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Sep
15

Seeking Context

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  1. “Days went by, and I couldn’t seem to get over it. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t cry. I was all empty inside, but hurting. Hurting worse than I’d ever hurt in my life. Hurting with a sickness there didn’t seem to be any cure for.”
  2. “This is Saint Peter. The rock on which Jesus built His Church.”
  3. “We learn best in community. Our minds are sharpened and our consciences are deepened through conversation.”

iStock_000002303606XSmallBefore you read further in this blog post, let me challenge you to take time to consider each of the three quotes above. Each is from a different, well-known book that you very possibly have read. Answer these two questions: 1) What book is it from? and 2) What is the story that surrounds this excerpt?

The answers are coming, but what if we didn’t have the answers? What if this is all there was for us to read from these three works? These famous books would have been nothing but a Tweet. Our effort in seeking to understand them would have boiled down to seconds instead of the hours we invested in learning these writings.

A holistic approach to presenting / studying Scripture is more than helpful when discipling pre-believers or young believers (while the same is true for mature believers, this is another discussion for another day). Examination of a single verse or passage, word studies, and topical teachings all have a time and place. Deserving, in my opinion, of an even loftier and more constant place in the discipleship process is Bible study that is in its full context.

To understand that Jesus could die on the cross, it is helpful to have examined Jesus’ humanity in John 1 and Philippians 2. All gospel accounts of the birth of Christ as the Son of God are helpful when considering the resurrection. Understanding the need for the Savior is greatly facilitated by studying Genesis through Deuteronomy as well as the history chronicles of the Jewish people and the books of prophecy. The Old Testament books combined with Hebrews, etc. prove helpful again when seeking to gain insight on the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ as outlined in the gospels. And so on and so forth.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.                           John 3:16

As a stand-alone, John 3:16 is powerful. In context with verse 17, the love of God becomes clearer still for the reader as we learn why Jesus did and did not come into the world. Put into the context of the story of Nicodemus in chapter 3 of John, we understand better the heart of Christ. When adding John 19:38-42 for consideration, the reader sees yet a fuller understanding of the transformational power of the gospel and the deity of Christ. Placed into context of the whole of the gospel of John, the disciple gains tremendous insight into the unity and constancy of purpose of the triune God. Still greater understanding comes when John 3:16 is examined as a part of the New Testament and then of the whole Bible.

Whether discipling, teaching or preaching, examination of context is at least important. We would all do well to examine our methods and effectiveness as accountability for those that teach the Word of God requires us to do it well. The Great Commission Jesus entrusted to us holds disciple-making as the measuring line for efficacy.

As for the above quotes, the first comes from the last chapter in the children’s classic Old Yeller. The second is from chapter 58 of The DaVinci Code. And the last quote is from Day 39 of The Purpose Driven Life. How did you do? Does knowing the context make the quote more meaningful?

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Comments

  1. Grady Bauer says:

    This is a great post. This year I’ve approached my quiet times in a totally different way. First I bought a chronological Bible. Second, I’ve stopped doing any word studies and so on. The result has been amazing. I’m seeing big themes like I’ve never noticed before and it’s capturing me like it hasn’t in a while.

  2. C. Holland says:

    I’m reminded of a scary (and real) example of not paying attention to context. A church built a website a few years ago, and used Matthew 4:9 on their masthead: “And he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.'” By itself, sounds like a nice promise; however, context (even just the verse before it) reveals that it is a quote of Satan.

    I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it myself, and from all other appearances on the site it was a Bible-believing church.

  3. almost an M says:

    Thanks for sharing guys. Grady, glad to read that you are benefitting from taking the big picture. Holland, that’s funny. Sad but funny. I’m still chuckling….

  4. […] to look at John 3:16 series? A month ago I posted an entry that was to be continued–”Seeking Context.” Here is some of that […]

  5. […] I spoke with many afterward that were moved to tears and repentance because of the power of the Bible in context. Though presented as a different message and occasion, here is the essence of that time and an […]

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