The Bible isn’t a book filled with feel-good quotes for us to choose from for our circumstances. It’s the tale of a man’s dire need for God and how we’ve been given another chance to choose life over death through God’s redemptive nature. There’s a chance that you’ve read Bible verses every day that have been taken out of context, whether in a Bible app, social media post, or email.
When we try to understand the meaning of a Bible verse intended for a specific place, time, or group of people and try to apply it to our situation, we risk allowing our opinions and perspectives to get in the way of the Scriptures’ truth.
It’s great that so many passages give us hope, but it’s essential to take the time to understand God’s purpose for using them in His Word. Without making an effort to understand a verse’s context fully, we miss out on the entirety of God’s Word, making it about us when it’s about Him. Here’s a list of well-known verses that are usually taken out of context, how they’re interpreted and what the author intended.
God keeps His promises.
“For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” - Jeremiah 29:11
Many Christians think this verse is a personal promise that God has perfectly planned out our lives when in reality, He’s talking about the nation of Israel. The Israelites were being held captive as enslaved people in Babylon. Still, the news in this passage isn’t what they wanted to hear because it would be another 70 years before God freed them from slavery and exile. This sentiment means that most that heard the news wouldn’t be alive when that time came. This was God’s promise for the future generations of Israel.
This passage reminded the Israelites of why they were in captivity, telling them how to live in exile and promising that God would restore them. You may be able to tell that this verse doesn’t directly apply to our lives, but we can see God’s nature and how He’ll never turn His back on His children. It also shows how God has to discipline us sometimes. Even at our lowest points, He watches us, waiting for us to come back to Him. He’ll always love us no matter what we do.
He makes all things good.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” - Romans 8:28
This verse is often used to encourage people who’ve dealt with traumatic life events. To comfort those in pain, people will say, “everything happens for a reason” or “God has a plan.” When bad things happen, sometimes there’s no explanation. Disease, crime, pain, poverty, and death exist because of sin, but this passage wasn’t meant to console those in distress.
We shouldn’t confuse this verse for the phrase, “in all things God works for the good,” with “God makes all things good.” All things aren’t always good, even for the people who love God. Jesus said that we would suffer in John 16:33. Instead, this verse tells us that God can take any situation and make something good come out of it if we love and obey Him. So when the enemy thinks he can use a traumatic experience to take us away from God, instead of giving in, turn to God and let Him show you how much He loves you.
God delivers us from our sins.
“For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” - Romans 7:19
This verse is perfect for you if you want an excuse to keep living in sin. Because of our sinful nature, living on the righteous path is an everyday battle. However, knowing that Paul struggled with these issues, too, seems to vindicate us. Still, Paul isn’t justifying his sinful nature but describing a spiritual battle. When we choose to follow Jesus, struggles arise between the flesh’s and the Spirit’s desires.
We’ve surrendered to God but still struggle with our flesh’s desires. We don’t want to sin, but we do. This struggle is frustrating because we strive to do what’s right at all times. Even though we’ve been freed from sin, we can still become a victim of it because we’re not perfect.
Your body is a temple.
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.” - 1 Corinthians 6:19
Authority figures in the church have used this verse to stop us from pursuits like tattoos and body piercings. People have also used it to stay fit and eat healthily. If our bodies are God’s temples, it will make sense that we wouldn’t want to defile them with unhealthy habits, piercings, or tattoos. However, if we look at the verse before this one, it’ll give you a new perspective.
The verse before it tells us to run away from sexual immorality; all other sins happen outside of the body, but a person who sins sexually sins against their body. So this passage is specifically talking about sexual sins. In this chapter, Paul clarifies that sexual sins affect our innermost being, unlike other sins. Since we’re already one with the Holy Spirit, we sully our bodies when we give ourselves to another in an immoral way, thus defiling God’s temple.
The physical temple of God requires all who enter to be clean because that’s where God lives among men so they can have access to Him. When Jesus died and came back, our bodies became God’s new dwelling place, so we should keep them clean, not allowing sin to enter God’s temple.
The next time you want to use a verse, you should look it up and read the whole context. If you’re unsure how to do so, start by reading the scriptures around it and find out more about its intended audience. Then you can determine why the author wrote it that way.