Reading Your Bible with SPECS

Do you remember *The Prayer of Jabez? Its author ripped a verse out of context and built a whole unbiblical theory around it. And then he wrote a book about it that thousands (or maybe millions?) of people bought and believed. This has happened over and over again and it happens for one reason: Improper interpretation that leads to wrong application.

So much of the unsound teaching and crazy doctrines that are so prevalent today are born out of improper interpretation of scripture which leads to wrong application. I wrote a post recently about interpretation and how important it is. You can find that here. As we head into the new year, I’d like to follow up that post with one on applying God’s Word correctly.

I am hoping that one thing you want to continue or begin in the new year is spending quality time in the Bible. But simply reading a few verses and calling it a day will not be sufficient to mine the treasure of the Word.

I will take just a minute here and caution you about simply using a devotional and reading a verse or two and then some man or woman’s thoughts about those verses. While these can be helpful, they should never be our only time spent with God’s Word. It is so important to study the scriptures for ourselves. As believers, we want to mature from being hand-fed milk to feeding ourselves solid food (Hebrews 5:13-14).

It’s not only important that we read and study the Bible for ourselves but it is also important that we do so in the right way and with the right heart attitude, as was discussed in this post. And then there is one more component: Application. How do we make the most out of its application in our lives? And, even before that, are we really willing to get serious and apply what we read to our own lives? No matter how much it costs us?

Let’s not gloss over this question because this is where we often lose zeal. Are we willing to apply God’s Word no matter how much it costs us? Are we willing to give up worldly things we love? Are we willing to forgive and give up long-held grudges? Are we willing to humble ourselves and forsake our pride? To love the unlovely? To love our enemies? Are we willing to be the odd (and sometimes despised) members of our families and workplaces and, sadly, increasingly, of our churches? Proper application of scripture includes all these and so much more.

As honest students of God’s Word we will embrace the wonderful promises of peace and joy and all of the wonderful blessings held within the scriptures while also understanding that the way of the Cross is one of tremendous sacrifice, difficulty, and persecution.

I just finished reading Basic Bible Interpretation by Roy B. Zuck (which I highly recommend, by the way). It took me awhile to get through, but I finally finished it. The final chapter was on applying God’s Word today. I wish I could share the whole chapter here with you, but, of course, that would be impractical. But one thing he suggests we use for application is the word SPECS. I don’t believe this originates with him and I’ve actually heard of this somewhere before but forgot about it. It was a great reminder and one I thought I’d share here with you.

There are five questions we can ask ourselves as we seek to apply the scriptures, using the acronym SPECS–

S–Does the passage speak of any SIN to be forsaken?
P–Is there any PROMISE to be claimed?
E–Is there an EXAMPLE to be followed?
C–Is there a COMMAND to be obeyed?
S–Is there a STUMBLING BLOCK or hindrance to be avoided?


We can use this acronym for any passage we are reading. In the Old Testament, with the exception of Proverbs, we will focus more on drawing principles from the lives and events that we read about. In the New Testament, we will run into much more that applies directly to us, as the Church.

Now don’t forget one extremely important thing: There may be many scriptures that don’t apply directly to you.

We are not reading the Bible just so that we can change us (a self-centered, modern-day thought), we are reading the Bible to know God. This is our main focus: to learn about God. If you are reading the Bible through this year or are spending a good amount of time in the Old Testament in your reading, you may grow discouraged at the lack of application there for you. Please don’t! Our most important task in reading God’s Word is learning about Him.

In fact, may I suggest that, before putting on our SPECS, we answer the question: What does this passage teach me about God?

So why don’t we grab a notebook and pen and put it with our Bible this year as we read? We can write down what each day’s reading tells us about God and then we can put on our “SPECS” and write down any applications as we read the passage in its proper context.

SO are you ready to begin?? Let’s make this year our best and most profitable year yet as we dig into God’s Word with an attitude of submission and obedience. And, in doing this, may we make personal changes that spill out and over into the lives of all those we touch. God is still changing people. May we be the ones He changes this year through the power of His Word!


* Here are some links that explore The Prayer of Jabez and its unbiblical principle–

The Real Prayer of Jabez

The Prayer of Jabez and Other Misuses of the Bible


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