Look at the Immediate Context

Look at the Immediate Context

The Bible explains the Bible. If scripture has coherent themes and structures (which it does!) then the meaning of a particular phrase or sentence can be interpreted in the light of the immediate context.

One of our most common mistakes is to take passages out of their given context and so ‘misuse/misapply’ the scripture. We have all been guilt of ‘cherry picking’ from the scriptures at times, taking the bits that we like, out of context and misapplying them to our lives.

Read and think about the context of the passage, as usually the context (the bits before and after) help explain the bit you are studying.

Example

A good example of this is the Biblical phrase “by his stripes you are healed”. People often quote and apply this in reference to physical healing, perhaps declaring it in a prayer or as a word of encouragement (whereby the motive to do so is not wrong!). But if we look at the phrase within its immediate context we can see what it is actually referring to:

“When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his stripes you have been healed.” For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

1 Peter 2:23-25

You will see the phrase “by his stripes you are healed” is not in the context of and in reference to physical healing, but the payment and removal of sin. The healing is a spiritual healing from the sickness and curse of sin, not a physical healing.

As a side note, I do believe in and pray for physical healing, I just do so based on other passages which actually teach it!