Growing up, Indiana Jones was the epitome of cool. He made archeology exciting. Boring archaeology professor one moment, daring adventurer the next. Amazing how a fedora and whip could bring such a transformation. The music, the stunts, the special effects and story all united for a thrilling tour de force. (In fact, my Indiana Jones action figure even mixed with my Star Wars action figures. That was really cool until he tried to hold a Star Wars weapon and his thumb broke off. That’s what happens when worlds collide.)
The first Indiana Jones adventure had him searching for the Ark of the Covenant. The belief was that whoever was in possession of the ark could conqueror the world (bad theology, but moving on…). A pendant was the key in finding the location of the ark. The pendant was a gold medallion with a jewel in its center surrounded by Hebrew inscriptions. By interpreting the inscriptions, one could find the exact location of the ark. Of course, there is always an enemy that Indiana Jones is racing against, usually Nazi’s. The Nazi’s, led by a rival French archeologist, have a head start in digging for the ark but are clueless to one important fact. Both sides of the pendant were necessary in order to get the proper understanding of where their treasure was, but they only had one side of the pendant interpreted. Due to them only having part of the picture, they are digging in the wrong place.
That same thing can happen in Bible study when context is ignored. Verses ripped out of context will cause the Bible adventurer to end up at an entirely different location than what was intended. The result is that people end up thinking they have treasure, when they are digging in the wrong place. Bad theology makes for bad practice. Well, at least they’re doing something, right? Wrong. The goal of Bible study is to find out the meaning of what God has said. All of Scripture is written with an intent in mind (2 Tim 3:16-17). We do not assign meaning to the text. If that were the case the power of the text would rest not in what God has said, but in the ability of the interpreter.
Case in point, how many times have you heard people within the church say, “Don’t judge me”? This is a popular phrase that people use as a means of shirking any kind of accountability for their actions. However, the context of the phrase, “Don’t judge” tells a different story. In context it says, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2) The point being that you are in no place to call someone out if you are doing the same thing. The standard you use on others will be used on you. It is a call first to examine your own life so that you’re not guilty of hypocrisy. Not seeing things in context leads people to wrong conclusions.
When studying the Bible, context matters. God’s Word can transform you in a way that a fedora and whip never could. There are plenty of traps and pitfalls in life. If you’re not correctly handling the Word of Truth you’re bound to be run over by a boulder. Fortunately, we have one who will guide us and lead us to true treasure that will not disappoint (John 16:13-15).