Location, Location, Location
“Rightly dividing the word of truth.”
2 Timothy 2:15b. KJV
It is a well-accepted axiom in the world of real estate that the sale or purchase of a particular property depends on three important factors in determining its worth. The three considerations are location, location, location. In studying the Bible, there are also three factors that are vital in rightly dividing the Word. These three elements are context, context, context. The immediate context surrounding the verse you are considering is the most important. These are the verses that proceed and follow the verse. The context outside of this immediate concern is to be considered, (meaning the whole of Scripture) but not until the immediate context is resolved. In real estate, the homes surrounding your home are your first consideration before looking at the town where you live. If the broader context seems to say something beyond the immediate context it is to be rejected.
There are two mistakes made when considering context. The first error is to ignore it altogether. The second is to read into the verse what is not there by ignoring the verses surrounding it and then threading a path throughout various Bible verses in the broader context. I shall give you an example of both.
Psalm 118:24 reads, “this is the day which the Lord hath made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.” We quote it and sing it as if whatever day we find ourselves in is the day the Lord has made, but that is not what the verse teaches at all. Psalm 118:22, states, “The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.” Clearly, that verse is speaking of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and the verse that follows it declares, “This is the Lords doing and it is marvelous in our eyes.” So, you see, Psalm 118:24’s declaration is concerning the day that Jesus was crucified and that is what we are to rejoice and be glad in because it brought us salvation. I hope you see that interpreting verse 24 within its context, the verse is richer, deeper and different than we thought.
Concerning the second error, reading into a verse what is not there, John 3:16 offers us a perfect example. The verse begins, “For God so loved the world...” The world means every human that ever lived. This all seems straightforward but there are those who want to misinterpret the word, “world” to mean only the world of those whom God has chosen. To do this they are forced to go outside of the immediate context and then attempt to weave and twist a series of verses together to make the “world” much smaller than God intended. When John writes that God so loved the world, he meant the entire scope of humanity, not just the “elect.” This violation of immediate context leads to grievous error and false teaching by limiting God’s redemptive reach.
Never ignore the context surrounding the verse you are studying, but always remember to begin with the immediate context before looking into the whole of scripture.