I recently reviewed the index of the articles on my blog.  One article is entitled “Primer on How to Study the Bible.”  The link is at:  A Primer on How to Study the Bible | Steve Belsheim.  While the discussion of the observation step and the interpretation step is reasonably thorough, the discussion of the application step is woefully lacking.  One well-known preacher once said, “More heresy is preached in application than in Biblical exegesis.”  In their book Living by the Book, Howard and William Hendricks write (pp. 283-284) [emphasis added]:

Application is the most neglected yet the most needed stage in the process.  Too much Bible study begins and ends in the wrong place: It begins with Interpretation, and it ends there.  …  The Bible was not written to satisfy your curiosity; it was written to transform your life.  The ultimate goal of Bible study, then, is not to do something to the Bible, but allow the Bible to do something to you, so truth becomes tangent to life.

For the sake of completeness, please note that among many, two passages that support applying biblical truth are below:

2 Timothy 3:16–17 (NASB95) – 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

James 1:22–25 (NASB95) – 22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.

The purpose of this article (which will always be a work in progress) is to bolster the discussion of the application step.  I hope it is helpful.



The grammatical-historical method of interpretation is the only one valid proper interpretation of a passage.  There can be only one valid interpretation of a passage.  In contrast, there can be a plurality of valid applications of a properly interpreted passage.  However, each application must legitimately stem from the interpretation. 

Let’s look at what to consider when determining whether or not an application is valid.

Define the Single Interpretation of the Passage

It is critical to define the single correct interpretation of the passage.  This interpretation must be kept at the forefront of one’s mind during the application process.  An application can not somehow run afoul of the interpretation.

Some Overarching Questions

In order to set the stage for the below questions, several overarching questions to ask are:

What response(s) did the original writer intend to elicit from his intended audience?

How culturally-bound are those responses?  Does the intended response(s) apply only to the specific circumstance of the passage?

If a response is culturally-bound, does it represent a cross-cultural principle?

Specific Questions for Application

In his book entitled “Putting the Bible to Work”, Daniel Doriani sets out a table FIG. 11 on page 96 that provides the basis for twenty-eight questions to ask about a text.  There are seven biblical sources and four questions to apply to each source.  Below, identify the sources and work through the questions. 

Biblical Rule?

In this context, a “rule” means a command or a precept to follow.  In a sense, a rule draws a line or boundary.  However, a rule does not always have to be a command.

Does the interpreted text comprise a rule?  Examples of rules include many of the Ten Commandments such as, for example, the following:

Exodus 20:3, 13-15 (NASB95) – 3 “You shall have no other gods before Me. … 13 “You shall not murder. 14 “You shall not commit adultery. 15 “You shall not steal.

Does the rule influence my character?  Who should I be?  That is, how can I become the person or obtain the character that allows me do what is right, i.e., live in a way consistent with the rule?  Does the rule present a duty?  What should I do?  That is, what is my duty in light of the rule?  How does my present conduct correspond to each applicable duty?  How do I change my life to comply with the duty?  Do I expect this change to be transformational?  What do I plan to do to experience this transformation?

Does the rule define a goal?  To what causes should I devote my life energy?  That is, what goal(s) as exemplified by the rule should I pursue?

Does the rule relate to discernment?  How does the rule help me to distinguish between truth and error?  That is, how does the rule help me gain discernment?

Biblical Ideal?

In this context, an “ideal” means behavior that satisfies biblical standards wherein such behavior is the ultimate.  Practically, speaking, such behavior may be essentially impossible to achieve.

Does the interpreted text comprise an ideal?  Examples of ideals include God’s call to be holy per the following:

Leviticus 11:45 (NASB95) – 45 ‘For I am the Lord who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy.’ ”

1 Peter 1:14–16 (NASB95) – 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

Matthew 22:36–40 (NASB95) records Jesus giving the two great commandments:

36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 “This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 “The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

Questions similar to those for the biblical rule apply to this biblical source.

Biblical Doctrine (or Biblical Worldview)?

In this context, basic orthodox Christian doctrines and biblical worldviews comprise those cardinal truths of the faith, which are the fundamentals of the Christian belief system.  I believe that my personal doctrinal statement sets out the necessary doctrines and worldviews.  These comprise: 1.0  THE BIBLE (The Authority of the Bible); 2.0  THE TRIUNITY OF GOD (The Godhead); 6.0  HUMANKIND; 8.0   ABORTION; 9.0  MARRIAGE; 10.0  HUMAN SEXUALITY; 11.0  SALVATION OF MANKIND; 12.0  SANCTIFICATION; 13.0  THE CHURCH; 15.0  FUTURE EVENTS; 16.0  THE  ETERNAL STATE; and 17.0 CIVIL GOVERNMENT.

Does the interpreted text state a fundamental biblical doctrine (or biblical worldview)? 

Questions similar to those for the biblical rule apply to this biblical source.

Narrative (Redemptive Actions)?

In this context, a redemptive narrative means a biblical narrative that defines God’s redemptive plan or has an impact on the doctrine of salvation. 

Does the interpreted text comprise a narrative (redemptive acts)?  In other words, does a narrative explain how God saves a sinner.  Examples of a redemptive act kind of narrative includes a portion of Jesus discussion with Nicodemus in John 3:16–21 (NASB95):

16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 “But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”

Questions similar to those for the biblical rule apply to this biblical source.

Narrative (Exemplary Actions)?

In this context, am exemplary narrative means a biblical narrative that describes certain historical events and teach or show a moral lesson.

Does the interpreted text comprise a narrative (exemplary acts)?  In other words, does the narrative describe an event that does not pertain to how God saves a sinner.  Examples of an exemplary act kind of narrative include a description of how the early church came together on the first day of the week in Acts 20:7.

Questions similar to those for the biblical rule apply to this biblical source.

Biblical Image or Symbol?

In this context, an “image” or “symbol” means something that stands for something else or is a picture of something else.

Does the interpreted text comprise an image?  Examples of an image or symbol include water baptism and the Lord’s Supper. 

Questions similar to those for the biblical rule apply to this biblical source.

Song or Prayer?

Does the interpreted text comprise a song or prayer?  A song or a prayer have definite definitions.  Examples of a song or prayer include the Psalms.  The Bible contains many examples of prayer such as the Lord’s Prayer.  

Questions similar to those for the biblical rule apply to this biblical source.

Levels of Authority for an Application

It is important to determine the level of authority for a specific application.  According to a source I am trying to locate, there are three basic level of authority.

First, when we can employ the originally intended application in our situation with little or no change it most likely defines a timeless principle.  This means that we can have the highest level of confidence that the application is valid.

Second, when we can employ the originally intended application (it may be a broader principle) in our situation with some (but not all) of the elements of the passage, then we have the next highest level of confidence that the application is valid. 

Third, when we can employ the originally intended application in our situation with little or no elements of the passage, while we may state a good thing to do, the application of the specific passage may not be valid or possess tenuous validity. 


If you use this approach, I believe that you will develop legitimate applications of a properly interpreted text.  Please keep in mind that this method is a work in progress, and no doubt, will develop over time.

Below, I present an example of this method to apply Galatians 1:6-9.


The Sole Interpretation of Galatians 1:6-9

As an example, I will use this application process to apply my interpretation of Galatians 1:6-9 to the doctrine of baptismal regeneration.  Post 41D (link: Is the Doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration the Road to Hell? – Post 41D (Exegesis of Galatians 1:6-9 – Part 4 of 4) | Steve Belsheim  ) presents my interpretation:

It is beyond credible argument that the sole, interpretation of Galatians 1:6-9 is that Paul intended to convey the following basic teachings to his original audience. 

First, he intended to tell his audience that repentance and faith in Jesus Christ alone was the only true, saving gospel message. This was the message preached by Paul.

Second, he intended to convey to his audience that there was only one true gospel, so any message that required repentance, faith in Jesus Christ, and circumcision for salvation was “different” from the true gospel message and not “another” saving message.  Anyone who trusted, even in part, in their circumcision for their salvation was lost.

Third, anyone who proclaimed a message different from the message of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ alone should be condemned to hell.

According to the sole correct interpretation, Galatians 1:6- 9 presents a rule that defines a limit on the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.  In other words, the doctrine of salvation states that salvation is available only through repentance and faith alone in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross.  Galatians 1:6-9 teaches that to add anything (e.g., circumcision) to the gospel makes it non-saving.

Let’s look at the questions that relate to a “rule.”

Application of the Questions to the Interpretation of Galatians 1:6-9

The interpretation is a rule that states: the doctrine of salvation states that salvation is available only through repentance and faith alone in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross.  Galatians 1:6-9 teaches that to add anything (e.g., circumcision) to the gospel makes it non-saving.

In light of the questions about character, goal and discernment, the applications are described below.  The truth that salvation is by grace through faith and not by works should cause me to want to pay close attention to the gospel presentation of any ministry.  If a work (e.g., water baptism) is NECESSARY for salvation, then I need to respond accordingly.  I have a duty to KNOW and always continue to BETTER KNOW the mystery of the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. 

My transformation (and the goal) should be into a Bible exegete who correctly handles the Word of God, especially when it comes to the substance of the gospel.  My transformation should be into possessing greater discernment and a bolder response to “gospels” that are non-saving, which means they are not even gospels. 

The level of authority of these applications is relatively high because of the direct correlation between circumcision and any “work” necessary for salvation.  This is especially true for the work of water baptism, which arguably correlates to circumcision.

If you are unsure about your salvation or are not a Christian, it is vital that you continue reading.


If you are unsure about your salvation, you need to check out my book The Salvation Meter: Biblical Self-Diagnostic Tests to Examine Your Salvation and Spiritual Growth (book link at Xulon Press: ).  At Amazon the book link is .  I also have a website in which I am updating the content in the book.  The link to my website for the book is .


… please (1) read through “God’s Plan of Salvation” so you can understand what God did for you through His only unique Son, Jesus Christ, and (2), from the bottom of your heart, pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” meaning every word.  If you do, you will be reconciled to God – saved – through Jesus Christ. 

God’s Plan of Salvation

In the beginning, God, who is holy, created the entire universe.  As a part of His creative actions, He made humans (male and female) in His image to know Him.  For a while, everything was right between God and our ancestors, Adam and Eve.  But Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God, whereby Adam’s sin was passed down to all of humanity, creating a separation between God and humanity.  We cannot do anything to bridge that separation so that without God’s intervention, hell is our eternal destination.   Fortunately for us, in His great love and mercy, God provided us with the only means of salvation through Abraham’s lineage by sending the Jewish Messiah, Jesus Christ, God’s only unique Son.  While retaining His deity, God the Son became a man in Jesus, lived a perfect life, thereby fulfilling the Law, and died a substitutionary atoning death on the cross, taking on Himself the punishment for the sins of all people.  Jesus rose from the dead, showing that God the Father accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, thereby exhausting God’s wrath against humanity.  God now calls on every unbeliever to repent of their sins and completely trust in Christ alone that Jesus died for their sins and rose to life from the dead.  Every unbeliever who repents and trusts in Jesus Christ will be forgiven of all their sins (past, present, and future) and born again as a new creation in Christ, possessing guaranteed eternal life with God. 

Scripture References: Genesis 1:1, 26, 31; Habakkuk 1:13; Genesis 2:7-25;  Genesis 3:1-7, 22-24; Isaiah 59:2; Romans 3:19-20, 23; 5:17-19; Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 6:23; John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Colossians 1:15; 2:9; Matthew 1:18, 20, 24-25; Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:24; Hebrews 2:17; 9:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 1 John 4:10; John 3:16-18; Mark 1:15; Acts 17:30; 26:20; Romans 1:4; 4:25; John 3:5-8; 1 Peter 1:3.

 “Sinner’s Prayer”

Lord, Jesus Christ, the only unique Son of God, thank You for Your free gift of eternal life.  I know I’m a sinner who cannot save myself no matter what I do, and I deserve to spend eternity in hell.  But, I know that because You loved me so much, You voluntarily died on the cross for me taking my sins upon Yourself, and You physically bodily rose from the grave showing that Your sacrificial death was sufficient payment to give me eternal life in Heaven.  I now repent of my sins and completely trust alone in what You did for my eternal salvation.  Please take control of my life as I now receive You as my Lord and Savior.  Thank You so much for saving me.  I am now Yours forever!

(Scripture references: John 1:1-4, 11-14; John 3:16; Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 3:21-26; Isaiah 53:4-6; Mark 1:15; Acts 16:31; Acts 4:12; Romans 10:9-10, 13; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; John 10:27-29).


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The following sources gave me ideas and substance for this article:

Hendricks, Howard and William, Living by the Book

Verman, Dave, How to Apply the Bible (1993), Tyndale House Publishing, Wheaton, IL

Gutherie, Goerge H., Read the Bible for Life, (2011), B&H Publishing, Nashville, TN

Dorian, Daniel M., Putting the Bible to Work, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI