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Application

Authors J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays explain that, “When we grasp God’s Word, we not only understand its meaning; we also take the final step and live out that meaning in our lives.”[1] As Jesus said in John 14:21, “He who has my commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me.” So the formula, as it were, looks like this: Have + Keep = Love.[2]

The authors employ the term “application” to refer to the reader’s response to the biblical text. While the meaning of the text does not change from reader to reader, the application of it certainly will (although there will be particular boundaries to those changes as influenced by the author’s meaning). So a better, more nuanced question to ask, say Duvall and Hays, is, “What does this passage mean and how do I live out or apply this meaning to my life?”[3] rather than, “What does this passage mean to me?”[4]

Duvall and Hays list 3 essential steps to applying the theological principles inherent in Scripture:

  1. “Observe how the principles in the text address the original situation.”[5] When you find the intersection between the biblical text and the historical-cultural situation, you are at the heart of the application process.[6]
  2. “Discover a parallel situation in a contemporary context.”[7] And not just an aspect of a current situation that parallels the text; rather a situation that includes all the key features of the biblical text in view.
  3. “Make your applications specific.”[8] One of the ways that we can develop an understanding for specific, contemporary applications to biblical texts is to come up with what the authors call “real-world scenarios,” i.e. translating and retelling the meaning of the original story into our own time and context while reproducing an effect that is faithful to the original meaning. Of course, it takes hard work and study to do that kind of translating and retelling, but if we remain diligent with regard to Step 1, we are on our way to successfully applying the text to our lives.

Check back next week for Chapter 14: New Testament – Letters.

We’ve barely scratched the surface with Grasping God’s Word! We highly recommend you purchase this excellent book here.

[1] J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, Grasping God’s Word, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 235.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid, 236.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid, 239.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid, 241.

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