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Rightly Understanding God’s Word: Learning Context, Part 2, by Craig S. Keener

Part of the Rightly Understanding God’s Word series by Craig S. Keener.

As appearing in Pneuma Review Fall 2003.

 

Take a course on biblical interpretation with New Testament scholar, Professor Craig S. Keener.

Continued from Part 1 in the Summer 2003 issue

 

Paragraph Context: Checking yourself 

13. What is the “word of God” (or “word of Christ” in most translations) in Romans 10:17? Does it specifically refer to the Bible in this case or to something else?

14. According to 1 Corinthians 13:8-10, when will the gifts of the Spirit pass away? What is the immediate context? (cf. 12:31; 14:1) What is the function of 13:4-6 in the context of the whole letter to the Corinthians? (You may save this question until our study on book-context if you wish.)

15. Is faith in Hebrews 11:1 oriented toward receiving something in the present or toward receiving it in the future? (Start back around 10:25 and read through 12:4.)

16. Revelation 3:20. When Jesus knocks at the door, is He trying to get someone converted? To whom is the verse addressed?

17. When God “gave” his Son (Jn 3:16), does this refer to giving Jesus at His birth in Bethlehem or giving Him to the world when God raised Him from the dead? What does “giving” the Son mean in context?

18. When one seeks first the kingdom, what things are added to one (Matt 6:33)?

19. Who are Christ’s ambassadors in 2 Corinthians 5:20? Whom are they entreating to be reconciled to God?

20. Some people say that the “witnesses” in Hebrews 12:1 are the dead watching us from heaven. But in the context of Hebrews chapter 11, does “witnesses” refer to those who watch us or to those who testified to the truth of God’s claims?

21. Some people claim the promise that no weapon formed against them would prosper (Isaiah 54:17). Is this a guarantee for every individual Christian or for God’s people as a whole protected by His plan for them?

22. Does Proverbs 23:7 mean that whatever we think about ourselves will come true? (“As a person thinks in their heart, so they are.”) Or does it mean something else? (Read 23:6-8.)

23. Does Psalm 18:7-15 refer to Jesus’ second coming? Read 18:4-6, 16-19.

24. Who is the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valley in Song of Solomon 2:1-2?

25. In Matthew 18:18, what does Jesus mean by “binding and loosing”? Does He refer to how to treat demons here, or does He refer to something else? (Read especially 18:15-20.)

26. What is the “coming” to which Jesus refers in John 14:1-3? Does He refer here to His second coming or to something else? (Read 14:4-23, and perhaps 13:36-38.)

27. This final question may be the most difficult one. Read Isaiah 7:14 in context (especially 7:10-16; 8:1-4). In the immediate context, to whom does this newborn son refer? (If your conclusions may disturb you, don’t worry; we will clarify them below. But it is important for you to grapple with the text intelligently in its context first, and not simply to interpret the passage according to how you have seen it used elsewhere.)

 

13. Saving Faith through the Gospel in Romans 10:17

Some people quote Romans 10:17 to support repeating Bible verses to ourselves aloud: “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Of course, repeating the Bible to ourselves is important (if we understand it in context). But those who quote this particular verse to support this practice have neglected the context of Romans 10:17. Paul argues that no one could be saved unless they heard this word, this message of Christ (10:14-15), the “report” of the witnesses (10:16), the “word” in their mouths and hearts (10:8-10). Faith could only come from hearing this word, the gospel of Christ (10:17). In contrast to Hebrews 11:1, where “faith” in context means persevering faith, this passage refers to saving faith. One can’t get saved till one hears the truth about Jesus. This verse doesn’t directly address reciting Bible verses.

 

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Category: Biblical Studies, Fall 2003

About the Author: Craig S. Keener, Ph.D. (Duke University), is F. M. and Ada Thompson Professor of Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. He is author of many books, including Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts (Baker Academic, 2011), the bestselling IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, The Historical Jesus of the Gospels, Gift and Giver: The Holy Spirit for Today, and commentaries on Acts, Matthew, John, Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, and Revelation. In addition to having written more than seventy academic articles, several booklets and more than 150 popular-level articles, Craig is is the New Testament editor (and author of most New Testament notes) for the The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible. He is married to Dr. Médine Moussounga Keener, who is from the Republic of Congo, and together they have worked for ethnic reconciliation in North America and Africa. Craig and Médine wrote Impossible Love: The True Story of an African Civil War, Miracles and Hope against All Odds (Chosen, 2016) to share their story. sites.google.com/site/drckeener

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