A. Introduction

In the past semester we have undertaken to:

  1. reflect on the theory of interpretation,
  2. refine our skill for interpretation, and
  3. renew our zeal for interpretation.

We began with a focus on the proper definition, context and goal of hermeneutics. We defined hermeneutics with Ernesti as “the science and art of interpreting the Bible, that is finding, in an accurate and judicious manner, the meaning of the author, and explaining it appropriately to others.” We fixed the context of hermeneutics with 2 Peter 1 on the certainty in, communion with, and glory of Christ — which brings the majestic coming of Christ into view for the otherwise faltering and jaded human spirit.
We determined the goal of hermeneutics to be the promotion of certainty and establishment in the glorious truth and everlasting kingdom. We established the first principle of hermeneutics to be “no private interpretation,” i.e., we maintain the guidelines in and the truth of Scripture as the only canon for interpretation, and settle that the meaning inheres in the text and is consequently singular.
We surveyed the history of interpretation through the allegorical and literal schools, the rationalist and irrationalist schools. We concluded that the literal method had its champions throughout history, the apex of its formulation and practice corresponded to the Reformation, particularly Calvin and the Reformed Divines. It was not long afterwards, that the influence of philosophy turned biblical scholars towards rationalistic and critical methods.
We turned to the discussion of the Scriptural principles for interpretation, as the inspiration of Scripture, the unity of sense in Scripture, the analogy of faith, the qualifications of an exegete, and the role of the Spirit in Interpretation.
We examined the Scriptural model for interpretation, namely, the interpretation of the Old in the New. We deduced from these principles and this model a step by step method for interpretation with a three-fold focus on the grammatical, historical, and theological meaning of a passage.
We looked at genres, such as narratives, poetry, prophecy, and epistles. We looked at types and parables and allegories and figures of speech.
Now we turn, in conclusion, to a sound method for application.

B. Application in the Bible

1. Key Verses

a. Col. 3:16: Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another

b. Heb. 4:2: For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them

c. Romans 15:4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning (doctrine), that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.

Definition of Application: How the Word of God comes to dwell in us, cleanse us, shape us, transform us, motivate us, guide us, and equip us for mission and prepare us for glory.
2. Examples

a. John the Baptist: Luke

Text: Isaiah 40:3-5: Prepare ye the way of the Lord

Exposition: Axe is laid unto the root of the trees .. hewn down … cast into fire (v. 9)

General Application: Bring forth fruits of repentance / Don’t trust in covenant membership (8)

Specific Applications: Let him impart one coat … meat … exact no more .. do violence to no one … neither accuse falsely … be content

b. Peter: Acts 2

Text: Joel 2:28-32

Exposition: Acts 2:22-36: Christ – humbled and exalted – now Lord

Application: Acts 2:38-40: repent, be baptized, promise: remission of sins; promise to you …; save yourselves from this untoward generation

3. Need for Application

a. Rome denies private judgment in the interpretation of the Scriptures. Creed of Pope Pius IV:

I also accept the Holy Scripture according to that sense which holy mother the Church hath held, and doth hold, and to whom it belongeth to judge the true sense and interpretations of the Scriptures. Neither will I ever take and interpret them otherwise than according to the unanimous consent of the Fathers.

b. Protestantism  maintains the right of exercising his own reason and judgment in the study of the Scriptures. But he humbly acknowledges the fallibility of all men…” In fact, he holds it to be “no only a right but a duty of all Christians to search the Scriptures, that they may know for themselves the will and commandments of God.”

5. Place of Application
Terry: “The first and great thing is to lay hold of the real spirit and meaning of the sacred writer. There can be no true application, and no profitable taking to ourselves of any lessons of the Bible, unless we first clearly apprehend their original meaning and reference. To build a moral lesson upon an erroneous interpretation of the language of God’s word is a reprehensible procedure. But he who clearly discerns the exact grammatico-historical sense of a passage, is better qualified to give it any legitimate application which its language and context will allow. Accordingly, … [when] the preacher first shows, by a varied interpretation, that he thoroughly comprehends that which is written, his various allowable accommodations of the writer’s words will have the great force, in whatever practical applications he may give them.”

C. A Program of Application

1. 2 Timothy 3:15-17 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 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 perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

2. The Transition to Application

“Doctrine”: Teaching (Rom. 12:7; Rom. 15:4; 1 Tim. 1:10)

Terry: “The teacher of Scripture doctrine should not cite his proof-texts ad libitum, or at random, as if any word or sentiment in harmony with his purpose, if only found in the Scriptures, must needs be pertinent. The character of the whole book or epistles, and the context, scope, and plan are often necessary to be taken into consideration before the real bearings of a given text can be clearly apprehended. That doctrine only is theologically sound which rests upon a strict grammatico-historical interpretation of Scripture.”

3. The Aims of Application

a. Reproof – To rebuke the sinful, the worldly, the heretic (Jude 15; John 16:8)

b. Correction – To amend the fallen and erring

c. Instruction in Righteousness – To engage in disciplinary training for all who would

become sanctified by the truth (John 17:17), and
perfect in the ways of righteousness

4. Method

a. Reflection is the vital art of finding and applying the unique point of a biblical text and relating that point to the redemptive message of the whole Bible

b. The proposition brings a lesson to a point when it joins the central truth of a lesson to the central life applications.

c. Every passage in the Bible presents Christ both as the remedy for sin and as the focal point of God’s plan of salvation.

d. Every passage of the Bible touches on some aspect of the fallen human condition and presents some part of God’s remedy in Christ.

D. Applying the Forms of Scripture

1. Historical Texts  “Biblical History differs from ordinary history in that God is the main character in each narrative.”

a. What does this passage reveal about God — his ways with his people?
b. What does it show us about covenant life – the blessings and the curses?
c. What conduct is here displayed – imitable or inimitable behavior? What are the modern equivalents? Use care.
d. What role does each character have? Notice often division – discrimination.
e. How does passage describe covenant community and its life together?

Conclusion: Interpret narratives in light of God’s plans and how people follow or rebel against those plans.
Example: 2 Sam. 12:7-13
1. Doctrinal Texts

a. Which area of doctrine is most clearly in view here?
b. What does the text teach about this doctrine and what does it not teach or what does it oppose?
c. How does this affect the mind, heart, soul, strength? Knowledge, affection, action?
d. What (modern) practical areas does this have a direct bearing on?
Example: Rom. 5:1

3. Prophetic Texts

a. What does the text “foretell” and/or “forthtell”? Where do we see the fulfillment most distinctly?
b. What are (modern) practical areas which their teaching directly addresses?
Example: Zech. 4:6

4. Ethical Texts

a. How does the content of this text relate to Decalogue or other institutions, etc.?
b. What is the redemptive-historical context?
Example: Gal. 6:10

5. Wisdom Texts

a. How does this text relate to biblical ideas about “Wisdom”?
b. What are the proper limits of the applicability of this text?
c. What (modern) practical areas does this have a direct bearing on?
Example: Prov. 1:10

6. Promissory Texts

a. What is the specific nature of the promise?
b. To whom is it addressed?
c. What is the other side of the promise (either positive or negative)?
d. How does this promise relate to Christ?
e. How is the fulfillment obtained and experienced?
Example: Isa. 44:3

7. Poetic Texts (Hymns and Prayers)

a. What do these texts set forth about nature of God and his purpose and our response to these?
b. What (modern) practical areas does this have a direct bearing on?
Example: Ps. 29