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How to Study the Bible Series: Bible Study Skills: Applying the Text

Updated: May 2

Life Application

There is a story of a young man who was looking for direction in life. “What should I do with my life?” he prayed. He opened his Bible and put his finger in it—hoping that God would give him direction. It landed on Matthew 27:5, which read, “Then he went out and hanged himself.” Perplexed, not understanding what the text meant for his life, he tried again. This time his finger landed in Luke 10:37, which read, “So Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do the same.’” Starting to get nervous, he tried one more time with his finger landing in John 13:27. It read, “Jesus said to him, ‘What you are about to do, do quickly.’” Though humorous, this story illustrates the dangerous ways in which some people are tempted to apply the Scripture.

What are some principles that will help with applying Scripture? For both laymen and serious Bible students, application is often the hardest part of Bible study. Many people have left their morning devotions or from listening to a sermon struggling with, “What do I do with what I’ve learned?” Application is the “so what” after understanding what a passage means. It is taking a passage originally written to an ancient world and applying it the contemporary world. In this lesson, we will consider principles to help with application.

Recognize the Dispensation

Throughout church history, there have been tragic misapplications of Scripture such as with early Americans burning witches in the Salem Witch Trials or the enslaving Africans. These tragic errors often happen, in part, because people don’t recognize dispensations in Scripture and therefore misapply the texts. It’s often been said, “Everything written in the Bible is written for us, but everything written is not necessarily written to us.” This is why recognizing dispensations, or epochs of biblical history, is so important. To recognize dispensations, essentially means asking the question: “Am I part of the people that this portion of Scripture was originally written to?” For example, Israel was originally called to practice the Sabbath by not working from Friday sundown until Saturday sundown. Those who broke this law were to be stoned (Num 15:32-36). Since Paul taught that we are not under the Old Covenant but under the New Covenant (cf. Rom 6:14), we as Christians don’t practice this regulation, and we certainly don’t stone anybody. In addition, the necessity of practicing certain dietary restrictions and festivals given to Israel were removed in the New Covenant (Col 2:16-17).

Recognizing dispensations is also important when considering prophetic literature. For instance, in Revelation 13, the Antichrist and his prophet command people to accept the mark of the beast, and those who don’t, cannot buy or sell. One must ask, “Has this prophecy been fulfilled or is it still waiting a future fulfillment?” If this passage waits a later fulfillment, it would be wrong to directly apply this to people in this current dispensation by saying something like: “Do not accept ______ or you have accepted the mark of the beast and therefore are under God’s judgment!” In addition, there are prophecies that only fit in the millennial kingdom—such as people living extraordinary long lives during that period and those who die before 100 years of age being considered accursed (Is 65:20). Again, since this passage waits a later fulfillment, it would be wrong to declare that somebody who currently doesn’t live to 100 is cursed by God. To apply those promises to this age would be to misapply them. Recognizing dispensations is important for proper application.

If we are going to recognize dispensations, we must first ask, “What is a dispensation?” Dispensations are periods of time or stages in biblical history where God has given differing moral responsibilities to his people. A dispensation is often marked by:

  • the giving of certain responsibilities

  • a specific time period these responsibilities last

  • the end of previous responsibilities

  • the continuation of other responsibilities

What are some questions for us to ask in order to discern the dispensation of a passage?

  • Who was the passage originally written to or intended for (Israel, the church, people during the tribulation, etc.)?

  • Are the principles taught in this passage timeless or do they apply only to the original audience or a specific future audience (such as with end time prophecy)?

  • If the passage is prophetic, has the prophecy already been fulfilled?

What are the dispensation periods in the Bible and the regulations given in them? Below is a brief summary of commonly recognized periods:

1. Innocence (from the creation of man to the fall of man). Adam and Eve were called to tend the garden and be fruitful and multiply. They were called to eat only plant life (and therefore not meat). The only clear prohibition given was to not eat of the tree of good and evil. This dispensation ended in Genesis 3 when man ate of the forbidden tree and sin entered the world.

2. Conscience (from the fall to the flood). God did not give rules to humanity during this time. There are no “thou shall not!” or “thou shall do this!” Humanity was ruled by their God-given moral conscience, which they clearly rejected (cf. Rom 2:14-15). Genesis 6:5 says, “But the Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind had become great on the earth. Every inclination of the thoughts of their minds was only evil all the time.”

3. Human Government (from after the flood). After the flood, God established capital punishment for the death of a human—whether by another person or an animal (Gen 9:2-6). This represented the establishment of civil government. God told Noah that whoever sheds the blood of man by man his blood shall be shed. In addition, God said that both plants and animals would be food for humans.

4. Promise (from the patriarchs). God chose to make a covenant with Abraham and his seed to bless the world (cf. Gen 12:1-3, 22:15-18, Gal 3:7). This was fulfilled in Israel who became the stewards of God’s law and the temple. It was ultimately fulfilled through the promised Jewish messiah—Jesus Christ—who has truly blessed the world by providing a means of reconciliation with God through his death for sin and resurrection. This promise will be further fulfilled when Christ returns and rules on the earth.

5. The Mosaic Law (from Mount Sinai to the cross). This covenant was established with Israel on Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments and the law. God called them to be a priestly nation that would bless the world. Israel was called to obey the Mosaic law. If they did, God would bless them, and if they didn’t God would curse them (Dt 28). The Mosaic law was perfectly fulfilled through Christ’s righteous life and death for sin, which paid the penalty for everyone’s sins (cf. Matt 5:17, Rom 10:4). The Mosaic law was temporary and ended at Christ’s death (cf. 2 Cor 3:7-11).

6. Church (from Pentecost to the Rapture/Second Coming). In Acts 2, at Pentecost, the promised Holy Spirit fell on the church—baptizing her, making her the body of Christ, and empowering her to serve the Lord (1 Cor 12:13). The church is a gathering of Jew and Gentile together in one body. In Ephesians 3:4-6, Paul calls this a mystery which was not fully revealed to past generations. This age will be marked by the gospel going out to the nations. It will continue until Christ raptures his church—giving each member a resurrected body.

(6b.) Tribulation (from the final years of the Church Age to the Second Coming or from Rapture to Second Coming). Historically, most believe that the church age will last until Christ comes, which would include the church going through the tribulation period. In the tribulation, Satan will deceive the nations through the Antichrist, and God will pour out his judgment on the nations (Rev 5-19). Then Christ will come, rapture his church, and judge the nations. This is called the historical premillennial view. However, one of the most popular views today is the premillennial dispensational view. They believe that the church age will end at the rapture, when Christ secretly comes to take his church to heaven before (or during) the seven-year tribulation. The tribulation will end when Christ comes with his saints to rule and judge the earth.

7. The Messianic Kingdom (from the Second Coming to the Great White Throne of Judgment). According to Revelation 20, Christ will judge the world and Satan at his coming and then establish a rule of peace for 1000 years. After this rule of peace, Satan will be let loose to deceive the nations to rebel against Christ. Christ will destroy the rebels, and then unbelievers will be resurrected for their final judgment at the Great White Throne of Judgment and then ultimately thrown into the lake of fire. Some interpret Revelation 20 symbolically as representing the church age with Christ coming at the end to judge and then ushering the church into the eternal stage. This is called the amillennial view.

8. The Eternal Stage (from the Renewal of the Heaven and Earth to Eternity). God will renew the heaven and earth through fire (2 Pt 3:10-13)—creating a new heaven and earth. The capital city of heaven, Jerusalem, will come to earth, essentially making it heaven on earth. The nations of the earth will flock to Jerusalem, as God’s presence will abide there. There will no more evil, mourning, or death in the new heavens and earth (Rev 21-22).

Again, recognizing the dispensation is important to properly apply Scripture. Everything is written for us but not everything was written to us. With that said, all Scripture has applications, but they are not always direct applications as with Israel being called to stone those who don’t practice the Sabbath, those living during the tribulation being warned about not accepting the mark of the beast, or people dying before 100 years old being considered accursed during the millennium. In those cases, we look for contemporary equivalents which fit the time frame we live in.

Find Contemporary Equivalents

The next thing we must do to apply a text is to find the contemporary equivalent. With that said, there are varying degrees of contemporary equivalency depending on the historical context. Sometimes the equivalency is the same as with truths like “do not lie, steal, or murder,” but with such things as offering food to idols or not muzzling an ox while it treads grain, it becomes more difficult. When considering contemporary equivalency, the closer we are to the same historical situation in the Scripture, the greater authority the application has. The further away, the less authority the application might have.

How can we find contemporary equivalents, especially when the ancient situations are so different? To help, here are some situations to identify and questions to ask:

Identify the People:

Begin by identifying the people in the passage, the characters who are actively involved. Sometimes no specific individuals or groups will be named (such as when reading specific passages in Proverbs or Romans). But don’t forget the author, the original audience, and God. Ask questions like:

  • Who are the people in this passage?

  • How are these people like people in my world or how do they represent situations in my world?

  • What characteristics of these people do I see in myself or others?

Let’s consider the story of David and Goliath. Who are the people in that story? There are David, Goliath, Saul, Israel, and the Philistines. Considering the characters will help with finding applications. For example, Israel (the people of God) might have applications for the church. Saul might have special applications for a spiritual or secular leader. The Philistines might have applications for the world and its ungodly influence. Goliath might have applications for a prideful person (or difficult trial we encounter). David might have applications for any child of God. Who do we relate to most—the faithless Israelites, faithful David, the unbelieving and antagonistic Philistines, the scared leader, Saul, the proud giant, Goliath? How are the people in the story most like those around us? Identifying and considering the people is an important step towards application, especially when reading narratives.

Identify the Place:

This step puts the passage in its original setting—the historical and cultural context. The more one knows about the culture, history, and problems of the people in the passage, the more one will be able to find parallels to life today. Ask questions like:

  • What is the setting of this passage?

  • What are the significant details in the history, culture, and geography?

  • What are the similarities to my world?

Is the context Jews in the wilderness, like in parts of Exodus and the books of Numbers and Deuteronomy? Is the context exiled Israelites serving in Babylon, like in Ezekiel or the book of Daniel? Understanding the context helps identify applications. For example, Israel being in the wilderness might have general applications to going through trials and waiting seasons. The Israelites being exiled in Babylon might have applications for working or going to school in a secular environment.

Identify the Plot:

This step answers, “What’s happening in the storyline?” Usually this can be discovered by knowing the context of the passage or the book. Ask questions like:

  • What is happening in this passage? Is it persecution, war, trials, or false teaching?

  • What is the conflict or tension?

  • What would I have done in this situation?

  • How is this similar to what is happening in my life or in the world today?

For example, in the book of Judges, the storyline is the re-occurring unfaithfulness of the Israelites, God’s discipline through nations, Israel’s repentance, God’s deliverance through a judge, and the story repeating itself. As we consider the storyline in the book of Judges, we can apply this to ourselves individually, our churches, and our nations. We commonly repeat patterns of sin, discipline, repentance, and restoration. Israel’s example should help us turn from sin and be faithful to God. It should also help us be prophets to others who are repeating the patterns.

Identify the Main Theme (or Themes):

To do this, we should ask questions like:

  • What was the message for the original audience?

  • What were they supposed to learn?

  • What did God want them to do?

Often, the theme of a book is clearly stated. For example, in 1 John 5:13, John says, “I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” The major theme of the book is assurance of salvation—knowing that one has eternal life. Throughout the book there are tests to help one gain assurance. These have very direct applications to Christians today—such as considering whether one bears the marks of genuine faith. In other books, the theme is discerned by its repetition throughout the book. For example, in Philippians, the words “joy” and “rejoice” are used more than twelve times.[i] Therefore, this is one of the main themes of the book. This theme stands out even more when considering the historical context—the fact that Paul wrote the book while in prison to Christians who were suffering persecution. Certainly, this theme should challenge readers to pursue joy in Lord regardless of their situation, even as Paul encouraged the Philippians to. Understanding the theme of a book is important for discerning applications.

Then, Find Universal Principles

When studying a text, we should always look for universal principles. For example, when Christ was tempted by the devil in the wilderness, he always replied with Scripture. Consider Matthew 4:3-4:

The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’

What are the universal truths? In order to defeat temptation in our lives, we must know God’s Word and directly apply it to specific temptations. If this is a timeless principle, we should be able to see this truth taught throughout Scripture, which we do. In Psalms 119:11, David said, “In my heart I store up your words, so I might not sin against you.” By memorizing Scripture, David was able to defeat specific temptations. We also see support for this universal principle in Paul’s call to take up the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, to stand against Satan and demons (Eph 6:17)—each specific Scripture is meant to help us defeat the devil, in the specific way he attacks.

How do we find universal principles?

We should ask questions like:

  • What is the message for all mankind?

  • What are the timeless truths?

To apply Scripture, we must identify the people, the place, the plot, the major themes of the ancient text, and find universal principles for our contemporary world.

Find General Principles by Broadening the Application of Specific Ones

For example, in 1 Corinthians 9:9 and 14, Paul said this:

For it is written in the law of Moses, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” God is not concerned here about oxen, is he? … In the same way the Lord commanded those who proclaim the gospel to receive their living by the gospel.

“Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain” was originally written to Israel in the book of Deuteronomy. Israel was a farming society, which that passage had direct applications to. How might we apply the truth in that passage to contemporary society? Consider how Paul applied it: In the same way, an ox should be able to eat from the grain that he is laboring for, pastors should be able to make their living from preaching the gospel. Though as New Testament believers, we are not under the Old Testament law written to Israel, there are still applications and abiding truths we should apply. The specific contemporary application to not muzzle an ox would be for farmers to provide food for their laboring animals. But the general principle is a laborer is worthy of his wages, which applies to pastors or any other laborer.

Here is a contemporary illustration, if a housewife asked her husband to pick up his shoes, the direct or specific application would be for him to pick up the shoes. But what’s the general application which the wife really wants (that a wise, discerning husband will pick up)? The general application is for the husband to not make more work for her by making a mess, which applies to more than his shoes. Also, the wife is probably saying, “Help out around the house, please!” When deriving meaning from conversations, we go from specific to general all the time. We’re simply discerning the broader principle behind someone’s words.

Find the Sin Principle

Bryan Chapell, the former President of Covenant Seminary, calls this the “Fallen Condition Focus.” Since Scripture was written to sinners so they can become saved and believers so they can become holy (2 Tim 3:14-17), each text, whether explicitly or implicitly, exposes our spiritual brokenness. Consider the following texts:

Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.

1 Corinthians 10:11

For everything that was written in former times was written for our instruction, so that through endurance and through encouragement of the scriptures we may have hope.

Romans 15:4

Through Scripture, God is pointing out people’s sin and calling them to salvation and righteousness. Therefore, to properly apply Scripture, we must identify the sin principle behind the text. We should ask, “In what way is God exposing the spiritual brokenness of the original audience?”

Even the passages that deal specifically with encouragement or grace, in one sense, still reckon with sin. For example, Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” What is the sin that the Holy Spirit is identifying through this passage? The sin is their propensity to lack divine joy and to live in discouragement—as though God wasn’t in control, working things for their good—and also how they probably sought joy in things other than God, which left them empty. Certainly, circumstances affected this: they were being persecuted (Phil 1:27), they had false teaching in the church (Phil 2:2), and they had discord (Phil 4:2); however, they could still have joy in Christ, regardless of their circumstances. Like the Philippians, we often lack joy in the Lord and often fail to seek it in him. We try to seek our joy in other things that never satisfy. This is what the Holy Spirit was trying to expose and change in the original audience and in our lives.

Let’s consider another passage: What is the sin principle in Romans 12:2? It says, “Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God—what is good and well-pleasing and perfect.”

The primary issue that the Holy Spirit seems be addressing is the Roman Christians’ tendency to model the world and think like them. Certainly, this is true throughout history with believers: Israel also wanted to be like the ungodly nations—having a king like them, worshipping idols like them, practicing their sexual ethics (or lack of). Similarly, contemporary Christians often look just like the world in their entertainment, their language, their dress, and their ethics.

As seen, the sin principle is often clear in warning passages (like do not conform to the world) but it is also implicit behind graceful passages. Philippians 4:13 says, “I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me.” Implied in this is the fact that we often lack the ability to do what God has called us to do because we rely on our own strength instead of God’s. Paul was able to be faithful in prosperity or poverty because of Christ (cf. Phil 4:10-11), and the Philippians could find grace in their own circumstances through Christ as well. The sin principle is believers’ tendency to not rely on Christ and instead do things through their own power.

How can we find the sin principle in passages, so we can better apply them to our lives?

  • Identify a key word which points out sin or implies it.

In Romans 12:2, the one word is “conform.” The believers were conforming to the world. In Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord! Again, I say rejoice!” The one word is “rejoice.” It implies a sin problem of a lack of joy in the Lord or a lack of seeking it in the Lord. In Philippians 4:13, the word is “strength.” Because we don’t rely on God and seek to do things through his power, we are often weak and discouraged. In the last two examples (Phil 4:4 and 4:13), the sin was implicit, not explicit; therefore, we simply considered the opposite of the key words. The opposite of “rejoicing” in the Lord is having a lack of joy from not abiding in Christ. The opposite of “strength” which comes from the Lord is weakness which comes from lack of abiding in him. An implied sin can often be identified by considering the opposite of the key word.

Another example of this is Colossians 3:16, which says: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and exhorting one another with all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, all with grace in your hearts to God.” The key word is “dwell.” Though this is not a warning passage, it implies even believers often don’t allow God’s Word to dwell in them. The word “dwell” means to dwell as a resident, which is in contrast with a Greek word which means to dwell as a visitor. For many Christians, God’s Word is more like a visitor in their lives and therefore they lack the results of God’s Word dwelling in them—teaching others with wisdom, singing to the Lord, and being thankful. The sin principle is the believers’ tendency to not dwell in God’s Word and their lacking the fruits of dwelling. Most only visit the Word, occasionally and inconsistently.

  • Remember that the original audience had sin that needed to be remedied whether it was unbelief, worldliness, etc., and so do we.

Some people only see the sin of others in Scripture and not their own. It’s kind of like those who listen to sermons and keep thinking about how it applies to somebody else. Israel worshiped idols, but we have our own idols, even if they are our job, spouse, digital toys, clothes, future plans, etc. To find the sin principle, we must remember the Holy Spirit was trying to make the original audience holy in some specific way and us as well. We must find that holy burden in the text and apply it to our lives.

Find the Grace Principle

Just as there is underlying sin in each passage or context, there is often grace as well. After Adam and Eve sinned by not trusting God, God gave the promise of the messiah. After the flood, God gave the rainbow. When Israel was in sin, he sent prophets. After the crucifixion, there was a resurrection. There is often grace somewhere within the text, that we must identity. In fact, even when God is not mentioned, as in the book of Esther, his fingerprints are often clearly identified by his sovereign work in the story. In the book of Esther, is it a mere coincidence that when the enemies of Israel had received permission to destroy them that the king was married to a Jewish woman and that her Jewish uncle had recently foiled a plot to kill the king? Certainly not. To discern the grace principle, we must recognize what God is doing in the text.

Let’s consider Matthew 11:28-30 as another example:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.”

In this text, the grace principle is Christ’s promise to give rest. However, we must notice that it is conditional. Christ only does this for those who come to him in salvation and serve with him (take my yoke upon you). Not everybody experiences Christ’s rest and of those who do, some experience more of it as they faithfully serve with Christ in reaching the world.

What are some questions that will help us identify the grace principle?

  • What is God doing in the text in view of the audience?

  • Is the promise or work of God conditional or unconditional? For example, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb 13:5) is unconditional. “Think on these things, put them into practice and the God of peace will be with you” (Phil 4:8-9 paraphrase) is conditional.

  • How does it apply to me?

To apply, we should consider what God is doing in the text including if there are any promises that we should hold onto or pursue.

Understand Contemporary Culture (Cultural Exegesis)

Cultural exegesis is essentially being able to critically evaluate culture—understanding its norms, strengths, weaknesses, why it does things—and applying Scripture to it. This is important so we can apply Scripture to ourselves (as participants in a culture) but also so we can apply it to the world around us.

Let’s consider an example: James 5:16 says, “So confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great effectiveness.” If confessing our sins and praying for one another leads to healing, how does a people (and the culture they represent) often fail to do this and miss God’s promises? Since the fall, people have dealt with shame—leading them to hide from one another and also hide from God. Unfortunately, this is still true in our churches. Many Christians still lack open relationships with others, where they are confessing sins, praying for one another, and receiving God’s healing. In some ethnic cultures, like Asian ones, “saving face” is very important, which can hinder transparent sharing and therefore the healing God promises. Recognizing this tendency in a particular culture is very important for discerning applications.

To do culture exegesis, we must ask questions like:

  • What are the greatest strengths of this culture?

  • What are the greatest weaknesses of this culture?

  • What are the opportunities in this culture?

These questions should be applied to a nation, a city, an ethnic group, an age group, a gender, a family, etc. One of the problems with doing cultural exegesis, and therefore applying the Bible to our lives, is that sometimes it’s hard to identity strengths and weaknesses of a culture that we are a part of. Often, we just accept things without questioning them or weighing them against Scripture. However, to properly apply Scripture to ourselves or others, we must understand the culture we are members of and the cultures of those God has called us to minister to.

In 1 Corinthians 9:19-22, Paul said this:

For since I am free from all I can make myself a slave to all, in order to gain even more people. To the Jews I became like a Jew to gain the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) to gain those under the law. To those free from the law I became like one free from the law (though I am not free from God’s law but under the law of Christ) to gain those free from the law. To the weak I became weak in order to gain the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that by all means I may save some.

Essentially, Paul did cultural exegesis—learning a culture, adopting non-sinful aspects of it in order to win the people of that culture to Christ. We must learn to do the same—to apply God’s Word to ourselves and those around us.

Develop an Action Plan

James 1:22 says, “But be sure you live out the message and do not merely listen to it and so deceive yourselves.” If we are going to do what Scripture says, we must not only discern the application of Scripture but also plan on how to apply it. Proverbs 21:5 says, “The plans of the diligent lead only to plenty.” It has also often been said, “To fail to plan is to plan to fail.” Therefore, if we are going to apply Scripture, we must make an action plan.

What are some questions and steps to help determine an action plan? We should ask ourselves:

  • What does God want me to do about what I have learned?

  • What steps will get me to that goal?

  • What should be my first step?

  • Who should I seek to pray for me and hold me accountable?

These plans will be conditional or unconditional depending on the passage and our status. For example, Ephesians 5:25-27 says:

Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her to sanctify her by cleansing her with the washing of the water by the word, so that he may present the church to himself as glorious—not having a stain or wrinkle, or any such blemish, but holy and blameless.

For the husband who wants to love his wife by washing her with the Word, an unconditional action plan might be:

  1. Approach my wife about having a daily time to read God’s Word and pray together.

  2. Ask spiritual leaders to recommend good devotional books to read with my wife.

  3. Attend a good Bible preaching church.

  4. Ask a godly friend to hold me accountable in seeking to be a spiritual leader in my family.

With a single woman hoping to be married, she might have a conditional plan that starts with, “When considering a potential husband, I will look for a spiritual leader.” For a single man, his conditional plan might start with, “I will focus on growing spiritually first before pursuing a potential wife.”

The plans of the diligent lead to profit. If we’re going to apply God’s Word, we must make action plans—both conditional and unconditional ones.


What principles should one employ to find biblical applications?

  1. Recognize the Dispensation. Consider the time period in biblical history, the audience, and if the text directly applies to the church.

  2. Find Contemporary Equivalents. Consider the people, place, plot, and themes to find universal principles.

  3. Find General Principles by Broadening the Application of Specific Ones. Learn to consider not only what is directly said but the implications of a matter.

  4. Find the Sin Principle. Find out what aspect of our spiritual brokenness the Holy Spirit is seeking to reveal through the passage.

  5. Find the Grace Principle. Find out how God is moving in the text and asking us to trust him.

  6. Understand Contemporary Culture (Cultural Exegesis). Think not only about the ancient world but the contemporary world—its strengths and weaknesses—and how Scripture speaks to these.

  7. Develop an Action Plan. It is not enough to figure out an application; we must consider practically how to implement it and then follow through.


  1. What aspects of the reading stood out most to you and why?

  2. What does the statement, “Everything was written for us but not to us,” mean?

  3. What is the sin principle and grace principle in Scripture? Are both always in the text? Why or why not?

  4. Why is doing cultural exegesis important? How can we practice cultural exegesis in our families, workplaces, cities, or nations?

  5. Why is it important to not only find application but also make action plans after?

  6. What other questions or applications did you have from the reading?


[1] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1957). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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