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How can I understand and apply Scripture?

Understand and Apply Scripture
live according to the Word of God

All Scripture must be diligently studied and accurately applied. The Bible says, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing [expounding correctly] the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15). “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (James 1:22).

Consider the Context

As part of a thorough, accurate application of Scripture, it is wise to ask questions such as these:

  • To whom was it written? By whom?
  • What were the circumstances?
  • What are the precise meanings of the words in the original language?
  • What related Scriptures might provide additional insights?

Meditate on the Passage

Studying to show ourselves “approved unto God” involves more than simply learning the facts. Meditation on the text is the next step. Only as you meditate on Scripture—a verse, several verses, or a passage—will you begin to see underlying principles that can be applied in your life. In Psalm 119:99, the psalmist testified, “I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation.”

Discover One Interpretation and Many Applications

There is only one interpretation of Scripture, but there are unlimited applications of Scripture. The Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth and show you how to apply God’s Word in your life. (See John 16:13–15.)

In I Corinthians 9:7–14, the Apostle Paul presented an application of a teaching in the Old Testament. He emphasized the right of ministers of the Gospel to receive a living wage. To support his instruction, he cited Deuteronomy 25:4: “Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn.” At first glance, it may appear that this verse had nothing to do with the subject at hand. However, upon closer examination, it is clear that Deuteronomy 25:4 offers an excellent illustration of the principle Paul was teaching.

Understand Christ’s Commands

Paul told Timothy that he based sound doctrine on two things: Christ’s own words and that which leads to Christlike living. (See I Timothy 6:3.) A powerful way to apply Scripture is by first studying Christ’s words, including the commands He gave to us, and then finding their foundation in the Old Testament and application in the New Testament Epistles. Discovering this threefold witness will increase your understanding of the Bible. (See II Corinthians 13:1.)

For example, Jesus spoke of honoring parents in Matthew 15:4: “God commanded, saying, Honor thy father and mother: and, he that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.” His statement echoes Exodus 20:12: “Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” The Apostle Paul reinforced these concepts in Ephesians 6:1–3: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honor thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.”

For Further Study

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