that God will ensure that every person who commits a transgression will receive their just reward for it, namely punishment. This doesn’t seem to fit the context of the New Covenant and the picture of a God of love, grace and kindness. Secondly it also seems contrary to the fact that Jesus had already been punished for the sin of the entire world. It seems to contradict the principles of the New Covenant, saying that we will get good if we do good, but that we will get bad if we do bad (which of course is exactly what the Old Covenant Law says). Lastly it also doesn’t seem to fit the context of the book of Galatians – one of Paul’s masterpieces on justification through faith apart from the works of the law; that a person is declared righteous on the basis of their belief in Jesus and not through their level of obedience. Therefore we need to read the other verses around this verse to get a better understanding of what it is saying. Let’s go back as far as the end of the previous chapter:

Gal 5: 16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. (NKJV)

Gal 6:7  Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. 9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith. (NKJV, emphasis added)

When we as New Covenant believers sow to the flesh (which means to follow after the desires of the unrenewed part of our mind) and according to Galatians 5:19-21 we indulge in the “works of the flesh” (which includes envy, murders, fornication, etc), we are certain to run into trouble with other people or even at some point with the laws of the local government or country that we live in. Our wrong actions have consequences in the earth, which is what the “corruption” refers to in Galatians 6:8a: 

Gal 6:8a For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption… (NKJV, emphasis added) 

Note that it says “…will of the flesh reap corruption…” which refers to natural, earthly consequences. 

All the eternal judgment and punishment was carried by Jesus on our behalf, and therefore the corruption is not referring to a spiritual corruption. The Seed of God living on the inside of a believer can never be corrupted! 

1 Pet 1:23 …having been born again, not of corruptibleseedbut incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever. (NKJV)

So whenever we encounter verses in the Bible that seem “scary” or condemning, we need to put on our “grace lenses” so we can read these verses through the filter of the blood of Jesus by which we have been forgiven and perfected: 

Heb 10:14 For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified. (KJV)

We can never reduce the Bible to our level of experience, but we should rather contend for our experience to be raised up to the level of the everlasting Word.