The Enormous Purpose and Intent of Contextual Rendering of God’s Word

For the 50+ years that I have been studying God’s Word the intensity of ‘Contextual Study’ has grown from one year to the next. Upon entering Louisiana College in the Spring of 1969 the idea of ‘context’ was introduced in biblical studies and from that moment until this writing my understanding of purpose and intent of the contextual rendering of God’s Word has never ceased to amaze my heart and mind. 

Over these many decades I have observed far too many teachers standing in a pulpit or in a Sunday School setting literally destroy the intent, purpose AND the integrity of Scripture. I have found it difficult to sometimes listen to some preachers on the radio and television as they dismantle the meaning of a particular text because they have obviously removed their stated text from the environment in which it was originally presented. Jesus, Paul, Peter and others simply did not mean what these well-intentioned men and sometimes women are sometimes saying. “Hogwash!!” Have you ever heard that statement? 

God’s Word is always infallible, inerrant and does not change for anyone…EVER!! And no one can overestimate the importance of remaining within the confines of those words. Many may not like these words to be used while describing Scripture because the Word of God does not use them in describing itself. However, the argument is simple, “God did not give to us an imperfect message concerning Himself.” The inspired writer does say this, “You, however, have followed my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, my faith, my patience, my love, my endurance, as well as the persecutions and sufferings that happened to me in Antioch, in Iconium, and in Lystra. I endured these persecutions, and the Lord delivered me from them all. Now in fact all who want to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But evil people and charlatans will go from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived themselves. You, however, must continue in the things you have learned and are confident about. You know who taught you and how from infancy you have known the holy writings, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:10-17 NET2. These 8 verses point to the necessity of context that captures the purpose and intent of the infallible and inerrant Word of God.

Isaiah 7:14. This verse has seen a great deal of discussion in the history of interpretation. The text of the verse from the NET Bible is as follows:

‘Look, this young woman is about to conceive and will give birth to a son. You, young woman, will name him Immanuel.’

The most visible issue surrounding this verse is the translation of the Hebrew word עַלְמָה (’almah). The NET Bible uses the phrase “young woman,” while many translations use the word “virgin.” The arguments center upon two main points: the actual meaning of the term as it is used in Hebrew, and the use of this verse in the New Testament. There is a great deal of debate about the actual meaning of the Hebrew word. However, in the New Testament when this verse is cited in Matthew 1:23 the Greek word παρθένος (parqenos) is used, and this word can mean nothing but “virgin.” Therefore, many people see Isaiah 7:14 as a prophecy about the virgin birth with Matthew 1:23 serving as a “divine commentary” on the Isaiah passage which establishes its meaning. The interplay of these issues makes a resolution quite complex. It is the opinion of the translators and editors that the Hebrew word used in Isaiah 7:14 means “young woman” and actually carries no connotations of sexual experience, so the grammatical context of the verse in the Old Testament is in our opinion fairly straightforward. Neither does the historical context of Isaiah 7:14 point to any connection with the birth of the Messiah: in its original historical context, this verse was pointing to a sign for King Ahaz that the alliance between Syria and Israel which was threatening the land of Judah would come to nothing. The theological context of Isaiah 7:14 is also limited: it is a presentation of God’s divine power to show himself strong on behalf of his people. The role or birth of the Messiah does not come into view here. So the historical and theological contexts of the verse support the grammatical: the word עַלְמָה (’almah) means “young woman” and should be translated as such. Within the book of Isaiah itself, however, the author begins to develop the theological context of this verse, and this provides a connection to the use of the passage in Matthew. In Isaiah 8:9-10 the prophet delivers an announcement of future victory over Israel’s enemies; the special child Immanuel, alluded to in the last line of v. 10, is a guarantee that the covenant promises of God will result in future greatness. The child mentioned in Isaiah 7:14 is a pledge of God’s presence during the time of Ahaz, but he also is a promise of God’s presence in the future when he gives his people victory over all their enemies. This theological development progresses even further when another child is promised in Isaiah 9:6-7 who will be a perfect ruler over Israel, manifesting God’s presence perfectly and ultimately among his people. The New Testament author draws from this development and uses the original passage in Isaiah to make the connection between the child originally promised and the child who would be the ultimate fulfillment of that initial promise. The use of Isaiah 7:14 in Matthew 1:23 draws upon the theological development present in the book of Isaiah, but it does not change the meaning of Isaiah 7:14 in its original context.” https://bible.org/netbible/index.htm?pre.htm.

The enormous purpose and intent of contextual rendering of God’s Word must not be ignored. Jesus is Lord.

About Bob Williford

Conservative Southern Baptist pastor, missionary, and personal evangelist. An avid supporter of Texas Tech Athletics. Enjoy oil painting, writing and woodworking. My wife, children, and grandchildren are my joy. Reading and writing are great for relaxing......
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