When studying the Bible, a person can make the Scriptures say anything they want if they pull verses out of their context. Though there are a lot of principles we utilize when interpreting the Bible, perhaps the most important principle of them all is context. Let’s take a look at some different aspects of this important hermeneutical principle.
Every verse should be interpreted and understood with an understanding of the surrounding verses. Isaiah teaches that Scripture should be studied in light of all the other verses in the Bible (Isaiah 28:10). Once the surrounding verses are examined, we can then work our way out from these verses and investigate other relevant information. The order of progression should be as follows: surrounding verses, surrounding paragraphs, the entire book, books by the same author, same Testament, entire Bible, and extra-Biblical sources.
When we study the Bible we realize that Scripture is sometimes directly addressed to certain groups (i.e., Jew or gentile, Israel or the church, lost or saved), therefore we must always ask, “who is the intended audience?” Examples would be the Sabbath, Circumcision, and Dietary laws found in Exodus or the fact that the Epistle of James is written to the saved.
Always keep in mind the general theme and circumstance of the text. Be careful quoting from the book of Job or Ecclesiastes. Many passages in these books contain statements and information from the view of faulty human reasoning.
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Bro. Oxendine serves as the Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs at Golden State Baptist College. He has been teaching at GSBC since 2001. He also teaches the College Sunday school class at NVBC.