In reading the Bible we must remember that it often speaks of what usually or what should happen, not what always occurs in every case.
Paul said, “If any man hunger, let him eat at home” (I Cor. 11:34). That is where we normally eat. Does he mean this is the only place where we can eat? Is he saying it would be wrong to eat at a restaurant or a park? Of course not (I Cor. 8, 10). People misuse this verse to say you cannot eat in a church building. Paul is correcting an abuse. These Christians were eating a common meal during the Lord’s Supper, so he tells them to do that in the setting where it is normally done. This verse is not an exclusive pattern.
Paul also told the Corinthians, “Let your women keep silence in the churches…and if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home…” (I Cor. 14:34-35). Some say this passage doesn’t apply because if it did then the only women under it would be married women. Young unmarried women and widows have no husband to ask these questions. Is Paul saying married women can’t speak in the church assembly but unmarried women can? Of course not! The simple fact is that Paul mentions wives in verse 35 because that is generally the situation.
Here is another example: “There is a difference also between a wife and a virgin” (I Cor. 7:34). What is the opposite of a married woman? We might say, “an unmarried woman,” and Paul does use those words later in this verse. But why does he say that the opposite of a wife is a virgin when there are many unmarried women that are not virgins? It is because an unmarried woman ought to be a virgin (unless she is a widow or divorcee).  He is speaking of the way things should be. What a rebuke this is to our generation!
Hebrews 12:9 reads, “Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence.” We know that sometimes a child does not respect his parents when they discipline him (Deut. 21:18-21). But the passage in Hebrews stresses the rule, not the exception. Children that are disciplined generally do respect their parents and this is how things ought to be.
In Romans 13:4 Paul said, “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil.” How could Paul say this when governments sometimes persecute Christians? The very government in power at the time Paul wrote this verse eventually killed Christians. But Paul is describing how governments should and generally do function. Almost any nation has a law against stealing. Respect that law and you have no reason to fear. Countries have laws against murdering a neighbor. Obey that law and the authorities will not bother you. In everyday life this is generally the case even under some of the most harsh regimes on earth. The Lord teaches us to be law-abiding citizens, and governments usually appreciate that because there are plenty of criminals in any society.
Remember the key to understanding the Bible: the context.
-Kerry Duke