One of the most crucial ways in which we acknowledge the importance of CONTEXT in exposition is by dealing with the biblical storyline. Specifically, when dealing with any New Testament text, we simply must consider how the writer is utilizing the Old Testament. Recently, I heard an instruction given by Jim Johnston from Tulsa Bible Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma related to the Gospel of Mark. It was an excellent talk on this subject and here are some key takeaways that might be helpful to any expositor who seeks to handle the text well:
(1) Think of the Old Testament as good “baggage” when you come to deal with New Testament passages. Just as every person has a background that must be taken into account when you seek to understand them, so does the text with which you are dealing. Be sure to unpack it in order to correct understand what the writer is trying to say to us. Failing to do is to jump into the middle of the story, rather than at the beginning.
(2) Biblical writers are thoughtful writers but they assume a high level of biblical literacy. For example, in the gospel of Mark, he does not explain to the reader who Isaiah is, who David is, who Abraham, Issac and Jacob are, nor does he tell us what the Passover is. He assumes that you will “get” the significance of the apparel of John the Baptist and make the connection to Elijah the prophet.
(3) Once again, using Mark as an example, it is significant to note what the writer does not assume the reader knows. For example, Mark does not assume knowledge of extra biblical traditions in his time (distinguished from Old Testament material), Aramaic words, or the value of currency in Palestine.
I find it interesting that the expositor must work to understand the Old Testament background—that which is accessible to us—but clarification is given regarding things outside the focus of Scripture. In other words, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit did not give to us in the Gospel of Mark information that we can go and learn from ourselves but did give us that which falls outside of the pages of Scripture.