Interpreting the Bible Accurately 4

By Ron Jones ©Titus Institute 2009

Scripture quotations are from the ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version), © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Interpreting the Bible Accurately - Session 4 Principles of Scriptural Application


We are in a four-week series on Principles of Interpreting the Bible Accurately. The principles have been used by faithful and careful Bible interpreters for centuries and can keep us from imposing our own views and biases on the Scriptures and can help us discern when others are falling into that trap.

Our study is divided into four main points:

W1 Principles of Scriptural Meaning

W2 Principles of Scriptural Consistency

W3 Principle of Scriptural Covenants

W4 Principles of Scriptural Application

These are four categories of principles of interpretation that I am going to give you so you can interpret the Bible properly.

All of these principles could be called the Historical Grammatical Literal Interpretation of Scripture.


W3 Principle of Scriptural Covenants

Last week, we dealt with the Principle of Scriptural Covenants.

When we use the Historical Grammatical Literal Method to interpret the Bible, we realize that there is a distinction between the Old Testament and the New Testament.

When you read through the Bible, it becomes obvious that there is a distinction between Israel and the church.

In the Bible, there is a distinction between Israel and the church.

OT ? Israel ? Mosaic Covenant

NT ? Church ? Abrahamic Covenant/New Covenant

This is crucial to understanding what applies to us as Christians in the Old Testament because we are under the Abrahamic Covenant and its completion the New Covenant and Israel was under the Mosaic Covenant.

Principle 11: The OT portions that reflect Godís plan for Israel in the Mosaic Covenant applied to them only and does not apply to Christians.

God gave two major covenants in the OT, the Abrahamic Covenant and the Mosaic Covenant. A covenant is an agreement God makes with man to accomplish his purposes.

Both of these covenants had a purpose, one of them applies to us and the other applies only to the nation of Israel in the OT.

The Abrahamic Covenant

Godís Covenant with Abraham In Genesis 12:1-3 was that the future king would be his descendant, reign from a nation of his physical descendants in the land of Canaan and bring in a kingdom of righteousness that will be for the whole earth.

This covenant was a salvation covenant with Godís promise of salvation to all who would come into the covenant by faith in the future messiah for the people of the OT and faith in the messiah who came, Jesus Christ in the NT.

These three promises will be fulfilled in the coming millennial kingdom after Jesus returns. Israel will be a great nation of believers in Jesus Christ dwelling in the land of Israel. Christ will rule on the throne of David, and all those who initially live there will be believers.

It is an unconditional covenant entered into by faith.

However, for God to fulfill these promises through his messiah, he needed to establish the nation of Israel in the land of Canaan.

They were to receive his revelation from his prophets and birth the messiah through the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob Ė Mary and Joseph.

In order for them to do this, they needed to be a holy nation who followed Godís ways.

So, God gave to them the Mosaic Covenant.

The Mosaic Covenant

The Mosaic Covenant was given to govern Israel as a holy nation under God in the Promised Land. It was given to Israel so that it might help fulfill the Abrahamic Covenant by preparing Israel for the birth of the Messiah who would bring salvation blessing through them to the world.

The Mosaic Covenant had three kinds of laws

1) Moral laws

2) Civil and criminal laws

3) Ceremonial laws

It was conditional and temporary until messiah came, until Jesus Christ was born.

The Mosaic Covenant was not given by God to save the Israelites or any OT people from their sins nor does it apply to NT believers.

Abrahamic Covenant ? Unconditional ? Eternal ? Provides eternal life in messiahís kingdom

Mosaic Covenant ? Conditional ? Temporal ? Provides civil, criminal & ceremonial laws to govern Israel

This not only affects our interpretation of the OT, but our application of the OT to ourselves as NT believers.

This means that OT passages that speak directly about the obligations & the blessings and curses of the Mosaic Covenant do not apply to Christians.

We saw this last week.

This week we come to

Session 4 Ė W4 Principles of Scriptural Application

If we are using the Historical Grammatical Literal Method of Interpretation, we are going to discover that there is a difference between the direct revelation and open display of miracles we see God do in the lives of those God chose to give his revelation to the world and what he does in the lives of all other believers throughout history as recorded in the Bible and today.

This brings us to Principle 12.

Principle 12: OT and NT passages that speak of Godís special revelatory and miraculous work in the lives of the prophets and apostles and others God chose to play a significant part in his redemptive plan do not apply to the daily lives of OT and NT believers.

This is so important.

Using the Historical Grammatical Literal method also shows that the fall of man changed how God spoke and worked in the lives of his people.

Before the Fall of Man

Genesis 3:8-10

8And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

9But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, ďWhere are you?Ē

10And he said, ďI heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.Ē

Genesis 3:8-10 indicates that everyday God in a physical form met Adam and Eve in the afternoon and God spoke to them personally and fellowshipped with them directly.

Genesis 2 indicates that God spoke to Adam about his needs both personal ("I will make a helper suitable for you") and in regard to civilization ("Be fruitful and multiply").

God also worked miracles directly in their lives as he created a place for Adam to live in Eden, created animals to help him farm the land and created Eve, a wife for him.

After the Fall of Man

When Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, their direct communication and fellowship with God in his presence ended.

Genesis 3:23-24

23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.

24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

After the fall, in Genesis 3:23, it records Adam and Eve were banished from the garden of Eden. What did that mean in regard to God speaking to them and working miracles directly in their lives?

When God banished Adam and Eve from the garden, they forfeited this direct communication and fellowship with God on a daily basis.

After the Expulsion from the Garden of Eden,

We only see God communicating with specific individuals at specific times for specific purposes that always involve his redemptive plan and never personal issues of life.

These individuals were chosen by God for a mission.

Hebrews 1:1

1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,

2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

This reveals Godís plan for communicating with man after the fall.

God spoke to our forefathers (OT believers) through the prophets and has spoken to us (NT believers) in his Son.

God spoke to the people of Israel through intermediaries, the prophets. When he spoke to the prophets, it always had to do with his redemptive plan, not personal issues in their lives.

God spoke to the NT believers through the ultimate intermediary, his Son Jesus Christ. Jesus sent his apostles out to be intermediaries for him (Eph.2:20) to NT believers.

The pattern in both the OT and NT is God speaking to his people through intermediaries and those intermediaries receiving revelation only regarding matters involving Godís redemptive plan.

Even when God spoke to these intermediaries, we see infrequent communication rather than frequent regular communication.

God spoke to

Noah 5 times over 950 yrs

Abraham 8 times over 175 yrs

Isaac 2 times and 1 time to Rebekah over 180 yrs

Jacob 7 times and 1 time to Laban over 147 years.

When God spoke to the prophets, it only involved his redemptive plan.

When God spoke to the prophets to proclaim and write down his Word, again it was infrequent and it only involved his redemptive plan.

When God spoke to the apostles, again it was infrequent and it only involved his redemptive plan.

If you study the book of Acts carefully, you will find that most of the time, Peter and Paul were ministering for the Lord without receiving direct revelation from the Lord.

In the Scriptures what do we see God doing?

We see that man forfeited at the fall, direct communication with God on a personal basis. He then only received direct revelation through intermediaries. God communicated infrequently and only as he deemed necessary to fulfill his redemptive plan.

When Bible teachers claim that God is speaking on a daily basis to Christians today about personal issues in their lives as he always has, they have not carefully read all of the Scriptures.

They are taking the way God spoke to the prophets and apostles and applying it to Christians in general and making it a normal practice for us. Yet it has never been the normal practice for believers since the fall of man.

What about miracles? We see the same thing.

There were three great periods of revelation and miracles in the past.

Moses and Joshua Ė establishing the nation of Israel 1446 BC

Elijah and Elisha Ė establishing the ministry of the prophets 863 BC

Jesus and the Apostles Ė establishing the church 30 AD

One great period of revelation and miracles in the future.

The 3 Ĺ year Great Tribulation just before Christís return to earth

So, after the fall, we do not see God doing miracles personally as he did for Adam in the Garden of Eden nor do we see him speaking personally to Adam and Eve in the garden.

God does do miracles at times, but primarily works providentially through the circumstances and situations of life.

This is important because there are many who want to make the revelation and miracles God gave to the prophets and apostles and other key individuals normative for today.

They misinterpret the passages given to these individuals and say these are for today.

When they do this, they are not using the Historical Grammatical Literal Method which would reveal what I have shown from the Scriptures, especially

Principle 7: Let Scripture explain Scripture and develop doctrines based on all that the Bible says.

What Applies to Christians

So, we have looked at what does not apply to us, so what does apply to us?

This brings us to our next principle.

Principle 13: The OT portions that reflect Godís unchanging nature and attributes, Godís relationship with believers of all ages, and Godís universal moral laws can be applied to our lives (as interpreted according to the NT).


The OT applies to Christians wherever it reflects:

13.1 Godís unchanging nature and attributes

13.2 Godís relationship with believers of all ages

13.3 Godís universal moral laws

13.1 The OT portions that reflect Godís unchanging nature and attributes can be applied to our lives (as interpreted according to the NT).

When we are looking at the Old Testament, we should ask ďWhat does this passage reveal about God, his nature and attributes (as interpreted according to the NT)?Ē

Even though the Mosaic Covenant passages cannot be directly applied to us, they do reflect the character and attributes of God.

The OT is about God creating human beings and acting in human history to redeem them after they fell into sin. It is about God furthering his kingdom.

What reveals more about a being than his words and actions?

Everything God says and does, even if it does not apply directly to us, reveals something about the incredible nature of God.

Every law God gave in the Mosaic Covenant may not directly apply to us, but they reflect Godís nature and attitude toward the words and actions of people.

Example of 13.1 Ė Battle of Jericho

Godís Sovereignty & Power

Godís display of supernatural power at Jericho does not demonstrate the same kind of miracles God does in our lives.

However, it reveals a lot about Godís nature and attributes.

It displays his Godís sovereignty and power to accomplish his will in our lives.

When God chooses to do something human beings and their power are defenseless against God.

Godís Faithfulness

It also reveals God faithfulness to his promises. God has given us different promises and is just as faithful to us.

Faith of Joshua and the Israelites


t reveals the importance of faith, of trusting God no matter how big the obstacles are.

The Old Testament is a picture of God and how he worked in the lives of people. His redemptive plan has different phases, but his character and nature are the same.

So much of the OT is revealing the character and nature of God, the very God we know and love. It also reveals the importance of trusting God and following his righteous ways.

13.2 The OT portions that reflect Godís relationship with believers of all ages can be applied to our lives (as interpreted according to the NT).

When we are looking at the Old Testament, we should ask ďDoes this passage reflect the relationship with God of all believers of all ages (as interpreted according to the NT)?Ē

The Mosaic Covenant was not a covenant of salvation. So, how did OT believers get saved?

The same way NT believers got saved by faith.

Biblical faith involves faith & repentance ? turning toward God and his messiah/son & his righteousness and away from sin = repentance

David was a believer. He writes in the Psalms about his relationship with God as a believer. Many of those verses apply to David as a believer and us as well because we too are believers.

The way to tell the difference is when David speaks of salvation and its benefits or his relationship with God because of his faith, it applies to us. When David speaks of the Mosaic Law as an Israelite, it does not apply to us.

Wherever David writes as a believer applies to us as believers

Example of 13.2 Ė Psalms

Sometimes a whole psalm applies to us

Psalm 23

Psalm 34

Sometimes parts of a Psalm apply to us:

Psalm 147

This psalm is directly about Israel calling them to worship. It reveals some wonderful truth about God that is applicable

v. 1 is certainly applicable at all times for all believers at all times.

v. 2 for Israel

v. 3-6 truth about God applicable at all times

v. 7 applicable to all believers in their relationship to God

v. 8-9 Godís sovereignty in maintaining the earth

v. 10-11 Godís attitudes toward believers (those who fear=respect) of all ages

v.12-14 Godís relationship with Israel only

v. 15-18 Godís sovereignty over creation

v. 19-20 applicable to Israel only

v. 20 end ďPraise the LordĒ for everybody

13.3 The OT portions that reflect Godís universal moral laws which apply to all people of all ages can be applied to our lives (as interpreted according to the NT)./p>

When we are looking at the Old Testament, we should ask

Key Question: Does this passage reflect Godís universal moral law as revealed in the NT (as interpreted according to the NT)?

Example of 13.3

Question: Is it wrong to go to psychics or follow astrology? What does the Bible say?

Suppose you want to know what God says about going to psychics or following astrology.

Psychics fall under the category of what the Bible calls sorcery or divination.

A psychic or astrologer seeks knowledge of the future or the unknown by supernatural or spiritual non-physical means.

You would first search the NT for any info on it.

Galatians 5:19-20 defines what it is

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,

20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions

Paul calls sorcery a work of our fleshly fallen nature. It is therefore sinful and forbidden by God.

Then you can use the OT to reinforce Godís evaluation about it.

Deuteronomy 18:9-13 defines Godís attitude toward it

9 ďWhen you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations.

10 There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer

11 or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead,

12 for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you.

13 You shall be blameless before the Lord your God,

Leviticus 20:9-13

9 For anyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death; he has cursed his father or his mother; his blood is upon him.

10 ďIf a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

11 If a man lies with his father's wife, he has uncovered his father's nakedness; both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.

12 If a man lies with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall surely be put to death; they have committed perversion; their blood is upon them.

13 If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.

When we look at these laws and penalties, we need to realize that they are part of the Mosaic Covenant and they do not apply to us. However, these laws reveal Godís attitude toward these sins and his universal moral law that they are evil.

NOTE: The penalties seem harsh today because we are not living the same lives as in that time and those circumstances. We are not a nation of God surrounded by pagan nations full of every kind of evil and rebellion against God.

Principle 14: The NT is written for believers and applies to our lives except for portions that reflect Godís plan for Israel.

In the Gospels, Jesus is speaking to both the Jews as a nation and to individual Jews for salvation.

Matthew 23:29-38

29 ďWoe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous,

30 saying, ĎIf we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.í

31 Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.

32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers.

33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?

34 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town,

35 so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar.

36 Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. Lament over Jerusalem

37 ďO Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!

38 See, your house is left to you desolate.

39 For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ĎBlessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.íĒ

This happens in Acts as well.

Acts 2:22

ďMen of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know

Acts 2:29

ďBrothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.

Acts 2:36

Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.Ē

There are references to the nation of Israel in other parts of the NT so you need to keep an eye out for that in interpreting the NT.

Using the Historical Grammatical Literal method always requires you to identify who the speaker is talking about in the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles and who is the author writing about in the Epistles.