How to Read the Bible in Context

It's common and easy to pick out a verse, or even a passage, to support a belief that you have.  But context is crucial.  Ryan Donell reminds of this truth, using the illustration that just as we read a book or a letter in entirety, we need to do the same with the Bible.

When you are studying a book or even a passage of the Bible, make sure to ask questions such as:
  • Who is writing?  To whom?
  • Where is the setting?  When is this taking place?
  • What is being said?  What commands or principles are given?  Are those specific for the time and setting?
  • Why is the author writing?  What is his goal?
You can learn more about how to study the Bible with a ROAD Bible study method (which uses the simple guidelines of Read-Observe-Apply-Depend), and from some of these books.  And we need to go beyond mere knowledge of the Bible.  After all, even Satan's demons knows the truth about God (James 2:19), and Satan used scripture as he tried to tempt Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11).  Donell suggests a way to having the Word dwell deeply within you,
The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name "[We] need the Holy Spirit of Truth, and we need the community of believers, but we also need to study books in their entire context. . . .  We have to understand how the miniature stories fit within the larger story and then in the even-larger narrative of the whole Scripture.  But just as The Jesus Storybook Bible says, 'Every story whispers His name.'"

Additionally, if you want to go deeper in God's word, and need some more guidance with keeping each passage in context, here are 6 questions to ask when reading any passage in the Bible, as taken from Puritan principles.

Related Links:


  1. enjoying the blog, joey!

    a friend of mine (a minister in iowa) recently talked about context in a sermon (for us big kids) which she posted online:

  2. Thanks for that link. I totally agree with her that we (myself included) naturally tend to read our own culture into the text, to support our own thoughts & agenda.

    (And I like how she took the time to include and explanation of "Bless her heart" -- probably my favorite southern saying to make fun of.)

  3. Thanks for this post. I was just reading Andy Stanley's new grace book and it gave a beautiful picture of the real context behind the Ten Commandments. Unfortunately, it was about 2 weeks after I just taught a lesson on them! Great book to get some background on key stories though.

    Lindsey @