The Transition from Interpretation to Application

To study the Bible, we ought to observe, interpret, and apply. We must first see what the passage says before we can figure out what it means. Once we know what it means, we’re ready to conform our lives to God’s will.

Sometimes we stop with interpretation and never go ahead to application. Jesus said we’re in danger of flash flooding (Matt 7:24-27).

At other times, we’re quick to change, but we apply the wrong things (we haven’t interpreted carefully). Jesus said we’re in danger of missing the point (Matt 23:23-24).

How can we succeed at transitioning from Interpretation to Application? Here are 2 tips to help you build a good bridge.

"Bridge" by Umair Mohsin (2007), shared under a Creative Commons Attribution license

“Bridge” by Umair Mohsin (2007), shared under a Creative Commons Attribution license

Tip #1: Work from the main point

It’s important to understand the main point of a passage before beginning to apply it.  Working from the main point gives your application some teeth, since it focuses you on what God considers most important.  Such application is both effective and satisfying.

Note: If you’re in the Old Testament, there’s an extra step. Once you’ve determined the author’s main point, remember to connect the passage to Jesus before launching into application.

Tip #2: Ask good “So What?” questions

During the Interpretation stage, we asked lots of questions. The main types are What? Why? and So What? That third type of question can be the most difficult, but it provides the bridge between Interpretation and Application.

Let’s demonstrate this transition as we continue our study of Luke 2:1-21.

We determined the main point to be: “God sent Jesus to be born so he might save the lowly and rule them graciously. This brings him highest glory.” Now we ask, “So what?”

So what difference does Jesus’ birth make? The lowly can be saved. Their new King is a gracious King.

So what kind of people will be saved? Lowly people.

So what brings God highest glory? Saving and ruling the lowly. Humbling the great and mighty of the earth.

So what kind of person am I if Jesus has saved me? I have not done anything to earn my salvation. I am simply one more example of God using the weak to shame the strong. I am a lowly servant with a great and gracious King.

So what should I expect the Christian life to be like? Since God is in the business of glorifying himself by saving the lowly, he will constantly deepen my understanding of my lowliness and his greatness. This process might be painful, but it will generate a lifestyle of praise and thankfulness. It’s nothing less than what Jesus experienced in his birth and life.

We’ve built our bridge, and we’re now ready to apply the passage more specifically. Over the next few weeks I’ll unpack how to do this Application effectively.

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