Truth Out of Context Is No Truth At All

Have you ever heard someone quote a Scripture and think as they wrongly apply it to their situation, “Hey, that’s not right?”

Well, I have plenty of times. I believe that one of the most misquoted Scriptures is Jeremiah 29:11. It has been particularly abused by those in the prosperity camp.

Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (NIV).

Wow, that is just a real feel good verse, especially if you are ego centric. If you interpret every promise in Scripture to be about you, then God’s promise in Jeremiah is just what America wants to hear. It makes us feel so warm all over to think that God is all about blessing us here and now.

The problem is that many people wrongly interpret this passage to apply to almost any thing or situation. It is read out of context, which leads people to false conclusions about God in their difficult circumstances.

Words mean things, and you cannot interpret the Scriptures to mean things that God never meant them to say. That is where context is critical to understand how to apply the Bible.

Jeremiah 29:11 is a promise said to the Jewish people who were in pre-exile. It was not spoken to any modern person to apply to their financial woes today. Sure, it can reveal something about God’s character and how He works. But the promise was not made to people today.

Voddie Baucham, a preacher and teacher, recently spoke on this topic at North Point Community Church in Atlanta. I found his sermon online. Voddie said, “The promise wasn’t made to you or me. Now, the promise applies to you so don’t get too sad here. But there is a difference between a promise that was made to you and one that applies to you.”

Voddie’s point is that you have to understand the promise in context and get the gist of it before you try to make application to your circumstance. This is not a simple game of cut and paste theology.

The truth is that Jeremiah 29:11 was made to a group of people not an individual. These people never saw in their lifetime the fulfillment of the promise that God made. Actually, the promise was meant to encourage them to press on despite the coming hardships. The promise was not about a blessing for an individual person nor the good life here and now.

Jeremiah 29:11 is about leaving a legacy of faith and holding onto God’s Word so that preceding generations can enter into God’s promises. Voddie did a really good job of explaining the concept in a two-part sermon series on legacy.

Here are the details: The sermons can be viewed or listened to by visiting

7/8/07  Multi-Generational Promise
Legacy, Part 1  Voddie Baucham
7/15/07  Getting Your House in Order
Legacy, Part 2  Voddie Baucham         

So what is your legacy? Is it based on truth or a misunderstanding of God’s promises?

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