Ever read a passage and think “That’s great, but what does it have to do with me?” or “How does that apply to my life?” Here’s a simple three-step method that can help you learn how to read, understand and apply verses to your life. This works best if you print out or write out the verse so you can underline or mark on it. An example of this method has been provided for your reference as you read the steps.
The first step is Observation. What does the verse say?
What is there? Sometimes we read to get it done. Take time to read the verse several times and see what it really says. Here are some questions you can ask to help see what’s there?
Who is in this verse? Who’s doing the action? To whom?
What is happening?
How is are things accomplished? By what means or method?
Why is it happening? Is a reason or purpose stated?
Where is it happening? What is the setting?
When did it take place?
Also, watch for grammatical clues like plural nouns or pronouns, such as book versus books in Rev. 20:12 or “their faith” instead of “his faith” in Matt. 9:2 or Mark 2:5. Observe all you can about the verse.
The second step is Interpretation. What does the verse mean?
One of the main things to remember in this step is that the verse cannot mean something to us today that it could not have meant to its original hearers. The truth that applies to us today is the truth that applied to the hearers in the day it was given. What did the original author have in mind when writing this verse or passage?
This step is to clarify what the verse means and understand why it is included in God’s Word. It is also important to read the verse in the context of the paragraph and how it relates to the passage. A technique you can use in this step is to replace a person’s name with a pronoun or description like “God’s servant” or “a Christ follower.”
The next step is Application. How do you use this verse?
This is where you put God’s Word into practice. Knowing God’s Word should lead to doing God’s Word. One way to do this is to take the items you’ve written under the interpretation step and turn them into personal questions. (See the example on this page.)
Application starts with knowing the truth and then progresses to an intentional choice to live it. The Navigator’s Bible Study Handbook includes the acronym SPECK with five questions to ask to help apply God’s Word to our lives:
S = Is there a sin for me to avoid?
P = Is there a promise from God for me to claim?
E = Is there an example for me to follow?
C = Is there a command for me to obey?
K = How can this passage increase my knowledge about God or about Jesus Christ?
God’s Word is alive and active. As I study to see what it says and means, I can actively apply it to my life and grow in the knowledge of the Lord and grow in my relationship with Him as I follow Him and His Word.
An Example of This Method
Verse: 2 Corinthians 1:12
“Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace.”
Paul is writing to the Corinthians, along with Timothy (the who, notice the pronoun “our”). They can boast about their conduct, and their consciences assure Paul and Timothy that they conducted themselves with integrity and sincerity (the what of the verse) in the world and towards the Corinthians (the where, setting). They accomplished this (how) by relying upon God’s grace and not worldly wisdom.
God’s servants should…
conduct themselves in such a way they can testify about it with a clear conscience.
conduct themselves toward the world and others with integrity and sincerity.
rely on God’s grace and not worldly wisdom.
Could I testify about my conduct with a clear conscience?
Do I conduct myself with integrity and sincerity toward others?
Do I rely on the world’s wisdom or on God’s grace?
What do I need to do to align myself with the actions in this verse?
How or where can I live this out today?
In this verse, Paul and Timothy are examples to follow on ways I should live as a Christ follower. This verse increases my understanding about how to live for Christ: with integrity and sincerity towards others and with dependence upon God.