Reader Question: Are You Using Scripture Out of Context?

Dear Jennifer,

I am one of the women’s ministry leaders at our church and am now facilitating the Missing Pieces Bible study. God has totally met us in this study! Every week people come up to me and share (and they are sharing in the study as well) how God has been revealing Himself to them. It’s so awesome to see people changed before your eyes and truths being revealed. God is incredible! Thank you so much for letting God use you in this way. The way God has gifted you to teach his word—it’s gentle and kind, yet firm in His absolute truths. (I hope that makes sense.) It’s like we are sitting at a table together every week, drinking our coffee and talking, and like a true friend does, you gently challenge us on some things in God’s Word. Love it!

I have a question about the Matthew 18:20 verse that you referenced on Week 3, Day 5 (pg.74). I am taking an Edwards class right now with my pastor and we are learning to be careful not to take things out of context in the Bible. [We are taught to] read the verses before the one verse we are looking at, and if appropriate, after, also, so we can understand the context of what is being said. In the Matthew 18:20 verse, isn’t this in the context of church discipline? God is omnipresent, so He is with me all the time and also when I’m with my fellow sisters and brothers in Christ. Am I misunderstanding this? I guess I’m not sure what you mean by using this verse.  Could you help me to understand?

Thank you again for being such a faithful servant of God!

Blessings and Grace,

Cathy

Jennifer’s Answer:

Hi Cathy, thanks for all your kind, encouraging words, and thanks for leading the Missing Pieces study. I pray God will continue to lead you as you lead your ladies.

About Matthew 18:20…you are correct, that verse is in the context of Jesus teaching his followers about how to deal with each other correctly when there is conflict. Yet, I don’t think using that verse as evidence of God’s presence is out of context. Sometimes verses taken out of context really misrepresent the truth and intention of the verse. But, in this case, this verse is used independently of the context rather than out of the context. I don’t believe the use of this verse in the context of that day of study misrepresents the truth or intention of the verse.

Because God is omnipresent, He is with us if we are in a crowd, solo or with a few friends—friends that may be believers or unbelievers. God’s presence when “two or three are gathered in His name” is not reserved only for a gathering for church discipline. Matthew 18: 20 seems to me to be an affirmation from Christ that when his children have to deal with the rough stuff of confrontation/discipline, He is with them; they don’t go it alone.

To me, it is as if God is saying, “You know how I promised I am with you always, everywhere, all the time?  Remember that I am omnipresent?  Well, this is another one of those situations you may encounter where you will need my presence, and I promise that even in this situation, I am there.”  I don’t want in any way to misrepresent God with that example, but, that is my understanding of Jesus’ promise in that verse.

Now, all that said, this is my understanding/opinion after consideration and a prayer for wisdom. I am totally fallible and would expect if you still have questions, that you ask your pastor or another Christian you respect. More than anything, we want to protect the integrity, truth and intention of God’s Word.  So, pray for wisdom sister, and teach according to how God’s Spirit leads you!

What other comments do you have for our friend? Leave a comment here.

Many blessings,

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