Often you hear people caution against taking verses out of context. Their cautions are valid, but what if by limiting ourselves to surrounding verse and chapter context we end up missing things? What if we miss incredible truth and life in the Bible if we aren't pulling verses and phrases and even half sentences out of the Bible? What if we are trying to put the Scriptures in a box, albeit in a box made of Scripture? What if we had a better standard than just context? Or what if context included the whole Bible, not just the verse and chapter?
Many scholars and Christians warn that you will be prone to misinterpret verses if you take them out of context, and they warn that you can make the Bible say anything you want to if you take verses out of context. Both of which I entirely agree with. You can misinterpret verses if you take them out of context. And you can make the Bible say anything you want it to say if you take verses out of context. But what if we are missing a wealth of Scriptural life by refusing to look at verses outside of the immediate verse/chapter context? What if we are limiting Scripture and refusing to let it come alive in ways it is meant to come alive in?
So what is the validity of context? Is the context argument valid? I believe that context is important. But what then constitutes context? And what then constitutes taking a verse out of context?
When I first started putting verse on my pictures I was so careful to not take verses out of context. I often would use longer passages to avoid the risk of not giving enough context. I was concerned about accidentally making Scripture to say something it didn't say, by taking a verse out of proper context. As I have gotten older the Scriptures have become alive to me like never before. Without realizing it I threw such caution to the wind. What I cared about was accurately portraying God's heart and bringing to light verses that often get overlooked. I started pulling out half verses and phrases and even parts of sentences to highlight parts that came alive for me. I was eager to share what made my heart come alive.
I have seen such power and life come from seemingly taken out of context verses lately that it has begun to make me wonder. After much thought and contemplation of context (and the validity of it in properly interpreting Bible verses/passages) I had an interesting thought. What if the context argument was indeed valid, but rather what we were deeming context to be was off? Context is typically defined as the text directly surrounding a verse that tell the events/circumstances in which a verse was written.* But what if deeming only the directly surrounding verses a passage's context was putting the Scriptures in a box? What if it was only a piece of the story? What if we didn't limit our interpretation to verses in their direct passage context, but rather in light of the Scriptures as a whole?
I think if we broadened our view to not just the few surrounding verses, but to the whole Bible we will have a much better standard. For me, the standard I use in my artwork is whether or not it lines up with the rest of Scripture. The Bible does not contradict itself, so obviously if we have a contradiction then we're the ones in error. But if it lines up with the rest of Scripture and can be supported by other passages than you probably didn't pull anything out of context.
2 Timothy 2:15 in the NKJV says, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." In the ESV it says, "Rightly handling the word of truth." I think we need to know our Bibles well enough and be saturated in Scripture enough that we can go beyond verse chapter context and use the Bible in it's entirety for our context. We need to be students of the Scriptures and students of the Holy Spirit. The word is living and active, and we need to be asking Holy Spirit to bring it to life for us. The Bible is a living document and we have the Holy Spirit living inside of us. The life and truth contained in the Scriptures is beyond imagination, and is worth seeking out.
*It can also refer to the historical context a passage was written during, however for the sake of brevity I am only referencing and dealing textual context in this post.