Application is the step between knowing what the Bible says and doing what it says. We have developed a Bible study system called the Life Application Pyramid. Imagine a pyramid with four steps on each side and one at the top. Each step has a name: People, Place, Plot, Point, Principles, Present, Parallels, Priorities, and Plan. Using the nine sets of questions in the Pyramid, you will be able to study the Bible and then apply its principles more practically and thoroughly to your personal life situations.
In this article we will climb up the left side of the Pyramid toward Principles. We will explore how to gather the information from the Bible itself that we need in order to apply it to our lives.
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 you’re reading Proverbs or Romans). But don’t forget the author and the original audience. So you should ask,
- Who are all the people in this passage?
- How are these people like people in my world?
- What characteristics of these people do I see in myself?
Next, consider Place. This step puts the passage in its original setting, the historical and cultural context. The more you know about the culture, history, and problems of the people in the passage, the more you will be able to find parallels to your life today. Ask,
- 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?
This step answers “What’s happening?” Usually you can discover this by the context of the passage and book. Ask,
- What is happening in this passage?
- 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?
Before you can determine what something in the Bible means for you today, you must first ascertain the meaning for the original audience. Therefore, carefully consider the cultural context (what you learned in the first three steps) to find the particular lessons that God wanted to teach these people. A clear understanding of the Point can prevent damaging misapplication and is invaluable for determining the timeless truths in the passage. To determine the Point, ask,
- What was the intended message for the original audience?
- What did the people in the passage learn?
- What did God want them to do?
- What was God’s solution to the problem?
The next step is to determine what transferable principles are embedded in the passage. The Point and Principles may be exactly the same—or may be indirectly related. The Principles are the distilled essence of a passage. You should ask,
- What is the message for all of humankind?
- What are the timeless truths?
- What is the moral of the story?
In Part 2 we will learn how to turn all this information into an application.
This article is adapted from Dave Veerman, How to Apply the Bible (ISBN: 0972461604), available everywhere books are sold.