DOES CONTEXT MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

E.R. Hall, Jr.

            Have you ever talked with someone and later found out they took something you said out of context? They had you saying something about a person or thing that you really did not say. You said the words but not in the context which they are now taking them. Taking things out of context can mislead us to say the least and sometimes can have serious consequences. I suppose all of us have had this to happen at one time or another. When we learn that someone has taken what we’ve said out of context it enrages us and makes us disappointed in people.

            Do you suppose God feels the same way when His word, the Bible, is taken out of context? Do you suppose there might be serious consequences when we take what He has said out of context? Let’s look at a few examples of how this has been done.

            Many people are found quoting Matthew 10:19,20: “But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” This verse is quoted to prove that preachers today must get their message directly from God without forethought or preparation. Just get up, open your mouth, and the Lord will fill it with what He wants said. Are these verses directed toward preachers or, for that matter, anyone today? We must begin by asking, “Who were these words spoken to?” The beginning of chapter ten has Jesus selecting twelve disciples who were to become the apostles. It was to them “He gave power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease” (verse 1). In verses two through four, we have their names given. In verse five we find these words recorded: “These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying…”. Notice this verse for it is very important! It sets the context to show who these things commanded are being commanded to: “THEM“, meaning the twelve. It is not until chapter 11:1 that we read: “And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence…”. Thus, all that can be read from chapter 10:5 to verse 42 are the things Jesus commanded the twelve. Therefore, when anyone today takes verses 19 and 20 and tries to apply them to the way preachers are supposed to preach today, they are taking the things Jesus said out of context. Jesus was saying this to apply to the twelve, not E.R. Hall or anyone else who professes to be a preacher. If I could just open my mouth and expect God to fill it with what to say, I could also expect to go to the hospitals and nursing homes and heal the sick and raise the lame. Yet, I can do neither of these. I cannot, neither can any person living today, do the things the twelve did. Jesus was speaking of things that had a limited application to a select few.

            The promise of Holy Spirit baptism is also taken out of context. There are those today who teach and believe Holy Spirit baptism has been promised by Christ to all Christians. In fact, they teach you are not a Christian until you have received the baptism of the Holy Ghost. The first mention of this promise is found in Matthew 3:11 where John taught concerning Christ: “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not able to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:” The promise that Jesus made is found in Acts 1:4,5: “And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” Again, the question must be asked, “Who is Jesus talking to when He makes this promise?” In verse 2 of Acts 1 we read that Jesus “had given commandments unto the APOSTLES whom he had chosen.” From verses four and five, which we quoted above, we see He was “assembled together with THEM, commanded THEM that THEY should not depart from Jerusalem,…”. In Acts 2 when the baptism of the Holy Ghost came upon the apostles, we have “Peter, standing up with the eleven” (verse 14). The baptism of the Holy Spirit came upon those to whom Jesus promised it; the apostles! There is no evidence in all of the book of Acts where Holy Spirit baptism came upon every individual that became a Christian. We read in Acts 10 of Holy Spirit baptism coming upon Cornelius and his house because of this being the first time the gospel of Jesus Christ had been preached to the Gentiles. This was fulfillment of prophecy concerning the Spirit being poured out upon all flesh, both Jew and Gentile (Acts 2:16-21). In Acts 2 it was upon Jews and in chapter 10 it was upon Gentiles. It convinced the Jews for they said, “Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” (Acts 11:18).

            For anyone today to teach that Christians must receive Holy Ghost baptism is to take the promise Jesus made out of context? It only serves to mislead people from what the truth actually is.

            So it is, that every time God’s word is taken out of context, people are being lead away from the truth. Only the truth makes us free from sin (John 8:32). Anything that is not the truth is a lie, a falsehood. We are only saved when we believe and obey the truth. Paul warned the Galatians, “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?” Indeed, how can we, who have a copy of God’s word, allow others to use it out of context and bewitch us that we not obey the truth? Keeping things in context carries with it the consequence of where we will spend eternity. It’s that serious! 

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