The first rule of biblical hermeneutics (interpreting messages) is to read the text. The second rule of biblical hermeneutics is to keep reading. The best interpreter of Scripture is Scripture.
Here are a few other examples of passages that are commonly misinterpreted as a result of removing them from their biblical contexts.
“Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires.”
This promise guarantees not gratification of whimsical self-oriented desire, but that the desires of the one who delights in the Lord will accord with the “good, pleasing, and perfect will of God” (Rom 12.2). Jesus Christ reiterates the same principle when he invites his followers to ask whatever they will in his name and he will do it (John 14.13-14). The principle conveys the idea that anything asked “in Jesus’ name” is asked as though Jesus himself were asking it.
“Do not banish me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.”
This Psalm does not indicate that God may revoke from the believer his indwelling Holy Spirit, thereby reneging on His promise to a true convert. Rather, David—likely reflecting on the LORD’s revoking his “anointing” of Saul’s kingship (1 Sam 15.10-35; 1 Sam 16.1)—implores the LORD to be gracious to him and not relegate him to Saul’s fate. Neither covenantal relationship nor loss of salvation is in view here. Further, because neither Saul nor David were indwelt by the Holy Spirit, no parallel equation can be made here, legitimately, with new covenant relationship between God and the believer.
“And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time” (KJV, emphasis added).
Contrary to Seventh Day Adventist (and others’) teaching, this passage does not indicate that the Roman Catholic Pope is the antichrist because Constantine changed the Sabbath to Sunday. The KJV rendering of “times” refers not to “Saturday” but to religious festivals. (Moreover, Constantine did not change the Sabbath to Sunday.)
What are some texts you’ve heard taken out of context?