We know that Bible publishers added chapters and verses to Scripture for reference purposes, and it is a convenient way to aid us in searching for specific passages. It’s understandable that most of us have been taught to memorize Scripture using these individual verses, but there may be a certain type of danger in doing this if the surrounding context is not being considered. This not only applies to the context in terms of chapters and verses, but even the context of the gospel itself. When we begin to gain a greater understanding of what the gospel of grace truly is, we can begin filtering the verses and passages as we see them through the proper lens of the New Covenant. A wise person once said, “The Bible can be dangerous to read … if you don’t understand the gospel.”
There are too many examples to cover in this short post, but here is one sample of “the verse problem.” I’ve had religious legalists throw this one at me while they erroneously tried to make their case that the Mosaic law is meant to be a part of the Christian life: “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified” (Romans 2:13).
Compare that to the following “verse” the Apostle Paul wrote just one chapter later: “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Romans 3:28).
Taken by themselves, these two verses appear to completely contradict one another. Which is it? Are we justified by our attempt at being a doer of the law, or is it by faith we are justified, apart from the works of the law? What may appear as a contradiction, is surrounded by the context of a landscape featuring beautiful scenery with a view that can be easily overlooked.
In the second chapter of Romans and most of the third chapter, Paul was exposing the hypocrisy of self-righteous people by explaining how the Mosaic law required those who were under it to obey everything without failing. Those (Jews) under the law would often judge others for the very things they didn’t uphold themselves, and it caused “God’s name to be blasphemed” among the (non-Jewish) Gentiles. The Jew was condemned by the law, and Gentiles without the law were also found guilty through their own conscience.
A “doer of the law” wasn’t a person giving it their best shot; it was someone who followed it to perfection. A doer of the law had never been found until Jesus came along, which is why Paul goes on to clarify the change found in the New Covenant … justification would have to arrive through a different source other than the law. All of us have fallen short of perfection, whether born from inside or outside of the Jewish race. Paul would take the rest of the book of Romans to reveal how deliverance from the law of works came through Jesus Christ, and brought us the gift of God’s righteousness. Let’s begin to see the magnitude of Paul’s explanation throughout the letter, instead of looking at verses as though they summed up an entire thought.
Many Christian religious doctrines are built upon the sandy foundation of “verse-ology”—the study of individual Bible verses that are frequently taken out of context and often jumbled together to fit a certain ideology or mindset they have assumed is based upon absolute truth. We can completely miss the bigger picture by falling back on the false assumption that all Scripture is meant to be applied directly to us as believers living under a new Covenant, who are in Christ Jesus. Even within the Psalms, we’ll read all kinds of things from those who were formerly under the old covenant law that do not apply to us today. Many of the passages from those writings are directly related to Christ Himself and are not always meant to be about us, but about Him.
The Bible is not one book, it’s made up of many books, and this Word of Truth should be rightly divided. Think of Bible verses as tiny little dots or pixels that make up a picture. If you get too close to the image, it will be blurry and distorted. As we step back for a clearer view, we’ll discover the entire Bible is really a picture of Jesus Christ. What are often considered as “topics” for discussion or sermon material in the religious realm, are actually things found and contained in the person of Jesus. Whether it be righteousness, grace, peace, life, forgiveness, the Word, the covenant, the kingdom … Jesus is the personification of these and much more. Any gospel discussion without the centerpiece of Christ and the finished work of the cross is just meaningless bloviating.
For more on avoiding the trap of religious bondage, and additional examples of Bible verses taken out of context, get the book: Clash of the Covenants: Escaping Religious Bondage Through The Grace Guarantee Purchase Here On Amazon