A Verse Out Of Context
There was a well-known preacher named Johnny Ramsey, who’s passed on now. But Johnny had a saying that he liked to use, and that is; “A text, taken out of context, is a pretext”. A clearer way to put it is; “A verse of scripture, taken out of it’s context, becomes a pretext”.
A “pretext”, is a reason given as justification for something, that is NOT the real reason. And I know someone else who likes to say; “There’s the reason, and then there’s the real reason”. So that’s what a pretext is, it’s a “false front”. You might say, It’s an excuse.
Know the Truth
Let me give you an example. There’s a verse of scripture in John 8:32 which says; “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free”. Those are the very words of Jesus. There’s nothing false about those words, but yet, we can take those words out of context, and make the verse become a pretext. In other words, we can take that verse all by itself, and try to use it in a manner in which it was never intended to be used.
When Jesus spoke those words, He was teaching the fact that His words, and all of God’s words, which are truth, have the power to set us free from the control of sin. Sin takes control of us, and it holds us in it’s grip. But by knowing the word of God, we can escape the hold of sin. Because the word teaches us how to be forgiven of sin, so that sin can no longer hold us.
Jesus said; “If you abide in My word, THEN are you truly My disciples, and (THEN) you shall know the truth, and (THEN) the truth shall make you free.” John 8:31-32 It’s all determined by whether we ABIDE in His word.
So the context is.. Knowing the word of Christ, and abiding in that word, and being freed from sin. Pretty easy to understand. But let me show you how someone took this verse out of context, and made it a pretext. He attempted to try to make it mean something that it was never intended to mean.
People will use all kinds of excuses when you discus the bible with them. Even people who you would think, should be more knowledgeable than that.
So.. I’m having a discussion with a Christian, about a bible teaching that we disagreed on. So instead of going to various verses of scripture to try to prove his belief, he holds up his little new testament, and he said; “Do you see this verse?” And he was showing me John 8:32, “you shall know the truth..” He wasn’t referring to the whole verse, just the part that says, “You shall know the truth”.
And he says; The bible says right here, that “you shall know the truth”; Therefore, since I’ve studied the bible, I know the truth, so I’m right and you’re wrong! That’s some pretty amazing logic isn’t it? There’s an example of a Christian, taking a verse out of context, and making a total pretext of it. All it really was, was an excuse. We don’t want to be guilty of doing that sort of thing, do we?
Does God Show Favoritism ?
Here’s another example of someone else, doing exactly the same thing with another verse of scripture. There’s a verse in Acts 10:34, where Peter says; “Certainly of a truth I understand, that God is not one who shows partiality.” The KJ says; “God is not a respector of persons.” The meaning is the same either way. God does NOT show favoritism or partiality!
BUT, there’s a context that must be taken into consideration in order to understand this verse. Understanding the context of this verse, as well as every other verse of scripture is necessary, if we’re going to properly apply God’s word to our lives. That’s the most important part of all this. We have to know how to APPLY God’s word to our lives. We have to allow God’s word to direct our lives, or we will NOT get to heaven! That’s pretty important, isn’t it?
So let’s look at the context of the statement, that “God is NOT one who shows partiality”, or in other words, that “God is NOT a respector of persons.”
There was a man named Cornelius, who was a gentile, he was not a Jew. However, we’re told in Acts 10:2, that he was, “a devout man, and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people, and prayed to God continually.”
And God was pleased with Cornelius for his faithfulness, and so He sent an angel to Cornelius. And the angel said to him, in V’s 4-5, “Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God. And now, dispatch some men to Joppa, and send for a man named Simon, who is also called Peter.”
The man named Simon, who was called Peter, was the apostle Peter. So Cornelius did as the angel told him to do, and he sent for Simon Peter, and Peter came to Cornelius, as he was asked to do, and he brought some of the other brethren with him.
Now listen to how honored Cornelius felt, to have the apostle Peter come to his house. It says in V’s 24-26, “Now Cornelius was waiting for them, and had called together his relatives and close friends. This was quite an occasion for Cornelius.
“And when it came about that Peter had entered, Cornelius met him, and fell at his feet and worshipped him. But Peter raised him up saying; Stand up, I too, am just a man.” Peter was an apostle of Jesus Christ, had-picked by Jesus Himself, but he wasn’t worthy of worship, he was just a man, chosen to spread the word of God, just like we are all, chosen to spread His word.
So Cornelius tells Peter how the angel appeared to him, and how the angel said to him; “Your prayer has been heard, and your alms remembered before God.” V-31. And then Cornelius tells Peter, in V-33, “And so I sent to you immediately, and you have been kind enough to come. Now then, we are all here present, to hear ALL that you have been commanded by the Lord.”
Now I’ve got to stop here and comment about how truly wonderful it would be, if people today had that same attitude. “We are all hear present, to hear ALL that you have been commanded by the Lord.”
How many people today, want to hear ALL that God has commanded? Not many I’m afraid. But, back to our story..
Jesus Was Sent to the Jews
Up until this point, the gospel had only been preached to the Jews. As a matter of fact, Jesus once said, in Mat 15:24, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel”. The sons of Israel were God’s chosen people. As far back as Exodus 4:22, God said.. “Israel is My son, My first born.” And so it was only fitting that Jesus, God’s “only begotten”, was sent to God’s “first-born”.
As a matter of fact, Christ Himself is said to have “begotten Israel”. God said in Deut 32:18, speaking to Israel; “You neglected the Rock who begat you, and forgot the God who gave you birth.”
1 Cor 10:4 says, “and the Rock was Christ!” So Christ Himself had begotten Israel, He gave birth to them in approximately 1450 BC. And then in approximately 30 AD, Christ Himself was sent back to Israel, to try to reclaim them, because they had neglected the Rock who begat them. Don’t the scriptures contain an absolutely amazing story?
But, the bible tells us, that even though Jesus was sent to the lost sheep of Israel, His death wasn’t ONLY for Israel. For instance, Jesus Himself said, in Luke 24:47; “that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name, to ALL nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”
And we learn from 1 John 2:2, “and He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world”.
So then repentance and salvation was proclaimed BEGINNING from Jerusalem, but then it went into the whole world.
Hearing the Word of God
Now, back to Peter and Cornelius. Cornelius had just told Peter that “we are all here present, to hear ALL that you have been commanded by the Lord.” And it says, in Acts 10:34-36; “And opening his mouth, Peter said; I most certainly understand, that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation, he who fears Him, and does His will, is acceptable to Him.”
So then, when it comes to the OFFER of salvation, “God is no respector of persons. But in every nation, he who fears Him and does His will, is acceptable to Him.”
That is the context, in which God does not show partiality. God offers salvation to everyone; No matter who they are, or where they come from, or what they’ve done in the past. It began with the Jews, but now it extends to everyone. The same conditions of salvation apply to all of us. Everyone must hear His word, believe His word, repent of their sins, be willing to confess their faith in His name, and be willing to be baptized by His authority, for the forgiveness of their sins. No partiality, no respect of persons. No individual, or group of individuals have any preeminence, when it comes to WHO salvation is offered to.
Now let me show you from that very same verse, how God DOES show partiality. Does this verse, teach that everyone is acceptable to God? The answer is, No it does not. Here’s who is acceptable to God.. “He who fears God and does His will”. That’s who is acceptable to God. God will NOT accept everyone and anyone, just because they live and breathe. God is partial towards those who fear Him and do His will.
Here’s another verse that clearly shows the partiality of God. Jesus said quite emphatically, in John 8:24, “If you believe NOT that I am He, you shall die in your sins!” Not very impartial, is it?
What about Luke 13:3, “Unless you repent, you shall all likewise perish.” God definitely favors the one who repents.
How about Mat 10:33, “If you deny Me before men, I will deny you before My Father who is in heaven.”
How about Mark 16:16, “He who believes AND is baptized, shall be saved, but he who disbelieves shall be condemned.”
We could go on and on like this, showing the strict requirements, and the partiality of God, but I’m sure you get the point. But yet the scripture says, “God is no respector of persons..” And once again, here’s the context of that verse. God is no respector of the nationality of any person; “but in EVERY nation, he who fears God and does His will, is acceptable to Him.” The OFFER of salvation is for everyone! That is the limitation, of how God is not a respector of persons.
Everyone Has the Same Opportunity
Everyone who has ever lived, and everyone who ever will live, has the same opportunity to obey God’s will. God gives us all the same word, and He grants us all the same opportunity to repent, and to confess His name, and to be baptized for the forgiveness of our sins. But, here’s where His partiality comes in again.. Jesus said in John 9:4, “We must work the works of Him who sent Me, as long as it is day. Night is coming when no man shall work.” In other words, the opportunity to do God’s will, and to have our sins forgiven, and to be saved eternally.. exists ONLY during this life. “Night is coming when no man shall work.” Even though our spirits will continue to live on after the death of our bodies, God gives us no more opportunity to be saved.
Why does the spirit which inhabits a physical body have the opportunity to be saved, but a spirit that no longer inhabits that body, no longer has that opportunity? Because that’s God’s will. You could say; That’s the partiality of God. God sets the rules.
Now, people want to take “out of context”, the verse that says, “God is no respector of persons.” But they do it to their own destruction. We’ve seen many verses that prove, that God IS a respector of the people who obey his word. People want to say that they don’t HAVE to obey every rule, because that would make God, a respector of persons. Do you see how you can face destruction, with that line of thinking? By taking that verse out of it’s rightful context, you will bring destruction upon yourself, and upon anyone else who will listen to you.
I want to share with you how all of this really “comes home” and becomes very personal. I had a discussion with a Christian, a member of the church, Not a member of this congregation, but still, a member of the church, who doesn’t like the idea of having to repent of each and every sin that he commits. He wants there to be a so called “grace period” involved.
As you know, a common denominational belief is that once you’re saved from you past sins, that you’re always saved, and can never fall back into a lost condition. Well, church members aren’t immune to this kind of thinking. And that’s a very serious situation.
So the person that I was talking to, said; If I know that I’ve committed a sin, but don’t get around to repenting of it right away, then I will remain saved, because if God were to condemn me, that would make God a respector of persons. In other words, since the grace of God has appeared to all men, to condemn me for not repenting, would make God, a God of partiality, and a respector of persons.
Is that what the word of God teaches? That’s a classic example of taking a verse out of context, and making it a total pretext, and very possibly, if not very probably, losing your soul over it. You see, there’s the reason, and then there’s the real reason. A man wants to SAY that the reason God won’t condemn him, is because God is no respector of persons. But the real reason, is that a man doesn’t want to take responsibility for his own sins.
But God’s word says, in 2 Cor 5:10, “For we must ALL appear before the judgment seat of Christ..” And here’s the reason that we must all appear before that judgment seat.. “..that each one may be recompensed for the deeds done in the body, whether good or bad.”
That is the “bible stated” reason, that we must appear before the judgment seat of Christ. That’s the whole purpose of the judgment, to be recompensed; To be rewarded or punished. That verse is as plain as day. Our reward, or our punishment, will come at the judgment, not some time before, and not some time after.
God IS a respector of those who obey Him. Jesus Christ “is the author of salvation to all those who obey Him.” Heb 5:9.
And Jesus said, “If you believe not that I am He, you will die in your sins. John 8:24
He said, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Luke 13:3
He said, “If you deny Me before men, I will deny you before My Father who is in heaven.” Mat 10:33
He said, “He who believes AND is baptized, shall be saved, but he who disbelieves shall be condemned.” Mark 16:16
Jesus said, in Rev 2:7, “To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of THE tree of life, which is in THE paradise of God.”
THE tree of life.. There’s only one tree of life. And it’s in THE paradise of God.. There’s only one paradise of God, and that’s heaven. And that’s the word of God!
May our God bless you always, in the study of His word, and in understanding the whole context of His will.
I truly thank you, and urge you to leave your questions and comments in the space below.