“The true meaning of a verse is the one provided by its context. Most false doctrines and aberrant teachings arise from neglecting this principle.” -Skip Hetizig, How To Study The Bible, Page 73
There are four steps to a solid context study. Each one plays a vital role in helping us stay aligned with God’s word.
Here we write a few sentences explaining what the surrounding verses are talking about. A good rule of thumb is to look at the ten verses before the passage and ten verses after the passage.
The remote context has a much broader view. Here you should consider the surrounding chapters of the passage that you are studying. When the passage is in a smaller book this would include a summary of the book. If the passage is in a larger book then a good practice is read the paragraph headings in the chapters before and after to get a good understanding of the subjects being addressed.
The important thing to remember in this step is to ask the question of the passage itself.
Who – Who wrote/received this passage?
What – What type of passage is this?
(Narrative, poetry, prophetic, teaching)
When – When was the passage written?
Where – Where was this written? Where was it received?
Why – Why did the author write this book?
How – How does this passage contribute to that purpose?
Are there significant cultural practices, phrases, sayings, etc. talked about in this passage? Use a Study Bible, Bible Dictionaries, Bible Handbooks or whatever else you have available to find any cultural notes.