Gilbert Tripp the founder of Tripp Bible Institute once told me something that changed my life. He said that it is important to read the scriptures that proceed with certain popular verses in order to understand them in context. More than likely every Christian has heard or quoted "We walk by faith and not by sight." This is usually taught regarding difficult circumstances where we have been told to not look at what is going on but to trust our Heavenly Father. When this Bible verse is utilized alone it does appear to indicate what has been emphasized from pulpits. Imagine my surprise a few days ago when I did what Gilbert Tripp advised and read the preceding verses. The chapter begins (ESV) 1 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked.
In this chapter, the Apostle Paul has written a letter to the Corinthian Christians and he is addressing the desire to be with the Lord rather than in this earthly body. He goes on to say 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. The Apostle is telling the believers that whatever we endure in this earthy body we must remember that the Lord has prepared something much better for us which is a heavenly body. He then follows with 6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. Please read the entire chapter during your leisure and you will see that Paul is talking about the desire to be in heaven and that we walk by faith because non of us have yet seen Christ, the Father, or our heavenly home.
Rightly dividing the word
There is nothing wrong with walking in faith regarding situations and trusting the Lord above and beyond what we see with our physical eyes. There are certainly a number of other scriptures that indicate we should do so. 2 Corinthians 5:7, however, if rightly divided is not one of them. This chapter along with the key verse is referring to believing that Christ died for our sins and has prepared a place for those who trust Him. The companion verse that comes to mind is John 20:29 (KJV) Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. In this text Thomas had said he would not believe that his Lord had risen from the dead unless he saw for himself the nail prints in his hands and feet. After Jesus appeared Thomas acknowledged that it was He and this is when our Savior made the statement in verse 29. Together with 2 Corinthians 5:7, this scripture is addressing faith in the second coming even though we have not actually seen the Lord.
The down side
There are probably a number of believers in Christ whose faith has been damaged because 'Walk by faith and not by sight' has been turned into an anthem and misquoted. I, myself, have walked by faith in certain situations, ignoring signs that something was wrong and then wondering why my faith was not rewarded. How many have missed the opportunity to prepare for the death of a loved one because they blindly quoted they were walking by faith instead of paying attention to what they were seeing right in front of them? How many became disillusioned when a marriage failed because they did not pay attention to signs their spouse wanted out and they simply quoted 2 Corinthians 5:7? This Hub is not to diminish anyone's personal faith but only to put the much-quoted verses in proper context. Walking by faith is indeed how Peter walked on water and when he looked at the circumstances he began to sink. Remember that Jesus told him to come and had He not and Peter simply jumped into the sea he might have drowned. The bottom line is to listen to His promptings through the Holy Spirit rather than misquote a scripture like a magic charm when it might not apply to your current situation.
Balance is important
The Lord can certainly drop 'Walk by faith" in our spirits if He so chooses and this scripture has at times benefited many believers in Christ including myself. This does not negate the fact that in the text Paul is encouraging the Christians in Corinth to have faith in Christ and heaven even though they had seen neither. Paul had a personal encounter with the Lord on his way to Damascus and all believers should have personal encounters with Him through His Holy Spirit. Believers should also be careful not to misuse scripture as if it is a magic wand and repeat certain texts like a mantra which is not faith but repetition. Years ago in certain denominations, it was common to hear people saying "I'm blessed and highly favored because preachers told them to confess this. In context, the angel Gabriel said this to Mary when he announced she would give birth to Jesus. No woman on earth has been more favored than the one who gave birth to the Savior. This was a specific statement to Mary yet preachers have women saying it in the hopes of obtaining blessings. Understanding the context of Bible verses and keeping balance is very important. Walking by faith also includes believing that in spite of the trials of this world we will see Christ and also our loved ones who passed on believing in him.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Cheryl E Preston
Margaret Minnicks from Richmond, VA on August 28, 2021:
Cheryl, you are exactly right. Many people just take a scripture or a portion of a scripture and try to make it fit their situation without examining the context first.
I have been a Bible teacher for over 60 years. I always teach that in order to understand a scripture, it is important to understand its context as you have stated. Therefore, it is extremely important to read what comes before a particular verse. In other words, a person should understand what the scripture MEANT THEN before one can understand what it MEANS NOW.
Cheryl E Preston (author) from Roanoke on August 27, 2021:
Thank you for reading,
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 27, 2021:
This is an excellent article, Cheryl. I just read this chapter this morning. I think there are probably many verses that we do not understand in the context that they were written. Thanks for sharing this information.