Pitfalls and Dangers
One objection raised to applying God’s Word to one’s personal circumstances is that the application will be incorrect or even unbiblical. There is the humorous story of the Christian who wanted to hear what God had to say, and so closed his eyes and opened to a verse in the Bible. He placed his finger on the verse that read, “Judas hanged himself.” Finding that verse not very encouraging, he closed his eyes and picked another verse. It read, “Go thou and do likewise.” Still unsatisfied with the results, he chose yet another verse. It read, “What thou doest, do quickly!” (Old anecdotal story; source unknown)
It is very possible that the Bible may be misapplied just like it is possible that the Bible may be misinterpreted. But because the Bible may be misinterpreted, should believers be discouraged from reading it? Of course not. Because the Word of God may be misapplied, the alternative of not making personal application is far worse and deprives the believer of one of the great blessings and intentions from God’s Word. David wrote, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105)
Here are some guidelines that may be helpful to correctly hearing God’s voice through His Word.
- No application can be contrary to what the Word of God itself teaches. For example, the Bible clearly teaches, both in the Old and New Testaments, that adultery is a sin. Therefore, it is an incorrect application that a husband or wife should leave their spouse because “God’s will is for me to be with this other person.” It is impossible for that application to be the will of God. It is, most likely, the will of the flesh.
- The principles of the New Testament always take precedence over the principles of the Old Testament. For example, God gave the Israelites instructions to drive out, and sometimes destroy, wicked nations. This instruction from God’s Word was applied incorrectly to support the Crusades. In recent years, similar misapplication has been used to bring harm to those who promote abortion. But God never gives that instruction in the New Testament. The progress of the kingdom of God is made by “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15), not by violence. Nowhere in the New Testament is violence ever advocated. Therefore, any application that includes violence is not from the Holy Spirit, but from Satan.
- Sometimes there is more than one right application. For example, a young woman may be faced with the decision of marrying and raising a Christian family, or of remaining single and going to the mission field, or any combination thereof. Any of those choices are pleasing to God; that is, no one choice may be more God’s will than another. In that case, God may leave it up to the believer to pursue the desires of her heart as long as, in the process, she seeks to please God in the process. God’s will is that the young woman wants to please Him. How she does that may be left entirely up to her.
- If in doubt, ask. To avoid misinterpretations of the Bible, study Bibles and Bible dictionaries are available, as well as the teaching of pastors, elders, deacons, and Christians strong and experienced in the faith. Because of the nature of “hearing God’s voice through His Word”—personal application—few “books” are available because they would have to be many volumes and would have to be about you! Learning to hear God’s voice through His Word is a blessing that develops with experience and maturity. Therefore, for someone new at listening to God’s voice, seek the counsel of a more mature and “seasoned” Christian. The best help would not be for that individual to “hear God’s voice” for you, but to facilitate the process by which you yourself are enabled to hear God’s voice.
Connecting with God through His Word means hearing God’s voice personally. At Walk with the Word we believe every Christian who indeed has the Holy Spirit dwelling within is gifted and able to hear God’s voice directly through His Word.
“The unfolding of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.”
Return to Is This "Spiritualzing" the Text? • Continue to Ch. 4: The Reading Plan