Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The critical importance of context; both historical context and textual consistency

Proof texting is a method of preparing sermons where a text of scripture is pulled out to make a point. In and of itself there is nothing wrong with this. However, proof texting can be misused and often is by those preaching today. If you remove the historical context and the textual consistency then you can make the bible say anything you desire.
Here is an example; 1Co 1:21 KJV  “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” There is a specific context to this passage of scripture. It is the foolishness of preaching the gospel that Paul is talking about. So then, if you make the statement that God uses the foolishness of preaching, meaning any preaching one may do about any subject one may choose to quote part of 1Co 1:21 is taking the passage out of its context. First, it is taking it out of its historical context, that is the context within where Paul used it and it is divorcing it from textual consistency.
The greater context of the passage goes from 1Co 1:17 all the way through 1 Co 2:16. It is a passage that explains that the gospel is foolishness to the world and it is the wisdom of God.  Perhaps the most telling of this passage is 1 Co 2:2. Paul states there unequivocally, that during his sojourn as an apostle in Corinth, he determined… purposed… made it a point to know NOTHING among the Corinthian believers than Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  I think that it is safe to assume that he meant the same for his entire ministry to all the Gentiles, and any Jews that he ministered too. One cannot justify the preaching of “just anything” to people by using 1 Co 1:21.
For Paul, it was the preaching of the gospel that was foolishness, and the gospel to Paul was the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (1 Co 15:1-4.) Therefore, any message delivered around the foolishness of preaching must have at its foundation, and heart the gospel of Jesus Christ. It must have a New Covenant understanding at its base.
But further than this, Jesus gave a redemptive context to all the scripture. He said this in John’s gospel. John 5:39-40 KJV  “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.  (40) And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” He then reinforced it in Luke 24:27, 44-45. We are  taking the scripture out of context every time we do not find a redemptive theme for what we preach and teach. If it doesn’t point to Jesus and his kingdom… notice I wrote Jesus and His kingdom, then we have no business preaching or teaching it.
We cannot present the New Covenant promises with a strictly Old Covenant mentality and theology. That is what is happening all too often in Christianity today, and quite frankly preachers should sit down sometimes, and learn.  James said it this way; Jas 1:19-20 KJV  Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:  (20)  For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.
Our understanding of the message is tainted by two thousand years of theology. We think we have it figured out but, actually just an open minded reading of the scripture will show us that we have much to learn.


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