2 Timothy 2:15 – “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” NASU
Sadly, it seems too many people use Bible passages as ‘proof texts’ rather than seeking the ‘context’ of what God’s Word is declaring. Too many times there is an effort to find scripture as a ‘proof text’ to support our particular view or doctrine rather than seeking to find God’s ‘context’ and ‘truth’. I was told early in my Christian walk and acknowledgment of a call from God for preaching ministry: “Son there are three parts to a sermon, the text, the text, and the text. ALWAYS preach the text, the whole text, and nothing but the text, so help you, God.” It was funny but the point was driven home and I have always wanted to know the ‘whole context’ of any particular verse, not the ‘rabbit trail’ that many use verses for.
Additionally, I have contended for decades to believers everywhere that in the West we read the Bible with a western mentality. The Bible was written to a Middle Eastern culture so it is not just valuable but critical that we learn the customs and illustrations of that culture and particularly in the time in which it was written. I’ve learned some incredible things using that pathway that otherwise I would have completely missed concerning what was actually being said. I have also taught everyone who will listen that you do not interpret the Bible based on any singular passage but in light of every other passage in the Bible. Unfortunately, none of us truly know or can have instant recall of every scripture in the Bible so our learning is continual or should be. My theology, doctrine, and beliefs have changed over the years to some degree as I’ve learned and become more fully aware of scriptural connections in the Bible. I won’t go into all that, that is not the point the point is that we ‘know in part’ and as we ‘know more’ we should modify what we believe to ‘concur’ with Scripture rather than use scripture to ‘validate’ what we have decided is the truth. We should seek the CONTEXT not the PROOF TEXT for that is nothing more than a PRETEXT.
Much Bible Prophecy that is being taught ignores the rule of placing the text in the context of its original setting and context. I have used the phrase, ‘to me this means…’ and almost immediately will say, “But that does not mean that is the accurate interpretation of the verse and as I grow in knowledge I may modify my interpretation….” I try to encourage people not to be so closed minded and dogmatic that they refuse to hear something that run contrary to what they have believed. I remember asking ‘why?’ many times in my early church experience. Especially when someone would tell me, ‘We don’t do this or that.’ I would generally ask WHY? Many times I would be told, “Well we just don’t.” They could tell me what they DID NOT BELIEVE better than they could tell me what they DID BELIEVE and that was troubling for me. I am not terribly interested in what people DO NOT BELIEVE but I am very interested in what someone DOES BELIEVE. From the basis of what they believe we can move toward truth and put their knowledge with mine and both of us are stretched, challenged, and expanded hopefully.
So, my caution is NEVER use the Bible as a PROOF TEXT to support something you believe without absolutely determining the CONTEXT and in the context rightly handle the Word of Truth. If you seek the ‘context’ you will find yourself with fewer problems in defending what you believe than if you simply use ‘proof texts’.
May the Lord be with you as you go through your day!