MORE ABOUT THE FIRST RULE OF BIBLE STUDY

Blog: Max Dawson
January 25, 2016
Last Thursday I wrote a piece entitled “Be Careful What You ‘Claim’ In Scripture.” It was about a common misunderstanding (the kind way to say it) of . To be more direct (and possibly less kind) is to call it a misuse and abuse of the Scripture. To see that blog piece click here: http://dowlenroad.com/?p=20043.
The misuse of occurs because of a failure to respect the context in which it was written. The first rule of Bible study is to respect the context. Since we are thinking about this common problem, I thought it would be profitable to look at another example of the same thing.
This time we go to the New Testament Scriptures, to the words of John the Baptist in .
“I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
Well-meaning folks often go to this verse and think that the baptism of “the Holy Spirit and fire” applies to themselves. Preachers have preached that. Folks have believed it.

As a result…

People pray for the baptism of the Holy Spirit to come upon them.
They pray that Jesus will send the baptism of fire upon them.
They do this without understanding either of these things. In the context, John is talking about the power of Jesus as contrasted with his (John’s) own power. John could only baptize with water. The one coming (Jesus) was far more powerful. He could baptize with the Spirit and with fire. The text is not at all about who would receive either of these two things. Rather, it is about the one who had the power to do these two things.
Looking further at the context, the baptism of fire has to do with judgment. and 12 all end with the same word: “fire.” In , John said that those trees (people) who do not bear good fruit will be cut down and cast into the fire. In , John speaks of the one who has the power to bring this judgment upon men–Jesus. In , John describes the judgment as one in which Jesus will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire! In the larger context of Matthew , John was speaking of judgment that was coming upon the Jewish nation–particularly upon the Pharisees and Sadducees ().
The “baptism of fire” is about judgment–being immersed in the fires of judgment. It is something you want to avoid. It is not something to pray for!

THE FINAL WORD
Respecting the context is the first rule of Bible study. Actually, there are three elements to think about when talking about respecting context.
1. Respect the text. The Bible is the word of God. It came from God. It should be honored and treated with great dignity because of its source.
2. Respect the immediate context. That is, pay attention to the other verses around it, even the chapter, book and dispensation in which it was written. Do not make a verse say what the context does not teach.
3. Respect other texts. That is, pay attention to other texts that might address the same topic. Those texts might be found in any place in the Bible. This is sometimes called the law of harmony. All passages that bear on a subject must harmonize. The late Elmer Moore used to call the other text “the remote context.” He taught that you must not make one verse contradict another verse in another place. That sinful treatment of God’s word is one of the techniques of the false teacher.

Context! It’s important. Without respect for context, you will abuse God’s word!

Blessings to you,
–Max

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