One of my favorite classes in seminary was Biblical Hermeneutics. In the class we learned how to study the Bible. It’s a class that’s served me well over the years. The professor taught a three-step process for studying the Bible:

~ Observation: what does the text say?
~ Interpretation: what was the message for the original readers?
~ Application: What is God saying to us today?

The application part of the process is often the most challenging because we are taking a message that was given to a specific audience, and applying it to a different audience who live in a different context, while attempting to do that in an honest way.

As I was reading through Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, I noticed that application was something Paul dealt with as well. In 1 Corinthians 7:10, he wrote, “To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord)…” “Not I, but the Lord” means that he was taking Jesus’ teaching and applying it directly to the Corinthian believers. It was straightforward and applied to them exactly as Jesus taught it. However, in verse 12 he wrote, “To the rest I say (I, not the Lord).” I love the honesty Paul exhibits when he wrote, “I, not the Lord.” He’s shooting straight and telling the Corinthians that he didn’t receive this teaching from Jesus and in order to speak to the situation the Corinthian believers were in, he needed to apply Jesus’ teaching to their context, rather than simply relaying Jesus’ teaching to them. He was going beyond what was written or taught at the time.

We know that Paul did a good job of application because his instruction was guided by the Holy Spirit and canonized in Scripture, but it still took work to discern God’s leading. Application always takes work because it’s going beyond what is written, and discerning what God would say to us today. Applying Scripture is often more of an art than a science because Scripture doesn’t speak directly to every situation we find ourselves in. Paul had to do that 2,000 years ago, and we have to do it now.

Applying Scripture to life is a great joy, but it’s not easy. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you apply Scripture to your daily life. First, make sure that your application is in alignment with the teaching of Scripture as a whole. Second, look for examples to follow, promises to embrace, or prayers to echo. Finally, prioritize the teaching and commands of Jesus, seeking to be obedient to him above all else.

One of the things Paul subtly points out is that God wants to meet us in the unique situations of our lives, and by the power of his Spirit and through the instruction of Scripture, he will be faithful to guide us. Today, ask him to help you apply Scripture to something you’re facing in your life.

Ryan Paulson
Lead Pastor

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