Reading a verse in isolation creates a context vacuum that is quickly filled with our own life context, which creates a new meaning. God’s intended meaning is overwritten by our own meaning.
It’s easy to overwrite the meaning of God’s word. We can do it without trying because the process is almost automatic. That’s why we need to vigilantly develop good Bible reading habits.
Reading a Bible verse in context is necessary to understand the verse’s meaning. That’s because the context—the text before and after a verse—determines the meaning of the verse. Change the context, and you change the meaning.
Consider the following phrase:
“He needs a pitcher.”
Does the person need a water jug or baseball player? You don’t know because you lack context. It becomes clear when I add more text.
“The coach called. He needs a pitcher. Can one of the other players fill in?”
It’s obvious that “pitcher” is referring to a baseball player. Consider a different context, though:
“The waiter is asking for your help. He needs a pitcher. Fill it with water and bring it to him.”
Changing the context changes the meaning of the word “pitcher” (now it means jug).
What happens, then, when you read a Bible verse but don’t read the context? Two unfortunate consequences occur. First, you ignore the words the Holy Spirit provided to help you understand the meaning of the verse. You may miss out on what God is trying to communicate. Second, you create what I call a context vacuum. When there’s no context, your mind instantly fills the void with something from your experience. It’s an automatic process.