Application Restrictions


Dennis McCallum and Gary DeLashmutt


When handling Scripture, application must follow interpretation. The following restrictions on applications should prevent "steer-wrestling." Steer-wrestling is when we don't let the passage say what it wants to, but wrestle it over to our intended meaning.

1. Any application used must not necessitate a change in interpretation (i.e., application must depend on interpretation, not vice versa). The following are examples of steer-wrestling:

  • Rom. 14; I Cor. 8 applied to "stumbling" a non-Christian.
  • II Cor. 9:6-11; Gal. 6:6-10; Col. 3:25 applied to sinning in general.
  • I Cor. 3:16,17 used to support damnation for those who commit suicide.

2. If an application is adduced which is different from, or broader than, the application the author actually intended in that context, evidence must be given to prove that the new application is justified. Acceptable evidence would be a) common sense (a reasonable link to the new application) or b) language indicating variable application. Examples: which of the following applications are valid?

  • I Cor. 6:19 argues against smoking cigarettes
  • II Cor. 13:5 commanding introspection; I Cor. 4:3 forbidding reflection
  • I Tim. 3:6 applied to a home group leader or worker
  • Col. 3:22 - 4:1 applied to employer/employee relationship
  • I Cor. 7:24 applied to moving out of town
  • Heb. 10:26 applied to any willful sin
  • II Chron. 7:14 applied to 20th century USA

3. Narrative example cannot be imposed authoritatively unless backed up by precept or principle. Study the following examples. Which are legitimate use of narrative?

  • Plurality of leadership is required in the church (Acts 14:23)
  • We, too, must observe the Lord's day (Acts 20:7)
  • Tongues are required as the sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2,8,10,19)
  • People should "tarry" for the Spirit, awaiting the second blessing (Acts 1:4,13,14)
  • Communal living is normative for the church (Acts 4:32)
  • The Crusades were okay because of the example of the conquest of Canaan (Joshua)