When we meet God in Bible study, Sunday School has the power to change lives. The best lessons help me understand what God is saying. In addition, the best lessons also help me apply and obey the truth of the passage. On which do you place more emphasis in your class: knowledge or application?
In order to apply the truth of the passage, it is essential to have knowledge about the words and context of the passage. There are many key questions to ask of the passage in order to gain understanding. Here are a few:
- What was historical context (place, situation, participants, audience, etc.)?
- What type of literature is the book of the Bible/passage?
- What was the purpose of writing the book/passage?
- What do we learn about God?
- What is the point/truth that God is making?
- What were the original hearers expected to do as a result?
When we have more complete knowledge about the words and context, we will be a in a better position to understand how the truth applies to today and the response God expects of us. In addition, knowing God also matters in knowing and applying. Consider the words of Jesus:
If you love me, you will keep my commands.John 14:15, CSB
How can we keep commands, if we do not know them (or love Him)? And how can we obey fully when we don’t understand the context of what Jesus is saying?
Application is based on knowledge. Incomplete knowledge results in potentially poor application and obedience. Without knowledge of (love for) God, application is only the self-help of wise sayings. But application out of a relationship with God is an expression of love that results in a obedience and life-change.
Application is acknowledging that God has spoken to me with the expectation of response. It is recognizing His voice, agreeing with Him, committing to obey, and following through on that commitment. True application will always be more than mental agreement.
God expects knowledge to result in application that produces obedience. Hear Samuel’s words to Saul following Saul’s disobedience:
Does the Lord take pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? Look: to obey is better than sacrifice, to pay attention is better than the fat of rams.1 Samuel 15:22, CSB
Some key questions for application resulting in obedience include the following:
- How does the truth of the passage apply to life today?
- What do we learn about relating to God and others?
- What is God saying to me?
- What does God want me to think, believe, desire, and/or do?
- How does God expect me to be different as result of my encounter with Him in His Word?
- Am I willing to do what God expects?
- Did I do what God expected?
Knowledge or Application
In my experience, the weakest part of most encounters with God is application. Application in our sermons, Sunday School lessons, and personal devotions needs a healthy dose of both knowledge AND application. Keep in mind that ending a lesson without application makes participants guilty of knowledge without opportunity for application and obedience.
I want to extend two challenges here:
- Work hard to apply and obey God’s truth to your own life before you lead others to do the same.
- Intentionally invest preparation and presentation time on application of every lesson.
Evaluate your preparation time and your lessons. On which do you invest more of your time: knowledge or application? Work hard to get better at the other important part of the equation (which for most of us is application). Make disciples. Be revolutionary!