If we are not careful, we can easily misfire when it comes to applying Bible texts. One cause of dangerous misfiring comes from too narrow a view of the text. The result is application that functions as a legalistic burden — appealing to the flesh, but not consistent with the gospel.
In Narratives, Look Up. In Bible stories, we can easily focus on the human characters and determine to copy or not copy them. The moral of this story is … oops. This is a recipe for burdensome preaching. It is not a recipe for gospel preaching. It is not really good news that the Bible is full of examples for us to copy or not copy in our own strength We need to always look up. The characters are not just humans in action, they are humans living in response to God and His Word. Their response is instructive, but we don’t live as their copycats, we live as people responding to God and His Word too. In preaching narratives, be sure to use a wider view and include the divine dimension.
In Epistles, Look Out. In epistles, we can easily focus on the commands and determine to obey them. The lesson for today is … oops. This is a recipe for burdensome preaching. It is not a recipe for gospel preaching. It is not really good news that the Bible is full of imperatives for us to harvest and apply in our own strength. We need always to look out. The imperatives and commands are not just stand alone instructions for holy living, they are imperatives and commands coming in the context of a whole letter that was written to be heard in one shot. The recipients would have felt the force of the instruction in light of the gospel content. Ephesians 4 is to applied in light of Ephesians 1-3, otherwise it becomes just another burden for our weary souls. In preaching epistles, be sure to use a wider view and include the divine doctrinal dimension.