Which parts of the Bible apply to us today? How can we know?
Many people find themselves confused regarding which parts of the Bible apply to today. How can we know? Several principles can help to guide us in application of the Bible.
First, all Scripture is God-breathed and inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21). However, some passages of Scripture were originally written for a specific audience or place rather than giving direct applications for all people at all times. One helpful concept is to work toward understanding whether the passage was intended to speak to a past situation or is a timeless biblical principle. To accurately determine this, one must apply proper methods of Bible interpretation that include observing and interpreting the passage in its original setting before attempting to apply it to one's life.
Second, once the original context is understood, the principles of the passage can better be understood. For example, in Exodus 14 God parted the sea through Moses for the Israelites to cross on dry land. This miracle reveals much concerning God's power, but is not intended to teach today's readers that we are to attempt to split a sea with a walking stick. Instead, the passage shows 1) God's supernatural power, 2) God's ability to intervene at just the right time, 3) God's ability to keep His promises, 4) and how God works through a person who trusts in Him. These biblical principles can then be used to develop appropriate applications for one's life today.
Third, understanding how to apply a specific portion of the Bible is better done by reading what the entire Bible teaches on a particular topic. For example, God often speaks about the issue of self-control. To learn how to increase in self-control, a reader can look up some of these many verses and learn about the ways God desires His followers to live in this area. A reader would discover that self-control is part of the fruit of the Spirit that applies to all Christians (Galatians 5:22-23), is an important trait of a wise person (Proverbs 25:28), that lack of self-control can lead to falling to sexual temptation (1 Corinthians 7:5), and that self-control is an important trait for a godly woman (1 Timothy 2:15) as well as for church leaders (1 Timothy 3:2).
Finally, a reader should always pray for wisdom regarding how to apply Scripture (John 16:13). Through study a person can discover what Scripture teaches regarding life issues (2 Timothy 2:15). Through prayer and community with other believers, a person can seek ways to apply the Bible's principles to personal life topics in ways that honor God and help others.
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