Congratulations! You’ve done a great job interpreting Scripture. You are well on your way to “rightly dividing the Word of Truth.” So, what’s next?
Evaluate the value of your interpretation, Apply it to your life, and Correlate it properly with other portions of the Word of Truth.
To evaluate is to determine the worth of something. We know that the Bible has inestimable value in part and as a whole, but how do we determine the value of our interpretation of God’s Word? We know that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work,” but is all Scripture addressed to us today?
God told Abraham to circumcise every male child as a sign of the covenant between them. Any male child who was not circumcised would be cut off from his people because he broke the covenant with God. (Genesis 17:9-14) How do we reconcile that direct and clear command with the Apostle Paul’s declaration to Gentile believers that if they became circumcised “Christ will profit you nothing.” (Galatians 5:2) Paul added that every man who became circumcised was a “debtor to keep the whole law” and had become estranged from Christ – “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.” (Galatians 5:6) Even though you can correctly interpret each portion of Scripture (Genesis 17 and Galatians 5) correctly, you won’t understand its worth to your life until you evaluate it for application. Which will it be? Circumcision or uncircumcision?
Look at the Scriptures you’ve interpreted and ask yourself this important question – “does this have any value for people today?” If you don’t find value in what you’ve interpreted, then you need to ask why to make sure there are no holes in your interpretation. If what you’ve interpreted truly has no value for today, then you don’t need to proceed to the application phase of Bible study. However, 40 years of studying God’s Word have taught me that every part of the Bible has value for my life. As Paul wrote, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” All Scripture – not just some of it – all of it.
Since the Bible does have great value for our lives today, I need to seek God’s help to understand its worth to my life and people in my life. Even though circumcision is not something Christians should do today for spiritual purposes, there is great value in circumcision from the time of Abraham to the time of Christ. Knowing that value and the deep spiritual purpose behind it will help us understand God at new depths and increase our appreciation for His wonderful plan for Israel.
The process of application is to take the proper evaluation of correctly interpreted portions of God’s Word and apply them to our life. It is never enough to just “know” the Truth. We must “do” the Truth. As Jesus asked the crowds of people that followed Him – “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46) Application is the process of obedience to God. That obedience must follow proper context and right division of the Word of Truth, but it must follow! Bible study without application is a great waste of the breath God has given us. The Church has wasted much breath through the centuries.
Application is the great purpose of Bible study. God inspired the Writing of the Bible so that people would live according to His Truth. As Jesus told Satan – “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” (Luke 4:4)
Correlating Scripture is what we are able to do well after finishing the process of observing, interpreting, evaluating, and applying God’s Truth to our lives. Correlation is the process of establishing relationships and connections between and among various portions of Scripture. We learn how to do it properly by seeing how Jesus, Paul, Peter, John and other apostolic writers made correlations from Old Testament passages. It is from the process of correlating Scriptures that “topical” studies form. It is from correlation that we are able to develop character and theological studies. Knowing that we understand how to “rightly divide the Word of Truth” so that we are using every passage properly during correlation gives us great comfort in knowing we are handling the Truth as God would have us do – “a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
Rightly dividing the Word of Truth is not easy. It takes time, effort, prayer, and a spiritual ear to hear what the Spirit says about why He inspired what we read in the Bible. That’s why Paul told Timothy he would be “a worker.” Rightly dividing the Word of Truth takes work, and yields a great harvest of Truth that will change your life and the lives of all who listen to you. Our prayers are with you as you study God’s Word methodically and inductively!
Also, we invite you to read the companion apologetics study – Can I Trust the Bible?
In Christ’s Love and Grace,
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”