Author: Ron Graham
Applying the Bible to Self
—Six personal questions
The first thing we must learn to do with the Bible is to make self application. To this end, there are at least six simple personal questions we can ask of any portion of scripture we read.
The Bible is full of many lovely prayers. They are prayers that people prayed long ago, but there is no reason why we cannot make them our prayers too. So as we read the Bible, we might ask the question...
Is there a Prayer here for me to pray?
We may prefer not to recite those prayers word for word, but rather take the thoughts and expressions from scriptural prayers and apply them in our own heart-felt prayers to God. Some examples are:
- The model prayer of Jesus (Matthew 6:9-13)
- David’s prayer of contrition (Psalms 51:1-13)
- The prayer of longing (Psalms 42:1-3)
A prayer in every passage. In many a reading of scripture, where there is no model prayer as such, we may nevertheless find much to pray about. Just as an almost random example, take the first seven verses of Romans 15.
The following is the kind of prayer that these verses suggest...
"Lord help me to be strong, to help the weak, build up my neighbour, be of one mind with my brethren, bear reproach for Christ, and persevere by letting the hope you give me be my encouragement".
Is a prayer like that anything but commendable? How did that prayer originate? You read a passage of God’s word, wanted to apply it to yourself, asked whether there was a prayer in this passage that you could pray, formulated the prayer guided by the passage, and prayed it from your heart.
There is nothing artificial about applying your Bible study to prayer in this manner, is there?
There are so many wonderful promises in the Bible, and we should breathe them into our souls as we read the scriptures. When we read a passage in the Bible, we can ask the question...
Is there a Promise here for me to believe?
Not every promise in the Bible is a promise for us of course. When we read that God promised Abraham that his descendants would be more numerous than grains of sand on the seashore (Genesis 22:16-17), we don’t take that as a literal promise for ourselves.
However we do find marvelous promises that we can apply to ourselves. For example...
- Jesus’s promise (John 14:1-3)
- Paul’s conviction (Romans 8:38-39)
- Peter’s assurance (1Peter 3:18)
There are many commandments in the Bible. Some of them belong to past times and are not applicable to the way of Christ. For instance none of us, reading that God commanded Noah to build an ark (Genesis 6:13-16), would take this as a precept for us to obey.
We should always be on the lookout, however, for scriptures that show us things that God wants us to do. As we study a portion of the Bible, we ought to ask the question...
Is there a Precept here for me to obey?
A hymn has the line, "Precept and promise, law and love combining..." expressing the relationship between promise and law. If we want the promises of God to be applicable to us, then we must love the precepts of God and apply them to ourselves. For example...
- Annanias’s words to Paul (Acts 22:16)
- Paul’s statement about love (1Corinthians 13:1-3)
- The Hebrew writer’s exortation (Hebrews 13:5-6)
The Bible abounds with wonderful examples, "a great cloud of witnesses" the Hebrew write called them, after he ran out of time to speak of them all (Hebrews 11:32, 12:1). As we read in the Bible about the deeds of so many good and faithful people, we can ask the question...
Is there a Precedent here for me to follow?
There is a small but important difference between example and precedent. You probably think I chose the word "precedent" because it starts with P, however there’s a little more to it than that. All precedents are examples, but not all examples are precedents. A precedent is an example that sets a new standard, pattern, or benchmark for the future. A precedent has authority almost like a precept has. For example...
- The disciples' first-day assembly to break bread (Acts 20:7)
- The Bereans' manner of receiving the gospel (Acts 17:11)
- The Lord’s love for his brethren (John 13:34)
We all respect a man or woman of principle, a person who honors and lives by sound and just principles. The best principles to live by are found in the Bible, and whenever we read a portion of scripture we can ask the question...
Is there a Principle here for me to honor?
Here are some examples...
- Faith without works is dead (James 2:14-17)
- Love the truth and you won’t be deceived (2Thessalonians 2:10)
- You reap what you sow (Galatians 6:7, 2Corinthians 9:6)
One of the wonderful things about the Bible is that it opens up marvelous possibilities. Most of us live very restricted lives, and sometimes we feel frustrated and dissatisfied, and long for opportunities to do more with our lives. As we read some chapter of the Bible we can ask the question...
Is there a Possibility here to challenge me?
I am not thinking here about opportunities to make money or the possibilities of becoming rich. The "prosperity gospel" that has deceived so many only closes people off from possibilities that have nothing to do with money and which money cannot buy. For example...
- Laying up for yourself treasure in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21)
- A wonderful future life beyond death (1Corinthians 15:50-55, 1Thessalonians 4:16-18)
- Winning victory over Satan (James 4:7-8, Romans 16:20)
- Open doors for leading others to God (1Corinthians 16:9, Daniel 12:3)
It appears we have now come full circle in our lesson, for these and many more possibilities are based on the Prayers we make to God and the Promises God makes to us, and it was with those, you will remember, that our lesson began.