Reading the Bible Contextually: Pay Attention to the Whole Point

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When we read Paul’s letters they are meticulously crafted and full of rhetoric (the art of making a persuasive argument). There have been entire commentaries devoted to unpacking the rhetoric of the New Testament documents and rightfully so…it is how they made their case in those days.

The obstacle we face today is that the chapters and verses are not usually in tune with the flow of the argument. Arguments get cut off half way through by chapter breaks and thoughts that continue on for some time get left out of the discussion when we are dealing with things one chapter at a time!

One prime example of this is Paul’s discussion of worship in 1 Corinthians. He begins his discussion in chapter 10, gives more specifics in 11 correcting the Corinthians for dividing over the table of the Lord saying they were “not discerning the body” and then spends chapter 12 defining the “body” as the church. Chapter 13 uses the same language of regulation of spiritual gifts used throughout this section and chapter 14 continues on with instructions of how a many gifted church can come together to use those gifts in concert to worship the Lord. That material covers 5 chapters and it all fits together.

So when you are reading scripture, make sure you are hearing the whole point and not just bits and pieces. Often your questions get answered a few chapters later but that takes reading more than a few verses or even a chapter at a time.


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