Some Bible studies and sermons are filled with observations–lots of insights into the structure, tenses, wording, context, etc.. These are mixed with interpretations in fact the speaker’s ‘hermeneutic’ has shaped every aspect of the process of study. Principles of ‘rightly dividing’ the word of truth must be followed if we are to understand the Scriptures as they were originally written.
What is missing on occasion are specific applications. As my wife has reminded me on many occasions – “So what?” What difference does this make for us in every day living? e.g. Matthew 2 – The wise men came to worship. Herod promised false worship. But what about us – are we genuine or false worshippers of Jesus Christ? What may we learn from the observations and interpretations of the text?
Paul, and the other New Testament writers, weave together a 3-fold cord of observation, interpretation and application. In Ephesians 4:25, Paul presses the application of the truth he has just taught to the congregation with three specific areas of life change.
“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbour, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin:” Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.”
1) Falsehood – Truthtelling – When does a liar cease to be a liar? When he/she starts speaking truthfully. Deceit grows exponentially, doesn’t it? One lie leads to another until a web of deception is woven through an entire life. Some cultures ’embedded’ this evil so that Paul can quote a Creatan philosopher, in his letter to Titus, as he writes “Cretans are always liars.”
Why eradicate falsehood and speak truthfully, especially within the body of Christ? Because we are all members of one body. Our conduct affects others and if we are followers of the One who declared Himself to be “the Truth” (John 14:6), we must likewise be marked.
2) Anger Resolution – Paul here quotes Psalm 4:4 and then applies it by demanding a daily resolution of issues that have stirred our ire. While the sun is still up, there is still time to resolve conflict. Unresolved, even undeclared anger may lead to a spiritual foothold being gained in our lives by the devil. He loves to brood over nests of immorality, bitterness, anger, until they poison our entire character.
3) Theft – When does a thief cease to be a thief? When he/she quits expending energy in stealing, and rather devotes time and talent to productive work. Instead of living a useless life, usefulness becomes the inscription over daily activities.
The list of applications will continue through several more paragraphs of this letter. Biblical truth isn’t just for information, instead it provides the basis for life transformation.