Reading Scripture: Understanding Context
Today we’ll continue our discussion on reading scripture:
I wrote earlier that we’ll typically be studying one chapter a day, but will occasionally break that into smaller chunks. If you have time, read through the chapter or passage once straight through without stopping, just enjoying the story or the teaching. Then, take a second pass through, this time highlighting or underlining those verses that stand out to you. Don’t stop at them, but mark which one God is putting on your heart. This should all be very spontaneous.
Once you’ve done this, examine what you’ve highlighted in an attempt to understand what the passage is really trying to communicate. Many people are tempted to rush off and apply these words to their own lives without thinking about time or context. It’s important to remember that the authors of each scripture usually had a very definite audience. Ask yourself: what was he saying to these people? What would they have understood when they first heard the words? It’s important that we do our best to understand these things before looking for application into our own life. Because the original intention behind the words is the foundation. It is an anchor that keeps us grounded.
The Holy Spirit does speak to us in very personal ways, but hearing His voice and understanding it correctly require a lifelong journey. A wise believer will take precautions to make sure that he or she is not going off on a wild direction, thinking that he or she is following God, but in fact doing something entirely different. In other areas of life, it’s wise to listen to the opinions of Pastors, accountability partners, mentors, etc., but for what we’re doing here, the best guide is to understand the foundational teachings of what the original writer was saying to his original audience.
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