Pastor's Pondering


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Keeping it in Context

by Duane Mabee on October 6, 2022

Sometimes, we quote Bible verses without any thought about their context in the Scripture, but it can be a bit like news agencies quoting politicians.  You can completely change the meaning of the words if you take them out of context. 


Here are two verses that are favorites of many believers.  We often quote them, though, with no thought about how their original context impacts their meaning. 


I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.


I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.


I intentionally haven’t included their references, though some of you already know what they are. 


Think about how you understand those verses.  What do they mean to you?  How do they impact you and how are you most likely to use them in talking with someone else? 


If you don’t already know their references, you might not realize that they are part of the same context, and they work together to communicate Paul’s thoughts.  They are verses 11 and 13 of Philippians 4. 


Paul wrote the book of Philippians while under house arrest in Rome.  He had already been incarcerated for a long time for preaching the gospel to Gentiles.  In that culture, the state did not take care of your needs while you were in custody.  If someone on the outside didn’t provide you with food, clothing and other basic needs, you could starve to death and the state would not step in to keep you alive. 


Think about how that impacts the meaning of these two verses.  While incarcerated, Paul wrote to people on the outside saying, I have learned how to be content even in custody.  He goes on to say he has learned how to be content whether he has a lot or almost nothing.  He has learned to be content when he has plenty to eat and when his starving.  Then he says, “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.”  In other words, Paul could do whatever Christ called Him to do and he could thrive in whatever circumstances Christ put him in, in order to continue spreading the gospel. 


Considering the context, how might these verses apply to you now?