Handle with Care Part 7

Handle with Care Part 7:  Application of Scripture


Proper handling of God’s Word involves three core principles:   observation (What does the Bible mention?),  interpretation (What does the Bible mean?),  and application (Why does the Bible matter?).  Today, I will address application.

Many of us know preachers and teachers who have great knowledge about the Bible. They know about the meanings and implications of key words and may be great orators. They make the Bible come alive and incorporate wonderful illustrations. They may even be great historians.
None of this matters if application is missing.  Why make such a bold claim?  Shouldn’t the Bible speak for itself?  Isn’t it timeless and therefore eternally applicable?  I argue that all of these are essential elements of preaching and teaching, however, application addresses Christians’ call to action.  It compels us to ask and answer: Why does the Bible matter?   

During one of his podcasts, Dr. Steven J. Lawson shares the following observation about Jonathan Edwards, the Puritan expositor: “.. as he was explaining the text and teaching the theology, he was getting his canons into place.  But when he came to the application, he fired the cannons.”1  Dr. Lawson also provides a personal testimony about his own views on application by saying “It is with the application that the text of scripture becomes connected and anchored to the listener’s life.”

Our application of scripture ensures we don’t add to or take away from God’s Word by inserting attention-grabbing, emotional gimmicks to please the congregation.   In this case, application differs from personal experiences, success stories, and “positive thinking” techniques that take away from Godly instructions for practical Christian living.
According to Matthew 18:21-35, Peter wants to define forgiveness according to the frequency of occurrence rather than the appropriate response when he forgives.  How many of us have preconceived notions about the limitations of forgiveness? We are often impatient toward other Christians and want clear demarcations to help justify our unforgiveness.  
Even if we might not admit this, our actions sometimes reflect our spiritual deficiencies.  Beware of forgiveness amnesia!  1 Corinthians 6:9-11 reminds us about our sinful past before Christ saved us.  Paul concludes in verse 11 by saying “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”  
We should constantly remind ourselves that God’s forgiveness of our sins isn’t exclusive to just us.  Because Christ died for the sins of all humanity, we should boast about His grace and mercy and not boast about our self-proclaimed goodness.  Neither should we have a condescending attitude toward our Christian brothers and sisters who fall into sin. How would we wish to be treated when the roles are reversed?
Matthew 18:15-20 records Jesus’ response that gets to the heart of the purpose and goal of forgiveness:  it’s not the number but the motive that matters. Jesus confronts Peter with the harsh reality that our Christian conversion doesn’t immune us from offending others or vice versa.  Instead, we should realize how these offenses pale when compared to our sinful offenses to God before we were saved.
Like the box marked “fragile, handle with care,” God’s Word demands our careful attention.  His Word is precious and awesome and should not be mishandled through our improper observation, interpretation, and application.  

1  Lawson, Steven J. “Getting to the Application.” Expositor Podcast, One Passion Ministries, 19 July 2017,www.onepassionministries.org/expositor-podcast/2017/7/19/getting-to-the-application.

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