Apr 08

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Hermeneutics, as in “Hermeneutics 101,” now takes another step in determining the truth being taught in a verse. Basic to Hermeneutics as noted in the first four articles has for the most part, answered the questions: 1) Who is speaking; 2) To whom was it said; and 3) When was it said? In this article, we will look at the context in which a verse appears.
There are a few statements made in the Bible, that it does not matters in what the overall context may have been, in which a statement is made, it always means the same thing! Strange as this may seem, it is never the less true! Let me give two such statements: 1) Moses wrote: “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man” (Gen. 9:6). No matter whatever the subject may be in a context, if these words appear within, they are nevertheless true! It was true in all three ages given in the Bible. It was true in the age of the Patriarchs, in which this statement appears; it was true in the age Moses, as Moses wrote: “And he that killeth any man shall surely be put to death” (Lev. 24:17); and it is true in the age of Christ, as Paul wrote: “For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil” (Rom. 13:4). If we can all agree that murdering another person is “evil,” then, we can agree that the person who murders another has done “evil.” Therefore, the civil government, which is God’s minister for good, is responsible “to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil” and the government “beareth not the sword in vain!” Therefore, the words of Moses in Genesis 9:6, are tr0ue in all ages, and in all the contexts in which it might appear!
A second statement made to the apostles of Christ, is true in whatever context the words may appear. In John chapters 13 – 16, Jesus is addressing his apostles and said to them: “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Is there a context in which these words would not be true? No! No matter what the subject, if these words were put in the context, they would be true! On the other hand, some statements in one context would not be true in another context. Take the word of Paul: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13). Let us say that I am in a weight lifting contest, before me is a weight of 1,000 pounds; I then quote Paul’s words: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Are the words of Paul true when put into this context? No! Yet, lifting weights is a “things;” therefore, it falls into “all things;” if we are to use Paul’s words without the limitations of the context! So, the word “all” must be kept in the context in which it appears. Just what is Paul’s context, wherein he used the words “all things?” “Hermeneutics 101” requires that we look at the context; Paul wrote: “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil 4:11-14). The context in which Paul is using the words “all things” is one of “I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” Simply stated, it is a context when “things” are good and when “things” are bad! It is wrong to use his words in some other context! Notice what he wrote next: “Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction” (verse 15). This verse also is addressing Paul’s needs! It has absolutely nothing to do with lifting weights!
The thought is much like what Paul wrote in the Roman letter: “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:37-39). Whatever our state, we can be faithful to Christ; so long as we put Christ first!
It is always wrong to take a text out of its context! “Hermeneutics 101” says, read the verse before and after to help get the context! Remember, “A text out of context is a pretext!”

— Frank R. Williams

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