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Lesson 14: Life Application

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There is a story of a young man who was looking for direction in life. “What should I do with my life?” he prayed. He opened his Bible and put his finger in it—hoping that God would give him direction. It landed on Matthew 27:5, which read, “Then he went out and hanged himself.” Perplexed, not understanding what the text meant for his life, he tried again. This time his finger landed in Luke 10:37, which read, “So Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do the same.’” Becoming nervous, he tried one more time, with his finger landing in John 13:27. It read, “Jesus said to him, ‘What you are about to do, do quickly.’” Though humorous, this story illustrates the dangerous ways in which some people are tempted to apply Scripture.

What are some principles that will help with applying Scripture? For both laymen and serious Bible students, application is often the hardest part of Bible study. Many people have left their devotions or a sermon struggling with the question, “What do I do with what I’ve learned?” Application is the “so what” after understanding what a passage means. It is taking a passage originally written to an ancient world and applying it in the contemporary world. In this lesson, we will consider principles that help with proper application.

Recognize The Dispensation

Throughout history, there have been appalling misapplications of Scripture, such as with early Americans burning witches during the Salem Witch Trials, or the enslavement of Africans. These tragic errors often happen, in part because when studying the Bible, people don’t recognize the different dispensations in Scripture and therefore misapply the texts. It has often been said, “Everything written in the Bible is written for us, but everything written is not necessarily written to us.” This is why recognizing dispensations, or epochs of biblical history, is so important.

Recognizing dispensations essentially means asking the question, “Am I part of the people to whom this portion of Scripture was originally written?” For example, Israel was originally called to practice the Sabbath by not working from Friday sundown until Saturday sundown. Those who broke this law were to be stoned (Num 15:32-36). Since Paul taught that we are not under the Old Covenant but under the New Covenant (cf. Rom 6:14), we as Christians don’t practice this regulation, and we certainly don’t stone anybody. In addition, the necessity of practicing certain dietary restrictions and festivals given to Israel were removed in the New Covenant (Col 2:16-17).

Recognizing dispensations is also important when considering prophetic literature. For instance, in Revelation 13, the Antichrist and his prophet command people to accept the mark of the beast, and those who won’t, cannot buy or sell. One must ask, “Has this prophecy been fulfilled or is it still anticipating future fulfillment?” If this passage awaits a later fulfillment, it would be wrong to directly apply this to people in the current dispensation by saying something like: “Do not accept ______ or you will have accepted the mark of the beast and therefore are under God’s judgment!” In addition, there are prophecies that only fit in the millennial kingdom—such as people living extraordinarily long lives during that period, and those who die before 100 years of age being considered accursed (Is 65:20). Again, since this passage awaits a later fulfillment, it would be wrong to declare that somebody who currently doesn’t live to 100 is cursed by God. To apply those promises to this age would be to misapply them. Recognizing dispensations is important for proper application.

If we are going to recognize dispensations, we must first ask, “What is a dispensation?” Dispensations are periods of time or stages in biblical history where God has given particular moral responsibilities to his people. A dispensation is often marked by:

  • the giving of certain responsibilities
  • a specific time period these responsibilities last
  • the end of previous responsibilities
  • the continuation of other responsibilities

What are some questions for us to ask in order to discern the dispensation of a passage?

  • Who was the passage originally written to or intended for (Israel, the church, people during the tribulation, etc.)?
  • Are the principles taught in this passage timeless, or do they apply only to the original audience or a specific future audience (such as with end time prophecy)?
  • If the passage is prophetic, has the prophecy already been fulfilled?

What are the dispensation periods in the Bible and the regulations given in them? Below is a brief summary of commonly recognized periods:

1. Innocence (from the creation of man to the fall of man). Adam and Eve were called to tend the garden and to be fruitful and multiply. They were called to eat only plant life. The only clear prohibition given was to not eat of the tree of good and evil. This dispensation ended in Genesis 3, when man ate of the forbidden tree and sin entered the world.

2. Conscience (from the fall to the flood). God did not give rules to humanity during this time. Scripture records no “thou shalts!” or “thou shalt nots!” Humanity was ruled by their God-given moral conscience, which they clearly rejected (cf. Rom 2:14-15). Genesis 6:5 says, “But the Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind had become great on the earth. Every inclination of the thoughts of their minds was only evil all the time.”

3. Human Government (from after the flood). After the flood, God established capital punishment for the death of a human, whether the murder was committed by another person or an animal (Gen 9:2-6). This represented the establishment of civil government. God told Noah that whoever shed the blood of man by man, his blood would be shed. In addition, God said that both plants and animals would be food for humans.

4. Promise (from the patriarchs). God chose to make a covenant with Abraham and his seed to bless the world (cf. Gen 12:1-3, 22:15-18, Gal 3:7). This was fulfilled in Israel, who became the stewards of God’s law and the temple. It was ultimately fulfilled through the promised Jewish messiah—Jesus Christ—who has truly blessed the world by providing a means of reconciliation with God through his death for sin and resurrection. This promise will be fulfilled completely when Christ returns and rules on the earth.

5. The Mosaic Law (from Mount Sinai to the cross). This covenant was established with Israel on Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments and the law. God called Israel to be a priestly nation that would bless the world. Israel was required to obey the Mosaic law. If they did, God would bless them, and if they did not, God would curse them (Dt 28). The Mosaic law was perfectly fulfilled through Christ’s righteous life and death for sin, which paid the penalty for everyone’s sins (cf. Matt 5:17, Rom 10:4). The Mosaic law was temporary and ended upon Christ’s death (cf. 2 Cor 3:7-11).

6. Church (from Pentecost to the Rapture/Second Coming). In Acts 2, at Pentecost, the promised Holy Spirit came upon the church—baptizing her, making her the body of Christ, and empowering her to serve the Lord (1 Cor 12:13). The church is a gathering of believers, Jewish and Gentile, together in one body. In Ephesians 3:4-6, Paul called this a mystery which was not fully revealed to past generations. This age will be marked by the gospel going out to the nations. It will continue until Christ raptures his church, giving each member a resurrected body.

(6b.) Tribulation (from the final years of the Church Age to the Second Coming or from Rapture to Second Coming). Historically, most believe that the church age will last until Christ comes, which would include the church going through the tribulation period. In the tribulation, Satan will deceive the nations through the Antichrist, and God will pour out his judgment on the nations (Rev 5-19). Then Christ will come, rapture his church, and judge the nations. This is called the historical premillennial view. However, one of the most popular views today is the premillennial dispensational view. They believe that the church age will end at the rapture, when Christ secretly comes to take his church to heaven before (or during) the seven-year tribulation. The tribulation will end when Christ visibly and triumphantly returns with his saints to rule and judge the earth.

7. The Messianic Kingdom (from the Second Coming to the Great White Throne of Judgment). According to Revelation 20, when Christ returns, he will judge the world and Satan, and then establish a 1000-year rule of peace. After this time, Satan will be let loose to deceive the nations into rebelling against Christ. Christ will destroy the rebels, and then unbelievers will be resurrected for their final judgment at the Great White Throne of Judgment, after which they will be cast into the lake of fire. Some interpret Revelation 20 as symbolically representing the church age, with Christ eventually coming to judge the world and Satan, and then ushering in the eternal stage. This is called the amillennial view.

8. The Eternal Stage (from the Renewal of the Heaven and Earth to Eternity). God will renew the heaven and earth through fire (2 Pt 3:10-13)—creating a new heaven and earth. The capital city of heaven, Jerusalem, will come to earth thereby making it heaven on earth. The nations of the earth will flock to Jerusalem, as God’s presence will abide there. There will be no evil, mourning, or death in the new heaven and earth (Rev 21-22).

Again, recognizing the dispensation is important to properly apply Scripture. Everything is written for us but not everything was written to us. With that said, all Scripture has applications, but they are not always direct applications, such as Israel stoning those who didn’t practice the Sabbath, or those living during the tribulation being warned about not accepting the mark of the beast, or, during the millennium age, those people who die before reaching 100 years of age being considered accursed. In those cases, we look for contemporary equivalents which correlate with the time frame we live in.

Find Contemporary Equivalents

The next thing we must do to apply a text is to find the contemporary equivalent. Keep in mind, there are varying degrees of contemporary equivalency, depending on the historical context. Sometimes the equivalency remains the same, as with truths like “do not lie, steal, or murder.” However, with commands or maxims such as not eating food offered to idols or not muzzling an ox while it treads grain, it becomes more difficult to discern. When considering contemporary equivalency, the closer we are to the same historical situation in the Scripture, the greater authority the application has. The further away, the less authority the application might have.

How can we find contemporary equivalents, especially when the ancient situations are so different? To help, here are some situations to identify and questions to ask:

Identify The People

Begin by identifying the people in the passage, the characters who are actively involved. Sometimes no specific individuals or groups will be named (such as when reading specific passages in Proverbs or Romans). Instead, focus on the author, the original audience, and God. Ask questions like:

  • Who are the people in this passage?
  • How are these people like people in my world or how do they represent situations in my world?
  • What characteristics of these people do I see in myself or others?

Let’s consider the story of David and Goliath. Who are the people in that story? They are David, Goliath, Saul, Israel, and the Philistines. Considering each character’s role in the story will help with finding applications. For example, Israel (the people of God) might have applications for the church. Saul might have special applications for a spiritual or secular leader. The Philistines might have applications for the world and its ungodly influence. Goliath might have applications for a prideful person (or a difficult trial we encounter). David might have applications for any child of God. To whom do we relate most: the faithless Israelites, faithful David, the unbelieving and antagonistic Philistines, the scared leader, Saul, the proud giant, Goliath? How are the people in the story most similar to those around us? Identifying and considering the people is an important step towards application, especially when reading narratives.

Identify The Place

This step places the passage in its original setting—the historical and cultural context. The more one knows about the culture, history, and problems of the people in the passage, the more one will be able to find parallels to life today. Ask questions like:

  • What is the setting of this passage?
  • What are the significant details in the history, culture, and geography?
  • What are the similarities to my world?

Is the context the Jews in the wilderness, as in parts of Exodus and the books of Numbers and Deuteronomy? Is the context the exiled Israelites serving in Babylon, as in Ezekiel or the book of Daniel? Understanding the context helps identify applications. For example, Israel’s years of wandering in the wilderness might have general applications to going through trials and waiting seasons. The Israelites’ being exiled in Babylon might have applications for working or going to school in a secular environment.

Identify The Plot

This step answers, “What’s happening in the storyline?” Usually, this can be discovered by knowing the context of the passage or the book. Ask questions like:

  • What is happening in this passage? Is it persecution, war, trials, or false teaching?
  • What is the conflict or tension?
  • What would I have done in this situation?
  • How is this similar to what is happening in my life or in the world today?

For example, in the book of Judges, the storyline is the recurring unfaithfulness of the Israelites, God’s discipline through hostile nations, Israel’s repentance, God’s deliverance through a judge, and the story repeating itself. As we consider the storyline in the book of Judges, we can apply this to ourselves personally, to our churches, and to our nations. We routinely repeat patterns of sin, discipline, repentance, and restoration. Israel’s example should remind us to turn away from sin and remain faithful to God. It should also help us be prophets to others who persist in those patterns.

Identify The Main Theme (Or Themes)

To do this, we should ask questions like:

  • What was the message for the original audience?
  • What were they supposed to learn?
  • What did God want them to do?

Often, the theme of a book is clearly stated. For example, in 1 John 5:13, John says, “I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” The major theme of the book is assurance of salvation—knowing that one has eternal life. Throughout the book, John provides tests of true salvation, which have very direct applications to Christians today. In other books, the theme is discerned by its repetition throughout the book. For example, in Philippians, the words “joy” and “rejoice” are used more than twelve times.1 Therefore, having joy in the Lord is one of the main themes of the book. This theme stands out even more when considering the historical context: Paul wrote the book, while he was in prison, to Christians who were suffering persecution. Certainly, this theme should challenge readers to pursue joy in the Lord regardless of their situation, even as Paul encouraged the Philippians to do so. Understanding the theme of a book is important for discerning applications.

Identify Universal Principles

When studying a text, we should always look for universal principles. For example, when Christ was tempted by the devil in the wilderness, he always countered with Scripture. Consider Matthew 4:3-4:

The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’

We must ask ourselves, “What are the universal truths in this passage?” In order to defeat temptation in our lives, we must know God’s Word and directly apply it to specific temptations. If this is a timeless principle, we should be able to see it taught throughout Scripture, which we do. In Psalms 119:11, David said, “In my heart I store up your words, so I might not sin against you.” By memorizing Scripture, David was able to defeat specific temptations. We also see support for this universal principle in Paul’s call to take up the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, to stand against Satan and demons (Eph 6:17). Each specific Scripture is meant to help us defeat the devil in the specific way he attacks.

How do we find universal principles? We should ask questions like:

  • What is the message for all mankind?
  • What are the timeless truths?

To apply Scripture, we must identify the people, the place, the plot, the major themes of the ancient text, and find universal principles for our contemporary world.

Find General Principles By Broadening The Application Of Specific Ones

For example, in 1 Corinthians 9:9 and 14, Paul said this:

For it is written in the law of Moses, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.”

God is not concerned here about oxen, is he? … In the same way the Lord commanded those who proclaim the gospel to receive their living by the gospel.

“Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain” was originally written to Israel in the book of Deuteronomy. Israel was a farming society, to which that passage directly applied. How might we apply the truth in that passage to contemporary society? Consider how Paul applied it: in the same way that an ox should be able to eat from the grain that he is laboring over, pastors should be able to make their living from preaching the gospel. Although we are New Testament believers, and not under the rule of Old Testament law specifically addressed to Israel, applications and abiding truths can still be applied. The specific contemporary application to not muzzle an ox would be for farmers to provide food for their laboring animals. But the general principle presented here is that a laborer is worthy of his wages, which applies to pastors or any other laborer.

Here is a contemporary illustration: if a wife asks her husband to pick up his shoes, the direct or specific application would be for him to pick up the shoes. But what is the general application which the wife really wants (one that a wise, discerning husband will understand)? The general application is that the husband not create more work for her by making a mess, which applies to more than just leaving his shoes lying around. Also, the wife is probably implying, “Help out around the house, please!” When deriving meaning from conversations, we go from specific to general all the time. We’re simply discerning the broader principle behind someone’s words.

Find The Sin Principle

Bryan Chapell, the former President of Covenant Seminary, calls this the “Fallen Condition Focus.” Since Scripture was written to sinners so they can become saved, and to believers so they can become holy (2 Tim 3:14-17), each text, whether explicitly or implicitly, exposes our spiritual brokenness. Consider the following texts:

Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.

1 Corinthians 10:11

For everything that was written in former times was written for our instruction, so that through endurance and through encouragement of the scriptures we may have hope.

Romans 15:4

Through Scripture, God is pointing out people’s sin and calling them to salvation and righteousness. Therefore, to properly apply Scripture, we must identify the sin principle behind the text. We should ask, “In what way is God exposing the spiritual brokenness of the original audience?”

Even passages that deal specifically with encouragement or grace in a sense still reckon with sin. For example, Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” What is the sin that the Holy Spirit is identifying through this passage? The sin is their propensity to lack divine joy and to live in discouragement—as though God were not in control, working things for their good—and also how they probably sought joy in things other than God, which left them empty. Certainly, circumstances affected this: they were being persecuted (Phil 1:27), they had false teaching in the church (Phil 2:2), and they had discord (Phil 4:2); however, they could still have joy in Christ, regardless of their circumstances. Like the Philippians, we often lack joy in the Lord and often fail to seek it from him. We try to find our joy in other things, things that can never satisfy. This is what the Holy Spirit was seeking to expose and change in the original audience and in our lives.

Let’s consider another passage: What is the sin principle in Romans 12:2? It says, “Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God—what is good and well-pleasing and perfect.”

The primary issue that the Holy Spirit seems to be addressing was the Roman Christians’ tendency to model the world and think like them. This is true of believers throughout history. Israel wanted to be like the ungodly nations: to be ruled by a king, worship idols, and practice their sexual ethics (or lack of). Similarly, contemporary Christians often look just like the world in their entertainment, language, dress, and ethics.

As we have seen, the sin principle is often clear in warning passages (like “do not conform to the world”) but it is also implicit within grace-filled passages. Philippians 4:13 says, “I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me.” Implied in this verse is the fact that we often lack the ability to do what God has called us to do because we rely on our own strength instead of God’s. Paul was able to be faithful in prosperity or poverty because of Christ (cf. Phil 4:10-11), and the Philippians could find grace in their own circumstances through Christ as well. The sin principle is the believers’ tendency to not rely on Christ, but instead strive to do things through their own power.

How can we find the sin principle in any given Bible passage?

  • Identify a key word which points out or implies sin.

In Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world,” the key word is “conform.” The believers were conforming to the world. In Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord! Again, I say rejoice!” The key word is “rejoice.” It implies a sin problem: a lack of joy in the Lord, or a lack of seeking joy in the Lord. In Philippians 4:13, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength,” the key word is “strength.” Because we don’t rely on God but instead seek to do things in our own power, we are often weak and discouraged. In the last two examples (Phil 4:4 and 4:13), the sin was implicit, not explicit; therefore, we simply considered the opposite of the key words. The opposite of “rejoicing” in the Lord is having a lack of joy from not abiding in Christ. The opposite of “strength” which comes from the Lord is weakness which comes from a lack of abiding in him. An implied sin can often be identified by considering the opposite of the key word.

Another example of this is Colossians 3:16, which says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and exhorting one another with all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, all with grace in your hearts to God.” The key word is “dwell.” In Greek, it means to “dwell as a resident.” Though this is not a warning passage, it implies that God’s Word is often more like a visitor in many believers’ lives rather than a resident. Because of this, they don’t experience the blessings of God’s Word indwelling them, such as teaching others with wisdom, singing to the Lord, and being thankful. The sin principle in Colossians 3:16 is the believers’ tendency to not dwell in God’s Word and how they, therefore, lack the corresponding fruits.

  • Remember that the original audience had sin that needed to be remedied, whether it was unbelief, worldliness, pride, or willful rebellion, and so do we.

Some people only see the sin of others in Scripture and not the sin in their own lives. It’s like those who listen to sermons and think about how it applies to somebody else, without recognizing their own need for the message. Israel worshiped idols, but we have our own idols, even if they are our job, spouse, digital toys, clothes, or future plans, etc. To find the sin principle, we must remember that the Holy Spirit was trying to make the original audience holy in some specific way, as he is also doing in us. We must find that ‘holy burden’ in the text and apply it to our lives.

Find The Grace Principle

Just as there are underlying sin principles in every passage, often grace principles are present as well. Throughout all of Scripture, we encounter grace: evidences of God’s care and unmerited favor toward humanity. After Adam and Eve sinned by not trusting God, God gave the promise of the messiah. After the flood, God gave the rainbow. When Israel was in sin, he sent prophets. After the crucifixion, there was the resurrection. There is often grace to be found within a text.

To accurately discern the grace principle, we need to consider the context of the whole story. For example, while God is not explicitly named in the book of Esther, his fingerprints are clearly identifiable. We can recognize God’s sovereign hand in the unfolding events of the story. Was it mere coincidence, when the enemies of Israel had received permission to destroy the Jews, that the king was married to a Jewish woman and that her Jewish uncle had recently foiled a plot to kill the king? Certainly not. God providentially intervened to bring redemption for the Jews, as they were given permission by the king to destroy their enemies. Esther’s story demonstrates how God defends his people and uses all things (including evil) for their good (cf. 2 Thess 3:3, Rom 8:28, Eph 1:11).

Let’s consider Matthew 11:28-30 as another example:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.

In this text, the grace principle is Christ’s promise to give rest. However, we must notice that this promise is conditional. Christ only bestows this grace upon those who come to him in salvation and serve with him (“take my yoke upon you”). Not everybody experiences Christ’s rest and, of those who do, some experience it to greater degrees, as they faithfully serve with Christ in reaching the world.

What are some questions that will help us identify the grace principle?

  • What is God doing in the text, in view of the audience?
  • Is the promise or work of God conditional or unconditional? For example, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb 13:5) is unconditional. “Think on these things, put them into practice and the God of peace will be with you” (Phil 4:8-9 paraphrase) is conditional.
  • How does it apply to me?

To apply, we should consider what God is doing in the text and if there are any promises that we should receive or pursue.

Understand Contemporary Culture (Cultural Exegesis)

Cultural exegesis is essentially being able to critically evaluate culture—understanding its norms, strengths, weaknesses, etc.—and apply Scripture to it. This is important so we can apply Scripture both to ourselves (as participants in a culture) and to the world around us.

Let’s consider an example: James 5:16 says, “So confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great effectiveness.” If confessing our sins and praying for one another leads to healing, how does a people (and the culture they represent) fail to do this and miss God’s promises? Since the fall, people have lived with shame, leading them to spiritually, emotionally, and physically try to hide from God and from others. Unfortunately, this is true in our churches, as well. Many Christians lack open relationships with others, where they are confessing sin, praying for one another, and receiving God’s healing. In some ethnic cultures, like Asian ones, the concept of “saving face” is exceedingly powerful; the cultural requirement to “save face” can hinder transparent sharing and the healing God promises. Recognizing tendencies of a particular culture are critical for discerning applications.

To practice cultural exegesis, we must ask questions like:

  • What are the greatest strengths of this culture?
  • What are the greatest weaknesses of this culture?
  • What are the opportunities in this culture?

These questions should be applied to a nation, a city, an ethnic group, an age group, a gender, a family, and even ourselves.

One obstacle to doing cultural exegesis, and therefore applying the Bible to our lives and others, is that sometimes it’s hard to identify strengths and weaknesses within our own culture. Often, we just accept norms of our cultural environment without questioning or weighing them against Scripture. However, to properly apply Scripture to ourselves and others, we must understand our own culture and the cultures of those God has called us to minister.

In 1 Corinthians 9:19-22, Paul said this:

For since I am free from all I can make myself a slave to all, in order to gain even more people. To the Jews I became like a Jew to gain the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) to gain those under the law. To those free from the law I became like one free from the law (though I am not free from God’s law but under the law of Christ) to gain those free from the law. To the weak I became weak in order to gain the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that by all means I may save some.

Essentially, Paul did cultural exegesis—learning a culture and adopting non-sinful aspects of it in order to win the people of that culture to Christ. We must learn to do the same in order to effectively apply God’s Word to ourselves and those around us.

Develop An Action Plan

James 1:22 says, “But be sure you live out the message and do not merely listen to it and so deceive yourselves.” If we are going to do what Scripture says, we must not only discern the application of Scripture, but also plan how to apply it. Proverbs 21:5 says, “The plans of the diligent lead only to plenty.” It has also often been said, “To fail to plan is to plan to fail.” Therefore, if we are going to apply Scripture, we must make an action plan.

What are some questions and steps to help develop an effective action plan? We should ask ourselves:

  • What does God want me to do about what I have learned?
  • What steps will get me to that goal?
  • What should be my first step?
  • Whom should I seek to pray for me and hold me accountable in this process?

These plans will be conditional or unconditional, depending on the passage and our status. For example, Ephesians 5:25-27 says:

Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her to sanctify her by cleansing her with the washing of the water by the word, so that he may present the church to himself as glorious—not having a stain or wrinkle, or any such blemish, but holy and blameless.

For the husband who wants to love his wife by washing her with the Word, an unconditional action plan might be:

  1. Approach his wife about considering a daily time to read God’s Word and pray together.
  2. Ask spiritual leaders to recommend good devotional books to read with his wife.
  3. Attend a good Bible-preaching church.
  4. Ask a godly friend to hold him accountable in his seeking to be the spiritual leader of his family.

For a single woman hoping to eventually be married, she might have a conditional plan that starts with, “When considering a potential husband, I will look for a spiritual leader.” For a single man, his conditional plan might start with, “I will focus on growing spiritually first before pursuing a potential wife.”

The plans of the diligent lead to profit. If we’re going to apply God’s Word, we must make action plans—both conditional and unconditional ones.


What principles should one employ to find biblical applications?

  1. Recognize the Dispensation. Consider the time period in biblical history, the audience, and if the text directly applies to the church.
  2. Find Contemporary Equivalents. Consider the people, place, plot, and themes to find universal principles.
  3. Find General Principles by Broadening the Application of Specific Ones. Learn to consider not only what is directly said but the implications of a matter.
  4. Find the Sin Principle. Find out what aspect of our spiritual brokenness the Holy Spirit is seeking to reveal through the passage.
  5. Find the Grace Principle. Find out how God is moving in the text and how he is asking us to trust him.
  6. Understand Contemporary Culture (Cultural Exegesis). Think not only about the ancient world but the contemporary world as well, noting its strengths and weaknesses, and how Scripture speaks to these traits.
  7. Develop an Action Plan. It is not enough to figure out an application; we must consider practically how to implement it and then follow through.


  1. In the reading, what principle stood out most to you and why?
  2. What does the statement, “Everything was written for us but not to us,” mean?
  3. What are the sin principle and the grace principle in Scripture? Are both always in the text? Why or why not?
  4. Why is doing cultural exegesis important? How can we practice cultural exegesis in our families, workplaces, cities, or nations?
  5. Why is it important to not only find Scriptural applications but also to make action plans after?
  6. What other questions or applications do you have from the reading?

Copyright © 2020 Gregory Brown

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1 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1957). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Related Topics: Basics for Christians, Bible Study Methods, Bibliology (The Written Word)

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