A friend recently shared something with me about reading and teaching the Bible. This person said that other people accuse them of trying to apply the Bible too much. Other believers were encouraging them to read the Bible without being concerned about its application.
The concern is understandable. Our first goal should always be to understand what the Bible says. We cannot rush to application. To understand a passage, we need to get the context, historical background, learn words and phrases that the writer uses, and make sure we interpret the passage correctly. The first step in reading, studying, teaching, or preaching is to understand the Bible clearly without concern for what we will do with the information.
The second step is just as important as the first. We must always seek to apply the Bible. It is not good enough for us as believers to know what the scripture says. We must always strive to use it. Jesus preached his longest recorded sermon in Matthew chapters five, six, and seven. As he reaches the end, he says, “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24 – NIV 2011) The power of the word of God is found in its application to our lives.
It is a repeating cycle. First, we read to understand so that we will properly know how to apply it to our lives. Then, as we live for Him, we will want to understand more so that we might do more of what God desires. Read, understand, apply, and then repeat.
It has been said that the Bible is like paint. It is great to find the right color. It is fun to buy the paint and bring it home. But, as long as it sits in the can, it is worthless. The only way paint adds value to someone’s life is when it is applied. The same is true with scripture.