God has spoken” in the Scriptures, J. I. Packer notes, “and godliness means hearing His word. ‘Hearing’ in this phrase means more, of course, than just being in earshot while the message of God is read aloud or recited or explained. ‘Hear’ in its full biblical sense, implies attention, assent, and application to oneself of the things learned; it means listening with a firm purpose to obey, and then doing as God’s Word proves to require.” Attention, assent, application: far from automatic in our fallen and busy world.
It follows that we need to know how to hear and obey God’s word. If you are eager to hear God’s word, but are unsure exactly how to apply its message to your life and culture, or if you desire to sharpen your study skills by learning from a godly teacher, we recommend Daniel Doriani’s new book, Putting the Truth to Work. It is a sequel to his book, Getting the Message (on Bible study, which we also recommend), and explains clearly and with examples how to hear and apply the truth of Scripture. Though Putting the Truth to Work is written for Bible teachers and preachers, this thoughtful yet accessible work should be in the library of every serious student of Scripture.
Hearing, understanding, and applying God’s word has been essential from the moment Adam and Eve were created. After the Fall, the need deepened, for God’s word is the only source of grace and hope. The need has sharpened once again with the advent of modern pluralism. What does biblical faithfulness look like in our postmodern world? If the issue involves food that’s been sacrificed to idols, we can easily find texts which address the question directly. Many of the issues about which we must be discerning, however, are not directly addressed—increasing the need for us to know how to rightly understand and apply the teaching of Scripture to our lives and to the questions which confront us.
God’s word, the psalmist says, is to light our path in this dark world. “In some churches,” Doriani notes however, “text after text elicits the same few applications: be holy, be faithful, be committed. Week after week, believers hear that they must serve more, witness more, study the Bible more, support the church more. Worse, some preachers are repetitive and shallow, addressing the same subjects in the same few terms. Even if they avoid the ultimate crime of propagating falsehood, they commit the penultimate crime of making Christianity seem boring and irrelevant.”
Putting the Truth to Work will help us avoid both crimes—whether in preaching or leading a small group Bible study or in our own study of Scripture. Dr. Doriani, for those of you who don’t recognize the name, is professor of New Testament at Covenant Seminary.
SourcePutting the Truth to Work: The Theory and Practice of Biblical Application by Daniel M. Doriani (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing; 2001) 319 pp + Scripture and subject indexes.
Packer from God Has Spoken by J. I. Packer (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press; 1979) p. 125.