Ever wonder just how you should apply Scripture to your life? It can be overwhelming. While every passage in the Bible has just one original meaning, the specific application for an individual’s life can be virtually endless. And, the application can change depending on our circumstances and level of spiritual maturity. (For more about
However, God’s Word gives us some guidance about ways God wants to use His truths in our lives. In Paul’s second letter to his spiritual son Timothy, God inspired Paul to write some truths about Scripture that show specific ways God wants to use it in our lives:
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Four Ways to Apply Scripture
The following are four broad categories for application to guide your time in God’s Word. Each category includes various ways to specifically apply Scripture.
1. Teaching (Doctrine) – What to BELIEVE
God’s Word tells us what we should believe about God and His Kingdom. What we believe about God matters. Right thinking leads to right living. What we believe and how we think reveals itself in our character and behavior.
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2 NLT
Our spiritual transformation begins in our minds. As our thinking aligns with God’s thinking the Holy Spirit shapes us more and more into the image of Christ.
As you observe a Bible passage for what you should believe, here are some of the things you can note or record:
- Truths about God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit
- Truths about salvation
- Key truths and spiritual principles – these can be taught in stories, word pictures, comparisons and contrasts, and more. For instance, consider what Jesus’ statement, “I am the bread of life” in John 6:35 teaches us about Jesus.
2. Reproof (rebuke) – When to REPENT
A reproof or rebuke reveals a need for repentance. It reveals something that’s wrong in our lives like a behavior that goes against God’s holy character. In these cases, God wants us to stop what we are doing or where we are going.
As you read and observe a Bible passage, look for things like negative commands or negative examples. For instance, Ephesians 4:25 commands us to “put away falsehood.” And Peter’s denial of Jesus on the night He was arrested serves as an example for us of what not to do!
3. Correction (obedience in the right direction) – What to OBEY
Biblical correction is different than rebuke. Rather than stopping wrong behavior, correction is meant to instill right behavior. To get us going in the right direction and to foster behavior that pleases God.
As you read and observe a Bible passage, look for positive commands and positive examples in biblical narrative. For instance, “Submit to one another in love” (Ephesians 5:21) is a positive command. And Peter’s obedience to go to the home of the Gentile Cornelius to share the Gospel is a positive example (Acts 10). I felt it only fair to also share a positive example of our friend Peter!
4. Training (spiritual growth) – Where to SUBMIT
God uses Scripture to shape our character and underlying attitudes. He can do this by adjusting our beliefs, building our trust in God, purifying our character, instilling humility, growing in holiness, and so much more.
As you read and observe a passage, ask the Holy Spirit to be your teacher, to show you how He wants to use God’s truths in your life. Then the hard part is submitting to the Spirit’s work because it often involves trials, rebuke, and correction. But we must allow God to do His work.
Some General Helps for Better Bible Study
Before we can apply a Bible study passage, we need to observe it to see what’s there and interpret God’s original meaning. Th following are some resources to help you do just that!
- 4 Tips for Handling Difficult Passages
- The 4 R Bible Study Method for Everyday Use
- Video Teaching on the 4 R Bible Study Method
- 4 Tips to Help You Understand the Bible
- 10 Observation Tips for Better Bible Study