Observe Interpret Apply

A minister approached a couple in his Christian fellowship group who had been sleeping together, though they were not married. When he confronted them with some Biblical texts about sexual immorality and marriage commitment, they replied: “Well that’s your interpretation; everybody is entitled to their own interpretation.”[1]

Biblical interpretation is a very practical issue. How should the Bible be interpreted and applied to our lives? Are all interpretations equally valid as this couple suggest?

The Bible claims to be the very word of God, written by human authors under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit[2]. God is able to speak truly[3] in a way that we can understand. Paul tells Timothy:  Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15) .

We should therefore aim to ‘correctly’ handle God’s word, seeking the meaning that God has intended: “Seek the plain, natural, intended meaning of the text. What did the original author (God through the human author) intend for his original audience to understand, and therefore what is implied for Christians today. Interpret the Scriptures on their own terms, based on whatever form they are in. Study the Scriptures prayerfully, seeking to be changed by them (2 Timothy 3:16-17), understanding that the Scriptures ultimate focus is Jesus Christ – his life death and resurrection (Luke 24:27,44-47).”[4]

Recently our pastoral team put together this simple worksheet to help us in thinking about how to correctly interpret and apply the Bible. It  uses three simple steps:

Observe – what does it say?,
Interpret – what does it mean?
Apply – what does it mean for us?
You can view or download the sheet here: Observe Interpret Apply

[1] D McCartney, C Clayton ‘Let the Reader Understand: A guide to interpreting and applying the Bible, 1.

[2] 2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:20-21, Mark 12:36 etc.

[3] Psalm 12:6, 19:7-9, 119:86, 138, 160.

[4] Quote adapted from Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Fellowship Group Handbook


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