The Broad and the Particular Application


Romans 8:31 reads, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” The immediate context of the statement is in regard to the salvation of the believer. Because God has eternally predetermined to save an individual (see vv. 29-30) if a person is now living in Christ and walking worthy of such a calling, he or she is to glean direct strength from the understanding that nothing can overthrow God’s eternal plan for them, and that their salvation is as sure and secure as the power of their God.

     This passage on God being "for us" in light of our redemption has what I might call a broad application. For the purposes of this article a “broad” application is the author’s main intent. Indeed, a proper understanding of the passage will lead a reader to this broad application nearly every time. The verse speaks of the whole of the Christian life and covers the whole scope of one’s eternally safeguarded life in this one sentence. Amen. It also, however, can have a more particular application in the day to day of our lives. For example, if you’re planning on starting a Sunday school class, if it is God’s will for you to do so, what can stand against you? What can stop you? Fellas, want to be a pastor? If God is for that who or what can stop it? So we see that there’s the broad application of the passage (its clearest and first intent) as well as what may be numerous other applications that do not bend the text beyond any reasonable frame, but rather only find their way into our lives as God would always have His word do.

     There are many applications that work this way. We’re not violating context if we do this right, we’re merely contextualizing. How about John 3:16 as another sweeping example? “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Broad context: God will save believers via their reconciliation to Him through the Son from all over the world as He’s been doing already since the Resurrection. Particular application: If I’m in Christ, me, then God so loved me that He gave His only Son…for me. There is the broad and most notable interpretation and also a particular application. The key is applying the Bible to us second, and not first. First, we study it as it was written and to whom it was written. It’s then and only then that we should work to apply it to ourselves in any particular sense.

     We can bend verses out of context pretty quickly, however, and should always be cautious in a particular application. Some are certainly easier than others to misinterpret. If we’re smart we’ll work as best we can to stick to the clear intentions of passages.

     Theology is the queen of the sciences. We need more than intelligence to do it well- we need wisdom. As we diligently work to grasp the text as it is its more particular or personal applications become progressively more accessible and solid in our lives. After all that’s what we need. We need the Bible’s promises, as written to its original audiences, to find their place in our own homes and minds today. In this sense there’s always the broad and the particular. 

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