Question: How do you discern what Scripture applies to us today?

How do you discern what Scripture applies to us today?


            How do you discern what Scripture applies to us today compared to what applies to the original audience?  We can learn from all Scripture as Paul records, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” (Rom. 15:4)  Additionally, Paul proclaims that all of Scripture is provided that we might be brought in line with God’s thinking and be equipped for every good work,

16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,
 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

In other words, I can learn from each passage of Scripture, and it helps reveal where I need to be rebuked, corrected and trained for righteous living.  Yet, not all Scripture has direct application to me.

            All Scripture is directly applicable to the intended audience.  The principle that should be understood is authorial intent.  What was the author’s intent for the intended audience?  What did the author mean to convey to the specific audience, in that culture, in that time in which they lived? For example, Ezra, who assembled 1 and 2 Chronicles records for us,

14 “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chron. 7:14)

This passage is often used today implying that if Americans would humble themselves, then God would bless our nation again.  Yet, God was speaking in the passage to Israel, not the United States.  He describes them as “My people,” who are categorized as God’s people, because God directly called Abraham out of Ur and made a covenant with Abraham that God would raise up a great people from Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3).  God did not make that promise to the United States.  God certainly worked through the founding Fathers, however, no direct promise was made and America is not “My people.

            However, the principle has application to the United States as we saw in Romans 15:4.  The application is that we should humble ourselves, because the arrogance and indifference we are displaying toward God is certainly bringing God’s wrath in increased tornadoes, hurricanes, droughts, flooding, blizzards, etc.  Some may say these are cycles of nature, yet as America spirals down the morass of immorality, the weather, crime, economic problems uptick is increasing.  If we humble ourselves as a nation, there is no guarantee that God will bless, because there may be other reasons in world history for God to let America disintegrate.

            Actually, much of the Old Testament was meant for Israel, not the Church.  We agree with the Psalms and Proverbs. Yet, David wrote imprecatory prayer psalms (cf. Ps. 69, 109) that we cannot impose today.  David was the king and represented God, so in that position as representing God and king of Israel, he called down God’s wrath on his enemies.  We are in a position to learn from the psalm, but not use the psalm on others.  We were called to peace. The Judge will come and impose His wrath in due time.

Additionally, the Proverbs are general principles of truth designed for all, but not absolute statements of fact.  For example, “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Pro. 22:6)  This verse is a general principle that is true, but not absolute.  Every child must make his own decisions and there are many godly parents, who were diligent to disciple their children, but the children may not have followed the Lord.  All things being equal, children will return to the godly training they were given.  However, this Proverb is not a guarantee.  On the other hand, because Proverbs are not absolute truths should not be an excuse for parents to be anything less than diligent (cf. Deut. 6:6-9).

The Gospel accounts are written so that we could understand Jesus.  Yet, there is a great amount of information that does not directly apply to us.  For example, some have used the passage, “But he who endures to the end shall be saved,” (Mat 24:13) to imply that if a believer in Jesus does not persevere, then he will not be saved.  That contradicts too many other passages of Scripture, like John 3:16; Romans 8:38-39; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Ephesians 2:8-9 and many others.  So how do we understand the passage? 

Matthew 24:13 is part of the Olivet Discourse that Jesus gave to the disciples during the Passover week.  The Olivet Discourse was written to describe the conditions during the Tribulation period between the Rapture of the Church and the Second Advent of Jesus Christ.  Those who endure, who keep the faith during the Tribulation will be saved.  What does “saved” mean?  The basic meaning of the word “saved” is deliverance.  Thus the passage interpreted in the context means that the believer who is faithful during the Tribulation will be delivered into the Millennial Kingdom when Jesus returns at the Second Advent. There are many other examples of passages that can only be understood by understanding Dispensations. 

The best way to understand what applies and what does not is to understand Classical Dispensationalism.  This theological approach to Scripture seeks God’s view to Scripture rather than man’s view.  It looks at what God meant for the intended audience and what applies today.

How do you take what was not intended for the church today and find meaning?  When you interpret Scripture, determine the Universal Truth or principle for the audience.  That Universal Truth transcends all time and audience and can be applied to the person who reads Scripture today.  For example, when God told Jacob to go up to Bethel and make an altar, Jacob realized he better put away anything related to idolatry, so we read, “So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods which were in their hands, and the earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree which was by Shechem.” (Gen. 35:4) Should women remove their earrings?  The text would indicate that action!

The question is, “What is the Universal Truth?”  Notice that Jacob took all the foreign gods “and the earrings…” In other words the earrings were more than an adornment – they were connected to the foreign gods, the idolatry.  Hence, Jacob wanted the people “holy” or “set aside” to God and not connected in any way to the idolatry when they set up the altar to worship God.  The Universal Truth is that we should be “set aside” wholly to God and not have any idolatry in our lives.  That will be more difficult, because we need to look for idolatry of personal contentment, surrounding peace, or things like the idolatry of expecting respect, which are far more difficult to discern than some object like an earring. Again, we read Scripture, always with Paul’s admonition, For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” (Rom. 15:4) 

This is a great question and the answer is determined by what hermeneutic and what theological approach to Scripture you use.  The word “hermeneutic” means the system of interpretation.  The systems of interpretation people use vary from a symbolic or allegorical approach to a Literal Historico-grammatical approach.  The theological approach people use vary from a Classical Dispensational approach to all sorts of other methods of theology. I present these two spectrums of understanding, because they determine what Scripture applies to us today.  This is a fun discussion for a home group or any other gathering to think through what are other examples of what applies directly or what applies indirectly.




Can You Trust What You Believe?

Life is about trust.  Trust in God’s character and word. Trust in relationships.  Trust in family. Trust in the food we eat.  We often take trust for granted, because what we hear seems plausible, the person who said it seems reliable, all things being equal, there seems to be no need to question it.

Who do you trust in politics?  The spin machines are in overtime mode spinning the most twisted lies.  There are a whole lot of people who believe them, so what’s the deal?  Yet, there are a whole lot of people who don’t believe the twisted lies.  Can you trust what you hear?

Sometimes people who have been trustworthy will say something.  And it’s possible to believe what they say, so we take it at face value and believe it.  We don’t hear a rebuttal or defense, so it must be true.  Can you trust what you believe?

I’m not talking about biblical theology.  I’m addressing what people say that causes problems in relationships. Can you trust what you believe?

Then we read Proverbs 18:17.  That says we should be careful about what we hear.  It says we might not be able to trust what we believe. It reads, “The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him.”  Funny, how something can seem right, but when it’s examined, it’s not right.  Why then do we believe the first account?

There are a multitude of reasons why we don’t examine what we hear or believe.  We’re comfortable believing it.  We’re not diligent to examine what is said.  We have an agenda and want to believe what we hear.  We don’t realize the first person has an agenda, so we don’t examine it.  We think the person is normally trustworthy, so why examine him on this issue?  We don’t want to face conflict, so we don’t examine.  We don’t want to stir up conflict.  We think the problem will just go away.  We think people will forget and people will just get along.  Shall I continue?

If Satan moved David to sin, is it possible for godly people today to do sinful things (cf. 1 Chron. 21:1)?  If Jesus called Peter – “Satan” – is it possible for people to speak with a wrong motivation or to provide half truths to fit their agenda (cf. Matt. 16:21-23?  If Peter questioned Ananias, “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?” is it possible for Christians to also lie for their own purposes?  If believers fall away from the truth and believe deceiving spirits can believers today believe what is not true (cf.  1 Tim. 4:1-3)? Did you ever twist the truth before your parents to get out of a jam?  Have your children ever twisted the truth to a lie in order to escape punishment?

Let us flee from evil!  Let us examine words that are spoken.  Let us find out the reason why things happened for the sake of the holiness of God.  THAT will honor the Lord.  Can you trust what you believe?

Question: How much do you help someone?

Question: How do you discern whether to help someone?

How would you counsel someone who has the means to financially help an adult family member who lives in squalor by choice due to poor financial (and spiritual) choices, poor health (physical & mental), choosing not to work, etc?  Do you counsel to take care of the person’s needs or let the State help?  What do you consider about helping the family member or withdrawing support? 

I go back and forth between Scriptures such as 1 Timothy 5:8, which admonishes those who do not support family members as “being worse than an unbeliever” if you don’t take care of your family and others which caution giving help, such as “throwing pearls before swine,” which obviously directly refers to not giving Scripture to scoffers, but the application of support can be derived from this.  Where do you draw the line or do you draw the line (as a Christian)? Are you really helping by helping or just breeding more sin? Will either choice really have eternal consequences for them or for you? 

These are very difficult questions. 1) it involves family, so the emotions are going to be tested and 2) you’re using passages of Scripture that must be compared with each other, because no one passage gives the simple answer.
My answer is only based on the information you’ve provided and I’m not sure I have all the facts that are needed, but here are some thoughts. I know you are seeking His righteousness (Matt. 6:33) and are looking for discernment (Heb. 5:14). You’ll know in your conscience based on the leading of the Holy Spirit and grace (Titus 2:11-13), what to do. At least, make the best choice before the Lord based on what you know from Scripture in each circumstance. 

You mentioned that he is living that way by choice. That is my key. If it is his choice, then I need to remember 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” 

I recognize that my resources must be considered in grace 1 John 3:17, “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him” but considering 2 Thessalonians 3:10, it would be for someone who is willing to work, but has hit hard times and needs legitimate help.  

I can in grace provide help in mercy (Rom. 2:4-5; Jam. 2:13), but if his choice is not to work, then I may be playing the fool and getting in God’s way of letting his hunger drive him to work Pro 16:26, “The person who labors, labors for himself, For his hungry mouth drives him on.” I may be getting in God’s way of divine discipline.  

On the other hand, if no one has discipled the person and they foolishly made the poor decisions, but WANT to do the right thing, then financial help may get them back on their feet. But if they are in the downward spiral of Ephesians 4:17-19, then I would be getting in God’s way. The key for me would be, does he want to do the godly thing (cf. 2 Tim. 2:22). 

If he turns to the state, he’s still choosing to not work and the state is foolish to enable someone to continue in their foolish ways. That brings a curse on any people and we are deep into foolishness regarding some of our welfare support, etc. I certainly understand the tension of “being worse than an unbeliever” 1 Tim. 5:8. 

Yet I struggle with “dead while she lives” (not living in a faithful relationship with Jesus Christ) (1 Tim. 5:6). If she, the widow, who is in physical, financial need is dead in her relationship with Christ, then no help should be given, unless there is repentance. Of course there is room for mercy as your conscience might direct. I would agree that helping someone who doesn’t want help is throwing pearls before swine. That is a person who is in the seventh stage of the downward spiral (Eph. 4:17-19).
Do a search on the biblical word “lazy” and it is not a pleasant view. Proverbs 20:4 describes his consequences. To help people like that who are not humble seems to be enabling someone in his sin. To continue to help someone in his sin without rebuke and restoration seems to have eternal consequences of a loss of reward for that person.  

We have a burden to disciple those who are hungering for truth as you do with all the young people. There will be many who will refuse that help and their consequences should drive them to brokenness and help from the Lord. (Ps. 51:16-17)
I wish I could give you a one sentence answer, but this is too big of an issue. Interesting, I had another case last week about a family in the church dealing with a family member in a marriage relationship. One spouse was willing to work, but the man was not. They could not support themselves and were continuing to make unwise decisions that keep them in the downward spiral. Sometimes I think the enemy tries to use Scripture to put a guilt complex on us to do what you said, “throw pearls before swine [even our own family]” and take away from resources that could be used to help those who are hungering for truth and righteousness.