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Monday, May 30, 2011

Applying the Scriptures Correctly


Harod J Berry
MUCH CONFUSION HAS resulted in our churches and in the lives of many Christians because of the practice some have of applying the Scripture without first interpreting it.  Many Christians attend church Sunday after Sunday and yet when asked to explain a simple passage of Scripture they are completely at a loss.  And the individual Christian is probably not entirely to blame.  He or she may have sat under Sunday school teacher and pastors who have never really explained the meaning of the Bible in the first place, but rather brought only devotional thoughts that warmed and challenged the heart of the time without producing a lasting effect.

It is also a matter of concern that those churches which have “special meetings” year after year do not always experience spiritual growth in the lives of their people.  Of course, if the meetings are primarily evangelistic, they will be aimed at the unsaved and not at the Christian.  In some cases legitimate “revival” services are held for the purpose of reviving Christians in their daily walk with the Lord.  But even where there has been this kind of meeting the growth of Christians is hardly noticeable.  Why? It is deplorable to see Christians stimulated for the moment without any real and lasting effect in their lives.

We who teach the Word of God need to analyze our teaching.  Are we just applying truths to people’s lives without first explaining the Word of God as it is?  Are we trying to tell other how to live without explaining the Scriptures which tell them what they have in Jesus Christ which will enable them to live as they ought?  If we are not interpreting –or explaining—the Scriptures as well as applying them, we risk producing zeal without knowledge and making people susceptible to false cults which will offer their explanations of the Scriptures.

To be worthy of its title, Bible study should incorporate at least four basic elements; observation, interpretation, application and correlation.

Observation.   It is obvious that one cannot properly interpret a passage of Scripture until he has observed that is in that passage.   This involves not only being aware of what is in the passage but also of what is not in it.   A case in point is what is often referred to as the curse of Ham, one of the sons of Noah.  Many people are under the impression that Ham was cursed for looking upon the nakedness of his father, Noah

However, as one observes the facts as presented in Genesis 9:20-27,  he sees that Ham was not cursed Verses 24 and 25 make this clear:  “When Noah awoke from his wine, he knew what his youngest son had done to him.  So he said, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants he shall be to his brothers.’ “*   Therefore, Canaan was the one cursed, not Ham.  Proper Bible study depends on careful observation.

Interpretation.  Having observed the facts, it is then necessary to understand their meaning in a given context.  Particular attention should be given to noticing to whom the passage was written and with which time period it deals.  Matthew 24: 14 provides an example when it says, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come.”  These words of Christ were given in answer to the questions:  “Tell us, when will these things be and what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?”  (v.3). the coming of Christ in view here is not His coming for the Church at the Rapture before the Tribulation begins (I Thess. 4:13-18).   This Church had not yet come into being, and the Israelites were not looking for Rapture but for Christ’s coming to earth to establish the kingdom of God on earth.  Thus, the coming referred to is Christ’s Second Coming which will take place after the Tribulation (Matt. 24: 27-31).

Chapters 24 and 25 of Matthew do not deal with the Church, but the events relating to the Tribulation.  Thus, properly interpreted, the requirement that the gospel of the kingdom first be preached to all nations before the end comes refers to the end of the Tribulation, not to the end of the Church Age.  For the Church, Christ’s coming at the Rapture is imminent—it can take place are any time.  No prophecy needs to be fulfilled before Christ comes to catch up the believers of the Church Age.

APPLICATION.  Having carefully observed and interpreted a given passage, the Bible student is then prepared to apply to his own life and to the lives of others truths he has discovered.  Although there is only one proper interpretation for a passage of Scripture, there can be many applications.  One a passage is understood in its historical setting, it can be applied to our lives in many different ways because of our various experiences.

Even in the Old Testament, which was mostly written to the nation of Israel, we can discover principles that can be applied to our lives.  Whether a Scripture passage is written to Israel or to the Church, we always see the principle that when an individual obeys God, he is blessed by God.  And when and individual refuses to obey God, blessing is withheld.

John 12:1-8 brings pointed applicat9on when the interpretation is clear.  Many of Bethany anointed the feet of Jesus with a precious ointment which Judas said could have been sold “for three hundred denarii” (v.5).  The depth of Mary’s devotion becomes clear when one realizes that in Bible times a denarius was apparently the normal pay for a day’s labor (see Matt. 20:1-16).  Mary was showing her devotion by anointing the Lord with ointment that equaled about a year’s wages how many of us are willing to show our devotion now to the same extent?

Correlation.  Because our teaching and preaching normally touch upon only a few verses or a chapter at one time, the impression may be left in the mind of fragments of teaching on various subjects.  Thus the teacher of the Word of God needs to be careful to show how a given passage fits into the Book from which it is taken and, where possible, relate it to the message of the Bible in its entirety.  This will help   the hearer to appreciate the unity of all the Scriptures.

The Author with his wife Donna Berry
Where the principles of sound Bible study have been followed, churches have found and increasing interest among believers, for nothing compares to the proper exposition of the Word of God for producing lasting results in the Word.
                                           by Harold J Berry

The Author is the Retired Chairman of the Board Back to the Bible

Source: Confident Living Magazine, an official publication of Back to the Bible India.


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