Yesterday, we saw how easy it is to take verses out of context, sort of like how Pinky takes Brain’s “Are you pondering” questions out of context. Today, I’d like to show you how context makes interpretation come alive.
Consider this set of glorious truths:
- Rejoice in the Lord always.
- Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
- The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
- Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
All of these verses come from Philippians 4. Look at the context: “I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women” (Phil 4:2-3).
The Philippian church was doing well overall, but a controversy between two prominent women was threatening to rip it apart. The conflict was so severe that other people had to get involved (sort of like in Matt 18:20!) to help resolve it. Paul gave those helpers specific instructions to help with conflict resolution:
- Rejoice in the Lord (not in other people liking you) – verse 4.
- Keep your cool – verse 5a.
- Remember that God sees everything and that Jesus is coming back – verse 5b.
- Don’t get stressed out by the awkward tension. Ask God to bring peace – verse 6.
- God will bring peace, even when, from a worldly perspective, there should be no peace – verse 7.
- Make sure to find something, anything, good about the other person. Think about those good things, and not about all the things they did that hurt you – verse 8.
- Follow Paul’s example in these matters – verse 9.
Context matters. Read books of the Bible as books, and not as collections of spiritual truisms. As you do so, and think over what I say, the Lord will give you understanding in everything (2 Tim 2:7), since you know everything (1 John 2:20) and have no need for anyone to teach you (1 John 2:27).
Now, were those last few verses used in context?