11/23/15: In Context
When an author uses a new or difficult word, she will often give us a hint as to its meaning by using other more familiar words in the sentences and phrases around it. The more familiar words are known as context clues. As we read the entire sentence or paragraph, we can figure out the meaning of the new word because of the context clue words that have been used.
So it is on a wider scale with phrases. To understand the meaning of the phrase, we must take in the context in which the phrase is said. This is especially true when reading Scripture. If we want to know what a verse means, we must read it in context. Once we understand it in its context, we can then apply its truth accurately to our lives.
A very popular verse of Scripture is found in Philippians 4:19. “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (NKJ). This verse is taken out of context, quoted incorrectly, and then applied inaccurately most of the time. We usually hear people quote it this way: “My God will supply all my needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Two problems:
- First of all, the verse is being said by Paul regarding others. Paul is saying that God will supply what the Philippians need, not what he needs. The verse does not say “God will supply all my needs.” It says, “My God shall supply all your need.”
- Second, the word “need” is singular and comes from the Greek word ‘chreia’ which means in this context “that which is required or necessary for business or employment.”
You see, in context, Paul has just made mention of the fact that the Philippians had helped him in his ministry. They had sent gifts, probably money, to support him. Even when he was at another church (in Thessalonica), they sent aid more than once. (See the entire context in Philippians 4:14-19.) Because of what they had given to him, he responds by saying, “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
It is true that God is able to supply us with everything that we need to live, but this verse pertains to receiving that supply as a result of something else that has been done on our part. Since the Philippians gave to Paul, he is pronouncing a prayer that God bless them back. In other words, may God supply their need for the work they must do, in the same way God has used them to supply his need for the work he had to do.
So how should you apply this verse to your life? Let me ask you another question: What have you done to help the work of ministry in someone else’s life lately? Have you written a check to help a ministry succeed? Have you sent a gift to someone dedicated to teaching the Word? Have you forwarded aid to a missionary, the manager of a homeless shelter, or even to your own pastor? Philippians 4:19 is a verse someone else should be using to pronounce blessing on you in response to what you’ve done to encourage and support their ministry efforts. If you want Philippians 4:19 to apply to you, start by giving to the work of a ministry that has blessed your life.
©2015 Sharon Norris Elliott. Feel free to forward this devotion in its entirety, including this copyright line. Leave comments, ask questions, read past devotions, or subscribe to receive these devotions daily in your e-mail at www.sanewriter.wordpress.com. Also, periodically check in at www.LifeThatMatters.net to see what’s going on in the ministry.
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