BLOG: Ripped Out of Context

Written by Melissa H. Stautman, LMT

We Christians are rarely surprised when unbelievers say and do un-Christian things, but we tend to let our defenses down and give the benefit of the doubt to anyone who takes Bible verses out of context and uses them to prop up their own personal beliefs. After all, who is it hurting? Maybe speaking the Word of God will somehow have a positive effect on them. At least they are quoting God. Right?

Wrong. Taking scripture out of context makes the power of the word they’ve just spoken null and void. This is akin to theological liberalism and the creating of a new gospel for themselves. Paul warns in Galatians 1:6-9 that doing this is a damnable offense, with the potential to separate the speaker from the church if they continue. We have to check ourselves to make sure we are not doing this ourselves and be acutely aware of when we hear others do it.

What is “the power” of the Word?

“The power” of the Word is the revelation of Scripture that God allows only believers to know. How does He do this? The Holy Spirit searches even the depths of God Himself to know God like no other. God transfers that same Holy Spirit to us at our justification. It translates the hidden knowledge of God in Scripture directly to our minds and hearts when we read and study it. Unbelievers have no access to this knowledge.[1]

I Can Only Imagine

Pastor Wilson, in his December 30, 2018 sermon, “The Way Things Really Are” brings forth an example of how context really matters. Bart Millard of MercyMe wrote and released the popular Christian song I Can Only Imagine in 1999 to describe how heaven will be. As beautiful as this song is, and as much as it stirs the heart, there is a problem; we actually can imagine! The book of Revelation tells us in great detail how it will be in heaven. As a mature Christian who can forebear those not-quite-right-Biblical-references, you might not feel a need to take issue with this song. However, if you are an unbeliever or weak in the faith, this song, its movie, and its lyrics feed the postmodern idea that you can’t really know God and what the Bible actually says. Heaven is indeed greater than we can comprehend, but we should push back on this type of rhetoric because God instructs us to.[2]

The Target

We shouldn’t be surprised even by the most subtle[3] attacks on the Word of God. The devil has been asking, “Did God really say..?” since Genesis 3. All other conflicts in life (family, abortion, politics, etc.) and in the church (unity, leadership, etc.) are just distractions[4] from his ultimate goal to destroy God’s actual words. The devil will continue to use the world and people as a means of distorting God’s Word little by little.[5] Jude 3 implores us to “contend earnestly for the faith.” That means to fight for the Word of God fervently. We need to understand that we are not personally the target. Our personal faith is not the target. The Word of God is always the ultimate target.

1 Corinthians 2:9
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him.”

Paul was quoting Isaiah 64:4 in this passage. People often pull this verse out of context and mistakenly think that it is talking about “what God has prepared” for us in heaven. If we read the whole context, we see that “what God has prepared” for us is actually talking about “the power” of the Word. He’s talking about the clear understanding of Scripture. He prepared that gift for us before time. This is the exact opposite meaning of “I can only imagine.” The “man” spoken of in verse nine is a natural man, an unbeliever; someone who doesn’t love the Lord.

A Mighty Whack on the Head With 1 John 4:19

Christians will always be misunderstood because they stand on the Word of God and natural man cannot understand the Word of God. Of course, that doesn’t stop them from throwing on a Christian t-shirt and spitting a Bible verse at you if you don’t do what they think you should be doing to reflect the Christ they don’t actually care to know or obey.

1 John 4:19… “We love because he first loved us,” is a multipurpose sword-wielding verse for those wanting to condescendingly instruct others on their behavior toward specific people or groups. Ahh, but there’s a problem here. Yes, you guessed it, CONTEXT!

Just a few centimeters from this verse, in chapter five, we are told that the people John was talking about (in 4:19) for us to love were specifically Christians, not non-Christians. You aren’t allowed to just pretend it is an all-inclusive love. The whole book of 1 John was written for believers so that they could test themselves to see if they are sound in the faith. It is not a book of instruction on how to love the world, and its inmates. Jesus had much to say, and the church has often affirmed, that Christians have a unique call to love the world; to love those who hate and persecute them. But that love is not like the love we have for fellow believers. All of us realize that our love for our friends and our love for our spouse and children is not the same. Thus it is with God’s love, and therefore the church’s love, for the unbelieving world; it is not the same as His love for His own.

One of the tests (in 1 John) is the “moral test of love.” Dr. John MacArthur deals with this topic at length in Manifesting Perfect Love, Part 2. The “love” that is talked about all throughout 1 John is not human love that comes with feelings and emotions. It is specifically a supernatural, divine love that only believers in the faith have through the Holy Spirit because they are “in Christ.” Christ’s love is a sacrificial love that tolerates no sin, even as it loves the sinner.

Tremble, Don’t Twist

As imitators of Christ, we should be willing to sacrifice everything, including relationships and expectations of relationships, to obey and follow Christ’s commands of us.[6]  Yes, that may include loved ones living in unrepentant sin such as homosexuality or apostasy.[7] Jesus prayed that we would have the understanding necessary, through the hidden power of His Word, to understand and accept difficult instructions like this. [8]

Sadly, so many that profess Christianity will continue in ignorance, rather than search the Scriptures; praying for God’s powerful knowledge revealed.[9] They don’t trust that God’s holiness will necessarily lead to perfect justice.

Isaiah 66:2, 5 teaches us to “tremble” at His Word, not twist it or take it out of context. His Holy Spirit wants to rest in the heart of someone who takes His Word seriously. If we commit our minds and hearts to the revealed Word of God, to fighting for the truth of God, we will find ourselves right in the middle of God’s will. He will reveal the way all things really are.[10] He will guide every decision we make in our daily lives.


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[1] 1 Corinthians 2:14-16

[2] Jude 1:3

[3] Ephesians 6:10-19

[4] 1 Corinthians 2:3-5

[5] 1 John 5:19, 3:13; 1 Peter 4:12

[6] Luke 12:51-53

[7] Relationship Primer for the Christian, Part Two – THE APOSTATE

[8] John 17

[9]  The Holy Spirit: Author of Scripture, by John Piper

[10] John 14:26-27