Applicational Hermeneutics (pt 4)

*** V. The Biblical Solution ***

Here are “8 simple principles to help you accurately interpret (or apply) the Biblical text.”

1. Pray that God through the Holy Spirit would grant you wisdom and understanding when studying or applying any passage of holy Scripture.

We can’t do this in the flesh. We need to humble ourselves before God and ask for the Spirit’s aid in understanding the Scriptures.

2. Utilize proper hermeneutics when studying or applying any passage of holy Scripture.

Pastor Flatt and I are both committed to the grammatico-historical method of interpretation (as are the writers of this blog). This method is designed “to discover the meaning of a text that is dictated by the principles of grammar and the facts of history.” The famous pre-reformation Reformer John Wycliffe wrote, “All things necessary in Scripture are contained in its proper literal and historical senses.” While the famous Bible translator William Tyndale said, “Scripture has but ones sense, which is the literal sense.” John Calvin rightly believed that, “The Holy Scripture is not a ball that we can bounce around at will. Rather it is the Word of God whose teaching must be learned by the most impartial and objective study of the text.” **When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense.** Much more could be said under this heading but for time sake I must move on.

3. Try and leave behind any unnecessary presuppositions or preunderstandings when approaching the Text.

John Calvin wrote, “It is the first business of an interpreter to let his author say what he does say, instead of attributing to him what we think he ought to say.” St. Augustine adds, “The task of the interpreter is to determine the meaning of the Scriptures, not to bring a meaning to it.” Perhaps this is summarized most effectively in a quote by Bernard Ramm, “The danger of having a set theological system is that in the interpretation of Scripture the system tends to govern the interpretation rather than the interpretation correcting the system.”

4. Always remember, CONTEXT is KING!

Taking note of the context is essential for accurate bible study. KEY –►A proof text that ignores the context is a pretext! The Swiss reformer Zwingli wrote, “Pulling a passage of Scripture away from its context is like breaking a flower from its roots.” Context, context, context. In short, context is king!! Make sure you read a verse in its context (whether that means 1 paragraph or
6 chapters). This is one of the things that’s potentially dangerous during a discussion based setting (not having adequate time to study the contexts of the verses that are being referenced).

5. “Observe” what the Scriptural passage says.

Ask lots of questions of the text: Who was the writer? TO whom was he writing? Where does this passage fit in with the rest of the chapter? What genre of Scripture does this fit into? Are any words repeated? Are their any linking words? What grammatical devices does the author use? What are verb tenses in the original language? What are the key theological words? What’s the historical background of this passage? I remember one of my first seminary assignments was to take a short passage of Scripture and to come up with 20 questions to help implement this step.

6. Accurately “interpret” the biblical text.

This step asks the question, “What does it mean?” “How is it to be explained?” One seminary Professor notes, “Interpretation is perhaps the most difficult and time-consuming step.” Many preachers today don’t do in-depth Biblical exposition (expository preaching) because it is so laborious…

To help interpret the Text:
a) Find Solutions to all of your questions (the ones you came up with during the “observation” step)
b) Try to “Paraphrase” each verse or section of the passage… In my own words this means….
c) When interpreting the bible: Utilize the “analogy of the faith” rule- No passage of Scripture, when accurately understood will contradict any other passage.
d) When necessary, use clear passages of Scripture to help interpret more difficult (obscure) ones.
e) Use good exegetical commentaries only after you’ve done all these steps on your own.

(optional step) 7. Determine how this particular passage of Scripture harmonizes with other biblical texts/doctrines.
(Develop a biblical and systematic theology). Systematic and biblical theology is appropriate only after exegesis has taken place (of each passage)…

8. “Apply” the Biblical text to your own life.

Application takes place only after steps 1-6 are completed. If we immediately jump to application we are prone to misinterpret and misapply the Words of God. Remember there is but one true interpretation, but applications are many! The Spirit often applies the Word differently to individual believers. One scholar wrote, “Heart appropriation, not merely head apprehension, is the true goal of Bible study.” Study the Bible to know your God! Can you think of anything more glorious then growing closer with the God of the universe? This should be all the motivation we need to discipline ourselves in personal Bible study. We can grow in our relationship with Jesus through intense study and application of the Word!

I would encourage you to briefly review every sermon that you listen to and ask God to specifically apply the text to your life. Ask God to conform you into Christ’s image through your personal study and application of the Word (1 Peter 2:2). Always ask yourself the “so what?” questions. Knowledge alone merely puffs up.

Martin Luther wrote that the Bible, “is not merely to be repeated or known, but to be lived and felt.” In 1742, Johann Bengel wrote something that summarizes this lecture very well, “Apply yourself wholly to the text and apply the text wholly to yourself.”


3 responses to this post.

  1. This is a fantastic post! Thanks for sharing it.

  2. Thanks for the kind words Doug-

    God bless,


  3. Posted by Lew Williams on April 9, 2010 at 9:32 am

    Thanks, reading this made me realize again of the importance of study. That there can be no shortcuts. What an awesome God we serve to entrust mere man with the handling of His word

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