In our last visit we considered one “context” we need to understand if we want to interpret the Bible accurately – the historical setting. Today let’s consider another “context:” the context of the portion to be studied.
Is it mere history, or is it written in a poetic style, using metaphor or parable? Do you understand the meaning of the words used? Answers to these questions are important to understand what is communicated. Even if you only want to focus on a sentence or paragraph, the context in which these are found is important to consider if you want to properly understand what they are saying.
An example of this is found in 1st Corinthians 2:9 where Paul writes, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” Taken by itself, many think this refers to what we will experience and understand when we get to heaven. But if you consider the context of what is said in the whole chapter you’ll see that Paul was referring to what the Holy Spirit reveals to believers while they’re still in this life on earth.
This verse actually introduces Paul’s explanation of how God revealed these marvelous truths to men and inspired them to infallibly declare or write them down. He also explains that only believers will understand and appreciate what God has revealed. To non-believers all of this is mere foolishness.
Understanding the immediate context helps us understand what Paul meant in 1st Corinthians 2:9.