"It's Very Straight Forward"
Yes, In Context It Is!

by Bill Reeves

June 15, 2004

   Recently one commented: “Well, it is very straight forward,” and then quoted part of a verse of Scripture. His quote was accurate but his conclusion was erroneous because he completely ignored the context in which the quote is found! This is a common error on the part of religionists. Let us note some examples of this.

   1. “It is very straight forward: By grace have you been saved through faith (Eph. 2:8,9).” The conclusion drawn was that baptism is not essential to salvation. “No baptism there," the person remarked. Well, neither is repentance, nor confession of faith in Christ, specifically mentioned in the verse! So, are they also non-essential to salvation? But, the error of the Baptist friend is in his ignoring the context in which Paul wrote those words. Salvation is not by the works of the law of Moses, but by God’s grace conditioned upon man’s faith. Here faith is used comprehensively, including all that man must do to be saved: hear, repent, confess and be baptized.

   2. “It is very straight forward: these signs shall follow them that believe (Mk. 16:17).” The conclusion drawn was that miracles are wrought today. "We are believers today," the person remarked. But, the error of the Pentecostal friend is in his ignoring the context in which those words were written. They were not directed in context to every believer in the world for all time. (Can every believing Pentecostal work miracles? Does he?). Only the apostles, and those upon whom they imparted miraculous gifts, were able to perform miracles, but even they had to believe in order to do so.

   3. “It is very straight forward: your contribution unto them and unto all (2 Cor. 9:13).” The conclusion drawn was that money from the local church’s treasury can be spent on benevolence for non-saints. But, the error of the institutional brother is in ignoring the context in which Paul wrote those words. The word “them” in context refers to the saints in Jerusalem that on that occasion were needy, and the word “all” refers to all saints elsewhere on any other such occasion. The next verse makes it crystal clear that only saints are under consideration. Paul in verse 1, telling the Corinthians that the benevolence commanded was for saints, would not in verse 13 praise them for dispersing said benevolence to non-saints!

   4. “It is very straight forward: he that marrieth her when she is put away committeth adultery (Matt. 19:9).” The conclusion drawn was that any time a man marries a put-away woman he commits adultery. But, the error of our brother is in ignoring the context in which Jesus spoke those words. He was speaking of a hypothetical case in which a wife is put away without any fornication in evidence; she was put away for just any cause (ver. 3). Jesus did not categorize wives and then state that any wife of that category (or, in that “box”) was prohibited from remarriage simply because of being of that category. As Jesus did not categorize the “putting-away man,” he did not categorize the “put-away woman.” (See Lk. 16:18). He stated simply that in a case where no fornication is in evidence, two particular men commit adultery: one, the husband, in putting away his wife for just any cause, upon remarriage commits adultery; and the other man, who might marry the wife put away not for fornication, upon marrying her commits adultery.

   The brother may protest, saying: “But Jesus said that whoever marries a put-away woman commits adultery!” Yes. However Jesus in context was talking about a man’s marrying a woman put away where no fornication was the cause. But the controversy today concerns a case in which fornication is in evidence! Where the cause of fornication is in evidence the divine permission to repudiate and to remarry obtains. It is God who joins two in a marriage bond, and who alone can release one from that bond, giving the divine permission to repudiate and remarry. Nothing that ungodly men might do (in and out of courthouses) can nullify or invalidate that divine permission that is in the hands of God alone!

   Words can be cited and used to mean anything in the world if the context is ignored! Many, both brethren and sectarians, make this mistake.

by Bill Reeves

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