Interpreting Bible Verses

Q. Is it correct thinking to take any verse from the Bible and apply it to ourselves. For example, I have friends who love Jeremiah 29:11 saying it gives them great hope. But if I understand it correctly this verse was written to Israel during the Babylonian captivity. It seems like they’re taking a message out of context and applying it to themselves in an effort to make themselves feel better. I know there are verses in the New Testament which are written to the Gentile church, but can all Bible verses be applied to anyone?

A. Here’s what Jeremiah 29:11 says. “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.”

Some Christians have a tendency to believe that all the “good” verses in the Bible are for them, but all the “bad” ones are for someone else. I believe all verses that are presented in a general context are for everyone. John 3:16 or Phil 4:13 are good examples. But verses directed toward a specific group are not always for general application.

The context of Jeremiah 29 concerns the Israelites who were exiled in Babylon. The Lord was reassuring them by promising to bring them back and restore them. In Jeremiah 29:10 He said, “When the 70 years are completed for Babylon I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back.” This tells us the following verse, Jeremiah 29:11, was a promise directed specifically toward them.

God does have plans for the Church, but those plans don’t involve bringing us to a specific place on Earth to prosper us and give us a future there. Paul said, “Our citizenship is in heaven and we eagerly await a Savior from there, who by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body (Phil. 3:20-21).

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