Recently I heard it proclaimed rather proudly that a soon-coming “study” would be all about application not would not be a textual study. This proclamation disturbed me.
While I probably have a good deal too much boldness in me, and not nearly enough care, when attempting to apply scripture to the current day, I am trying to be more careful these days. After spending more than three months with the text of Philemon—studying privately, studying in a small community, and considering and writing further a few weeks later—I began to feel that I had the wherewithal to “apply” the text. (Refer to this link for the wrap-up of our study.) I’m currently nowhere near feeling I can rightly apply Colossians, having barely gotten into the second chapter after six or eight weeks, off and on.
I am not judging the heart or intentions of the man who’s leading the new study. Nor do I expect the study to come to nought. I am, however, seriously questioning anyone who thinks it’s a good idea to jump right in to application if there’s been no prior exegetical study. First, we need to understand the original message thoroughly.
Philemon has a grand total of 25 verses in our English Bibles. I feel somewhat able, having spent three months considering that text in some detail, to “apply it to my life.”
With a letter that has 303 verses, I would be more reluctant to try to “apply” right off the bat. Better to wait until we’ve taken couple of balls and a strike, and maybe fouled a few off, before applying.