Ever Open Someone Else’s Mail?
When we read God’s Word, we are essentially looking at someone else’s mail.
Imagine if you read something like this in the letter you opened: "You looked really hot the last time I saw you!" If you didn't read the context of the letter, that the writer and the recipient had been on holiday together, had gone for a walk in really humid conditions and were in need of a place to cool off, you might think the writer was saying the recipient looked sexy or appealing.
Just like that single sentence, God's word in the form of letters, information and messages, are meant for a specific time, people and place in history. That does not mean that we can’t glean truths for our own lives. In fact, God intended his Word to do just that! His Word is timeless, divinely inspired with a unified message and applicable to all generations in every situation. However, to interpret and scripture correctly, it must be studied in context.
God loves you! Is it true?
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” Rom. 5:8
Take for example, my first scripture in my first blog where I applied Romans 5:8 to declare that God loves you.
Here are the steps I took to confirm this truth:
I asked key questions like who wrote the letter, who was it written to, what was it about and why?
In the very first chapter, I find my answer. “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake. And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ." Rom. 1:1-6
Wow! There’s so much to unpack here!
Who wrote the letter; on what authority?
Wrote the letter
Is a servant of Christ Jesus
Is called to be an apostle (prominent Christian missionary to a region or group) to the Gentiles (non-Jews).
Is set apart for the gospel of God
Promised (the gospel) beforehand through Old Testament prophets about Jesus
Descendant of David
Through HS appointed Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead
Our Lord (God).
Who are the Recipients of Paul’s Letter?
“To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” Rom. 1:7
Roman citizens who are Christians
Loved by God
Called to obedience that comes from faith for his (Jesus’) name’s sake (see vs. 6)
Called to be His holy people
Paul, as an apostle also sends a message from God to the christian Romans:
"Grace and Peace." Most importantly, they are loved by God.
So, from looking at Romans in the context of who wrote it, and who received it and why, can I make the application accurately that God loves you? Yes! Here’s the proof:
God showed his love for you because of Jesus’ death and resurrection from the dead. Jesus (holy and perfect Son of God, descendant of David) took your sin and mine, (the perfect unblemished sacrifice) on the cross.
How do I know that to be true? The verses surrounding Romans 5:8 (context) tell me:
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.” (Romans 5:6-7)
The whole of this chapter goes into more detail about what ungodly means and why, who Jesus is, and what happens when we receive his forgiveness. Using just one verse to make a statement isn't enough. You need to make sure the chapter, the whole book or letter and even the whole of scripture are considered. Imagine if you read: something like this in the letter you opened: "You looked really hot the last time I saw you!" If you didn't read the context of the letter, that the writer and the recipient had been on holiday together, had gone for a walk in really humid conditions and were in need of a place to cool off, you might think the writer was saying the recipient looked sexy or appealing.
Reading verses in context gives accurate interpretation and application. The whole of scripture, from the OT to the NT has a continuous message: God loves you. It is his love letter to the world. Why not open it and see what God's message is to you?