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I. The Fifth & Sixth Interpretive Questions


A. No interpretation is complete without personal application. The "then" of Scripture must become the "now" of illumined understanding, proclamation, and lifestyle.


B. Some factors that affect application:

1. personal need

2. personal situation

3. personal level of maturity

4. personal desire to know and follow God

6. cultural and denominational traditions

7. current historical situation


C. "According to Kierkegaard the grammatical, lexical, and historical study of the Bible was necessary but preliminary to the true reading of the Bible. ‘To read the Bible as God’s word one must read it with his heart in his mouth, on tip-toe, with eager expectancy, in conversation with God. To read the Bible thoughtlessly or carelessly or academically or professionally is not to read the Bible as God’s Word. As one reads it as a love letter is read, then one reads it as the Word of God’" (from Protestant Biblical Interpretation by Ramm, p. 75).


II. Some Possible Guidelines


A. Be sure to apply the major intent of the original author as expressed in the biblical context (i.e., paragraph, literary unit, entire book), not merely the details.


B. Be careful of arbitrarily principalizing, especially of ambiguous texts; use only clear passages.

"The effort to discern between those things which are culturally and historically relative and those which are transcendent is in actuality engaged in by all Christians, in one way or another. At issue is only whether such discernment results from our likes and dislikes, our own cultural conditioning and prejudices, or whether it is the application of a clear principle that emerges from a proper understanding of the nature and purpose of Scripture" (from Hard Sayings of the Bible, p. 28).


C. All truth is to be applied but first check "the believing community."


D. Application of one biblical passage should never violate another passage. Believers do not have the right to choose some texts and ignore others! However, the New Testament does take precedence over the Old Testament. Gospel truths take priority over cultural aspects (i.e. slavery).


E. Some basic questions to ask every text (this is taken from How to Interpret the Bible for Yourself by Mayhue, p. 64).

1. Are there examples to follow?

2. Are there commands to obey?

3. Are there errors to avoid?

4. Are there sins to forsake?

5. Are there promises to claim?

6. Are there new thoughts about God to analyze?

7. Are there principles by which to live?


III. The Interpreter’s Responsibility


A.Walk in the light you have! Believers are only responsible for what they do understand the Bible teaches (e.g., wearing jewelry, Rom. 14:23).


B. Share your insight from the Scripture, in love! (cf. Eph. 4:15) Arrogance, dogmatism, and one-upmanship are always inappropriate!


C. Always be open to new light from the Bible and the Spirit! Believers must continue to grow in Christ.


D. Don’t fight over minor points (cf. Romans 14:1). We all have strengths and weaknesses. Freedom is not a license (cf. Rom. 14:13-23).


IV. Suggested Readings


A. Applying the Bible by Jack Kuhatschek


B. Understanding and Applying the Bible by J. Robertson McQuilkin


C. Living by the Book by Howard G. Hendricks and William B. Hendricks


D. Why Christians Fight Over the Bible by John Newport


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