A Common Mistake

by Steve Higginbotham

Just yesterday, I was handed a tract published by a local “non-denominational” church. It

contained a list of their beliefs and practices. Within the tract, there were a number of practices

in which they believe and beside of each practice was a Scripture. In addition to this

information, there was also an invitation to examine the Scriptural basis for each of their beliefs and practices, so that’s what I’d like to briefly do.

The tract stated that most of the members of their church came from other churches that placed

restrictions on believing the Bible. By way of illustration this tract sited the following beliefs that

they practice, but that are forbidden by other churches.

  • • Musical instruments in the church.
  • • Laying on of hands and anointing with oil those who are sick.
  • • Prophecy and praying in tongues.

The above list is illustrative of a common mistake made when attempting to understand and apply the teachings of the Bible. That mistake is in ignoring the context of a command. In order to have a proper understanding of Scripture, one must do more than simply provide a command given in Scripture, but one must consider the context of that command to determine its relevance and applicability on us today. For instance:

  • • Some Bible commands were only given to certain people, and not to all (e.g.

“Build an ark of gopher wood” – a command, but not given to all, just to Noah. “Sell

all you have and give to the poor” – a command, but not given to all, just the rich

young ruler).

  • • Some Bible commands were given under the Old law, not the New (e.g. Animal

sacrifices; Levitical priesthood; Sabbath observance; tassels on the fringe of one’s

clothing; etc.).

  • • Some Bible commands/powers were given under the New law, but were meant

to be temporary, not permanent (e.g. Desire spiritual gifts; speaking in tongues;

raising the dead; prophesy; etc.).

Concerning some of the items listed in the tract, the use of musical instruments was indeed

commanded at one time in Scripture (Psalm 150), but that command was under the Old law. We

live under the New, and there is no such authority for their use in the New covenant under which

we now live. With regard to prophecy and speaking in tongues, the Bible explicitly tells us that such activities were not permanent, but were temporary and that they would cease (1 Corinthians 13:8).

You see, proper understanding of the Bible requires more than just quoting a verse, but it demands that the verse quoted be understood in its context. As you study your Bible, remember the importance of context and avoid this common mistake. Context cannot be over-emphasized.

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