Why Context Is Important When Studying Scripture

1 Corinthians 13
New International Version

13 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Such a beautiful chapter right? We’ve heard this at weddings. We’ve heard this at vow renewals. The chapter is usually known as the love chapter of 1 Corinthians.

The word for love described here in the Greek language is “Agape” which means the highest form of love, charity. It also can mean the love of God for man or the love of man for God.

Yes, this form of love is the purist love one could give to another. While I would like to think this type of love would describe the love in my marriage, that wasn’t the original intent of this scripture.

When we use this scripture to describe our marriages, it’s not necessarily wrong but it is definitely taken out of context. Believe it or not, Paul was describing to the church in Corinth what a healthy church looks like.

In the chapter before, he is describing how all members of the church are like the members of a body, each has its function. He also explains that the church is the body of Christ.

When he writes 1 Corinthians 13, he is ACTUALLY REFERING TO HOW THE CHURCH MEMBERS SHOULD LOVE ONE ANOTHER. Mind blowing right? As a church, we are called to love one another with the HIGHEST FORM OF LOVE POSSIBLE!

If you really want to see the complete picture in context, read 1 Corinthians 12-14. I hope some day we will see the church, that is the Body of Christ, united with not a sense of entitlement but Agape love, on earth before the day of redemption.

Think of how healthy the church would be if we all treated each other as the chapter above suggests we should. Think of how healthy the world would be if we were interested in loving one another with THAT love. Agape love.

Context is important, especially with scripture.


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