Wednesday, January 05, 2011


The importance of scriptural context can’t be stressed enough. So often we jump to conclusions and make interpretations of a particular verse without taking into account what the surrounding context is saying. This can lead us to a totally different understanding to the one intended by the writer.

Today I came across a very clear example of this in the comments section of another blog.

The writer was trying to prove that baptism was only a symbolic act and he quoted 1 Peter 3:21 “this water symbolises baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God.”

“Woa!” the writer says – “Peter emphasises the symbolic nature of water baptism…”.

Woa! I say – what about context? What is being presented as the symbol? Is it baptism or is it something else?

Let’s look at the context – let’s look at the preceding verse.

20…God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolises baptism that now saves you also…

Here we can see a totally different meaning to the one the comment writer proposed. It is not the waters of baptism that are being presented as the symbol; it is the water of the flood that is being presented as symbolising the waters of baptism.

A TOTALLY different meaning arises out of a CONTEXTUAL reading of the text.

I have seen this happening over and over again.

I have found myself doing the same thing, but now I have learned to be cautious whenever a verse comes to mind.

I stop and check it again.
Are my thoughts consistent with the overall context?

Don’t be lazy about it.
Don’t take the risk of deceiving yourself and others.


Anonymous said...

You are so right. My pastor always says you must read at least 3 verses before and 3 verses after a scripture to begin to get an idea of the context. It is even better to go the whole chaper before and after. In the letters from Paul, it is best to read the entire letter as a whole to get the whole picture of what Paul was trying to say. This is a very important concept to grasp when studying the Word!

UnprofitableServant said...

The Great Ecclesiastical Conspiracy

That kinda gives a whole new meaning to the word "context".

Onesimus said...

Thanks Unprofitable Servant,
I'm guessing you are the person of the same name that I've known from a couple of forums? (if so do you have your own web site?)

If so I liked a lot of what I saw you write in the past before you left thoses forums.

Thanks for the link. I'm usually hesitant to post links before I've had the chance to check them out fully, but from my initial investigation this one seems well worth reading - but like everything (my blog included) its content should be assessed according to scripture.

UnprofitableServant said...

Hi Brother Onesimus,

Yes, thats me.

I was on RS, NITW and WC until hard sayings closed the doors.

Had my own forum for a little while but it crashed and the server owner lost ours and hundreds of other forums.

Since then I've just been studying alot and posting on other blogs here and there.

Hard sayings still closing doors though...

I just found that article earlier today and haven't had a chance to thouroughly check it out myself but I have a feeling I'm in for some hard sayings coming my way.

One excerpt thats on the main page of Alert Sweeden says the following:

"The Origin of the Word "church"

William Tyndale, who in the 16 th century translated our first English Bible, translated "ekklesia" as “congregation,” moving the focus from a building to the people. He wanted to rid the Bible of the ecclesiastical words set in by a powerful clergy system. Tyndale used the word “church” one time and that was to describe a pagan temple (Acts 19:37). His translation brought the down the wrath of the Clergy and it cost him his life and for it he was burned at the stake. This is true even to this day; the most hated people are those who challenge our religious system."

I had a hunch that we have been led astray more than could possibly be imagined but this is really something.

Going to try and read some of that tomorrow. Getting late over in the eastern US (2 AM) and I have to get some rest.

God Bless

Onesimus said...

Good to hear from you again Unprofitable Servant.

I also look forward to reading more of the article. I am currently reading a biography of Tyndale so was interested to see him being mentioned.

UnprofitableServant said...

Hi Brother,

There are Audio and Video versions of this available as well. You can load it up on an MP3 player or iPod.

BTW, this is VERY good from what I have listened to so far.

The Great Ecclesiastical Conspiracy Audio:

The Great Ecclesiastical Conspiracy Video:

UnprofitableServant said...


I listened to the rest of The Great Ecclesiastical Conspiracy.

Wow is all I can say....