The Bible isn’t a book of feel-good quotes for us to pick-and-choose from for our personal circumstances. It’s the story of man’s desperate need for God and how through God’s redemptive nature, we have been given another chance to choose life over death.
Chances are, you read verses every day that have been taken out of context, whether in the form of a verse-of-the-day in a Bible app, email, or social media post.
When we attempt to understand the meaning of a single Bible verse from a passage that was intended for a specific time, place, and/or group of people, and use it to apply to our specific life circumstances, we are at risk of allowing our own opinions and jaded perspectives to get in the way of the truth of the Scriptures.
While it’s great that so many beautifully written passages provide so much hope for us, it’s important that we take the time to understand God’s purpose for including them in His Word.
Without making the effort to fully understand a verse’s context, we miss out on the fullness of God’s Word. We make God’s Word about us, when it is actually about Him.
As a writer, I’m responsible for representing God’s Word in the way it was meant to be understood. I must “rightly divide the Word of Truth” (1 Timothy 2:15) by taking time to understand the passage and discovering the author’s intentions.
5 Bible Verses Commonly Taken Out Of Context
I’ve put together a list of popular passages that are often taken out of context, and explained how they are commonly interpreted, and what the author actually intended.
God’s Keeps His Promises
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)
When I was fifteen, my family moved halfway across the country and I thought my life was over. I latched onto this verse, hopeful that it meant I would eventually move back to California.
Many Christians mistakenly interpret this verse as a personal promise that God has everything perfectly planned out for their lives, when, in actuality, it was written to the nation of Israel.
The Israelites were living in captivity in Babylon as slaves (Jeremiah 29:1-4); however, the news delivered in this passage was not what they wanted to hear – it would be another 70 years before God would free them from exile and slavery – meaning that most of those that heard this message would not live to see that day. God’s promise was for future generations of Israel.
This passage serves to remind the Israelites why they were in captivity (their continued disobedience to God), to instruct how they were to live while in exile, and to promise that God would eventually restore them.
As you can see, this passage doesn’t directly apply to us, yet we can clearly see God’s nature, and how he never turns his back on His children.
It also displays how God must sometimes discipline us. Even in our darkest moments, He watches over us, waiting for us to return to Him. Nothing we do can make Him stop loving us (Nehemiah 9:31).
God Makes All Things Good
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NIV)
I’ve seen this verse frequently used to uplift those who have been through traumatic life events. In an effort to comfort the hurting, well-meaning people will say “God has a plan for this” or “everything happens for a reason.”
Sometimes when bad things happen, there’s no explanation. Death, disease, crime, pain, and poverty only exist because of sin. This passage wasn’t written as a means to console the hurting.
Let’s not confuse the phrase “in all things God works for the good” with “God makes all things good.” All things are not always good, even for those that love God. Jesus even told us that we will suffer (John 16:33).
Instead, what this passage tells us is that if we love and obey God, He can take any situation (good or bad), and make something good come out of it. This is God’s power on display.
So, when the enemy thinks he can use a traumatic experience to pull us away from God, don’t give in, but instead turn to God, and allow Him to show you how much he loves you.
God Delivers Us From Sin
“For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:19 NIV)
If you want an excuse to keep living in sin, you may be thinking this is a perfect verse for you. Because of our sin nature, it’s a daily battle to live righteously. Knowing Paul also struggled with these issues seems to vindicate us.
Yet Paul isn’t justifying his sinful nature; he is describing what is called a “spiritual battle.”
When we decide to follow Jesus and make Him Lord of our life, conflict arises between the desires of the Spirit and the desires of the flesh.
Although we have surrendered to God, we still struggle with the desires of the flesh. We do not want to sin, yet we do. This is frustrating when we strive to always do what’s right.
Take heart, my friends! If you have chosen to follow Jesus, you are “saved” from your sin (Romans 10:9).
“Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25 NIV)
Your Body Is A Temple
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;” 1 Corinthians 6:19 NIV
I’ve heard this verse misused by authority figures in church as a way to prevent us from various pursuits, such as body piercings and tattoos. I’ve also heard it used as a reason for eating healthy and staying fit.
Afterall, if our bodies are God’s temple, then doesn’t it make sense that we wouldn’t want to defile it with tattoos, piercings, and unhealthy habits?
But if we take a look at the verse that precedes it, you’ll see a different meaning, altogether:
“Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.” 1 Corinthians 6:18 NIV
This passage is specifically referring to sexual sins. In this chapter, Paul makes it very clear that unlike other sins, that affect us externally, sexual sins affect our inmost being
Since we are already united with the Holy Spirit, when we give ourselves to another in an immoral way (outside of marriage), we defile our body, and thus defile God’s temple.
The physical temple of God required all who entered to be clean, because that is where God dwelled among men, so that they could have access to Him.
When Jesus died and rose again, our bodies became the new dwelling place of God, and just as it was with the physical temple, it is with our bodies – they must be kept clean – meaning, we must not allow sin to enter into God’s temple.
If we have accepted Jesus into our hearts and we have been forgiven of our sins, we owe it to the one who “bought” us to keep ourselves pure, and in so doing, preserve God’s temple.
Stand Firm In Your Faith
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7 NIV
This verse often reminds us to give all of our cares, worries, and concerns to God.
Though it’s true that we should give everything to God, when we dig a little deeper, we learn that this passage was originally written to the persecuted Christians living in Asia Minor.
Peter wrote this as a way to encourage them to keep doing what they were doing, and in so doing, that God would take care of them.
He said, “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you” (1 Peter 5:6 NIV). He warns them to watch out for the devil, stay firm in their faith, and assures them they aren’t alone in this fight:
“the same kind of suffering is being experienced by others around the world.” 1 Peter 5:8 NIV
Then he concludes with some positive news, “After you all have suffered a little while, God will…. restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:9 NIV
It’s probably safe to assume you don’t experience true persecution, although it does still exist in certain countries and cultures. However, you may struggle to fit in or are concerned with “cancel culture.”
Even if you were born in a place where persecution isn’t present, you may feel the strain of controversial issues, when the world’s opinion goes against what the Bible says (John 17:13-19).
In this case, we must take these fears of being “canceled” and give them to God. Now is the time to stand up for what’s true, and not to be quiet or ashamed of your beliefs. In so doing, you can be sure that God will restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you!
The Whole Bible is Useful For Us Today
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV
Next time you’re presented with a single verse, I urge you to look it up and understand the full meaning of it. If you’re not sure how to do this, remember, it starts with reading the verses around it, and discovering and learning about the intended audience. Then you can discern why the author wrote to them.
Even when a passage does not directly apply to us, we can still glean useful information about God, and we can be assured what He did back then for those people, He will do now for us.
“Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:7-8 NIV
This article originally published on iBelieve.com on July 8, 2022: https://jenniferjabbour.com/published-work/#:~:text=5%20Verses%20Commonly%20Taken%20Out%20of%20Context