Application answer the question: What does it mean to me personally? What truths can I put into practice? What changes should I make in my life?
You have observed and interpreted. You are now ready to do the final step of Bible study: application. Application is the goal of all Bible study because in the end the Scriptures demand a response and changed lives.
With observation and interpretation as the groundwork, you are now ready to ask the question: how does the basic truth(s) of this book or this passage relate to my life in the 21st century?
We have listed below four questions which are taken from Josh McDowell’s book, A Guide to Understanding Scripture. You may apply the questions to the overall truths of the whole book or to a specific passage. This may take some time waiting on God. Don’t take this step lightly.
1. What are the basic, timeless truths in this book or passage?
2. How does this truth apply to my life? Be specific.
3. In view of these truths, what changes should I make in my life?
4. How do I plan to carry out these changes? Be specific.
5. Commit these changes to the Lord in prayer.
In determining the basic truths, consider the following questions. Where is God specifically encouraging me? Where is He asking me to change? If it is a didactic (teaching) passage or book, then ask these questions:
What am I to believe?
Are there attitudes or actions that I need to change?
What do I learn about my relationship with God, with people?
What is the Good News for me?
If the book or passage is a narrative, then consider some of the following questions to get you thinking:
What character do I identify with?
What can I learn from that character’s life?
What were his responses to God?
Or perhaps a certain event in the book coincides with where you are in your walk with God.
Application is looking into the mirror of the Scriptures and walking away a changed person.
Pitfalls In Application
According to Josh McDowell, there are some pitfalls in application that one needs to be aware of:
1. Mistaking interpretation for application.
2. Having an emotional response to a Biblical truth but not following through to put the truth into action .
3. Frustration may develop from not seeing quick results and changes in one’s life.
“You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”
Are You Eating Right? Just as the tree of life, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil were found in the garden of Eden, life and death can be found within the boundary of reading God’s word (Rhema and logos). If we rely solely on our mental capacity in studying the Word of God, we are partaking the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Knowledge itself, though good, never imparts life. Rather, it is through the channel of knowledge that death crept in at first (Gen. 2:17). On the other hand, when we wait upon the Lord and allow the Holy Spirit to illuminate the Word of God for us, we will taste of the tree of life. How to Eat from the Tree of Life? The principle of the eating of the tree of life is simply dependence. Anything outside this principle belongs to the tree of knowledge. (John 15:5)
As we have emphasized, application is the goal of all Bible study. How do we reach this goal? It is through meditation. Daily confession and meditation of God’s Word cultivate good thoughts. As time passes, these thoughts become pictures or visions in our imaginations. When these thoughts saturate the mind, a strong desire to fulfill them will spring forth from our hearts.
In the Old Testament, there are two Hebrew words which are translated as ‘meditate’, namely ‘Siyach’ and ‘Hagah’. ‘Siyach’ means contemplating deep thoughts by pondering and turning them over in the mind verbally or non-verbally. ‘Hagah’ means purifying and clearing the mind to direct it towards one goal.
Accordingly, meditation is the devotional practice of pondering the Scriptures either by musing or by conversing with oneself in a murmur, and/or in a loud manner. It’s a habit, an inclination of the mind towards confessing and musing over a particular Scripture until fresh illumination and insight dawn upon one’s soul. It can never be fruitful in a distracted mind or in a divided and anxious heart. To a receptive heart, the Holy Spirit illuminates the word as a revelatory rhema. To cultivate and nurture spiritual mindedness, one needs to exercise great diligence. There is no short cut to success in meditation. Real faith comes through this laborious process. The true mediator lives a life of separation. Holiness is a prerequisite for success in meditation. If the mind is holy so shall the person be holy too.
In meditation, it is not how much you READ the Bible
but how much it REACHES you!
Source: The Musing Mind, by Jedidiah Tham, Living Lilies
Insights on Applying the Scripture
In applying Scripture to your life, the following questions may be helpful:
What does the passage teach? Is it general or specific? Does it apply only to specific people? To a cultural problem of the Day? To a certain time in history? Has it been superseded by a broader teaching? For example, in the Old Testament, Jews were not allowed to eat certain foods or to wear a certain combination of materials. Are those prohibitions applicable to Christians today?
Does this section of the Scripture expose any error in my beliefs or my behavior? Are there any commandments that I have not obeyed? are there any wrong attitudes or motives in my life that the Scriptures bring to light?
What is God's instruction to me as His child? Are there any new truths to be believed? Are there any new commandments to be acted upon? Are there any new insights I am not pursue? Are there any promises I am to embrace?
When applying Scripture , beware of the following:
Applying cultural standards rather than biblical standards.
Attempting to strengthen a legitimate truth by using Scripture incorrectly.
Applying Scripture out of prejudice from past training or teaching.
One of the apostle Paul' concerns for Timothy, his son in the faith, was that Timothy learn to dandle God's Word in a way that would please the Lord (2 Timothy 2:15). Someday we too will want to give a good account of our stewardship of God's Word. Did we handle it accurately? Were we gentle and reasonable about our faith, giving honor to those whom God has called to lead us, while at the same time searching Scripture ourselves to understand its truths? Did we allow God's living and active Word to change our lives?
Observation, interpretation, and application to transformation. This is the goal of our study of the Word of God. Through it we are changed from glory to glory into the image of Jesus.
Regardless of how much you know about God’s Word, if you don’t apply what you learn, Scripture will never benefit your life. To be a hearer of the Word and not a doer is to deceive yourself (James 1:22-25). This is why application is so vital. Observation and interpretation are the “hearing” of God’s Word. With application, you will be transformed into Christ’s image. Application is the embracing of the truth, the “doing” of God’s Word. It is this process that allows God to work in your life.
Second Timothy 3:16-17 says: “Al Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” Here is the key to application: Apply Scripture in the light of its teaching, reproof, correction, and instructions on life.
Teaching (doctrine) is what the Word of God says on any particular subject. That teaching, whatever the subject, is always true. Therefore, everything that God says in His Word about any given subject is absolute truth.
The first step in application is to find out what the Word of God says on any particular subject through accurate observation and correct interpretation of the text. Once you understand what the Word of God teaches, your are then obligated before God to accept that truth and to live by it. When you have adjusted any false concepts or teaching you may have believed, and embraced the truth revealed in God’s Word, then you have applied what you have learned.
Reproof exposes areas in your thinking and behavior that do not align with God’s Word. Reproof is finding out where you have thought wrongly or have not been doing what God says is right. The application of reproof is to accept it and agree with God, acknowledging where you are wrong in thought or in behavior. This is how you are set free from unbelief, from sin.
Correction is the next step in application and often the most difficult. Many times we can see what is wrong, but we are reluctant to take the necessary steps to correct it. God has not left you without help or without answers in this step of correcting what is wrong. Sometime the answers are difficult to find, but they are always there, and any child of God who wants to please his or her Father, and ask for help, will be shown by the Spirit of God how to do so.
Many time correction comes by simply confessing and forsaking what is wrong. Other times, God gives definite steps to take. An example of this is in Matthew 18:15-17, in which God tells us how to approach a brother when he sins. When you apply correction to your actions and attitudes, God will work in you to do His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). Joy will follow obedience.
Training in righteousness: Although God’s Word is profitable for reproof and correction, the Bible was also given to us as a handbook for living. As we spend time studying His Word, God equips us through:
and the lives of biblical characters and insights into God’s character and dealings with man
Scripture has everything you need to meet any and all situations of life so that you “may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” The most effective application takes place as you go before the Lord and talk with Him about those things that you have read, studied, seen, and heard.