Context, Context, Context

THEM: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!

ME: Except use verses in context apparently.



The self-esteem movement has stampeded Christianity.

We’ve been fooled into thinking we are awesome people who deserve awesomeness all the time as we pursue our awesome purpose for awesomely being alive.

Here’s some news: You’re not that awesome. Neither am I. We’re people. Breathing piles of dirt. We’re sinners rebelling against our loving Creator.

This sort of “depressing” and “negative” preaching used to be part of Christianity. Then the self-help era took off in the early 20th Century. Now we’re just tripping over our awesome ideals of ourselves.

Pretty much the only verses that Christians know any more are

I am fearfully and wonderfully made!

All things work together for good!

I can do all things through Christ!

We are more than conquerors!

All are quoted with exclamation marks and happy sounds. Now yes, these verses are in the Bible and they are true. But they also have contexts. Many of the contexts are not nearly as happy as we might want them to be.

Yes, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. The context says the result of this knowledge inspires praise toward God, the Maker, not our selves, the made. The context of the psalm (139) is a complaint because evil guys are pounding on him. It’s a cry of desperation. God’s is all he has left. This is not a guy who is tripping over earthly pleasures and then praising himself for being so awesomely made for getting them! This is a desperate clinging to God in the midst of suffering.

Yes, all things work together for good, but only for those who love God and are called according to His purpose. His purpose, based on the context, is growth into Christ. Growing in Christ is the good all things work toward. He’s not talking about promotions and new houses and “bummer my car got totaled but God did it on purpose so I could get a new Mercedes! Yeah God!” The good is growth into Christ, which is truly the only good any believer would want anyhow, and typically comes via suffering.

Yes, a believer can do all things through Christ Jesus. The “all things,” according to the context, are living in suffering and want, along with times of doing OK. “All things” is not talking about acing a test or nailing the job interview. The “all things” says even if you don’t get the job, you can handle various external circumstances because of what you have in Christ.

Yes, we, believers, are more than conquerors. The verse right before, however, says “For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Maybe God has a different idea of what a conqueror is!

Context is an amazing thing. Verses were not written in isolation. Please teach yourself and others how to use context to rightly handle verses. Here’s a little tip: If a Bible phrase is always used to stroke your ego; you probably aren’t using the context!

God knows who you are. Do you?



Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.
For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.
–Psalm 103:13-14

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