I would even maintain that the meaning of the law is discerned in this process of application. Imagine two scholars discussing the eighth commandment. One claims that it forbids embezzlement. The other thinks he understands the commandment but can’t see any application to embezzlement. Now we know that the first scholar is right. But must we not also say that the first scholar understands the meaning of the commandment better than the second? Knowing the meaning of a sentence is not merely being able to replace it with an equivalent sentence (e.g., replacing the Hebrew sentence with the English sentence “Thou shalt not steal”). An animal could be trained to do that. Knowing the meaning is being able to use the sentence, to understand its implications, its powers, its applications. Imagine someone saying that he understands the meaning of a passage of Scripture but doesn’t know at all how to apply it. Taking that claim literally would mean that he could answer no questions about the text, recommend no translations into other languages, draw no implications from it, or explain none of its terms in his own words. Could we seriously accept such a claim? When one lacks knowledge of how to “apply” a text, his claim to know the “meaning” becomes an empty–meaningless–claim. Knowing the meaning, then, is knowing how to apply. The meaning of Scripture is its application.
The interesting result of that line of reasoning is that we need to know the world to understand the meaning of Scripture. Through study of the world, we come to a greater and greater knowledge of the meaning of the law. Adam was told to replenish the earth and subdue it. That “subduing,” however, entailed the development of hydroelectric power and cathode rays and miniaturized transistors. But Adam didn’t know all that. The meaning of “subduing” would grow on him gradually. He would see a rock and ask, “How can I use this in subduing the earth?” He would study it, analyze it, and try various projects with it. Eventually, he would find a use for it and thus learn something more of the meaning of “subdue.”
This need to gain extrabiblical knowledge to understand the Bible is not an onerous necessity. It is a natural, normal part of our task, and God expects us to do it. He expected Adam to get the information necessary to understand, and Scripture regularly demands its application to current issues. The Pharisees were reproved because they failed to apply the Old Testament Scriptures properly to events of their own time, namely the ministry of Jesus (cf. Matt. 16:3; 22:39; Luke 24:25; John 5:39f.; Rom. 15:4; 2 Tim. 3:16f.; 2 Peter 1:19-21).
Thus every fact tells us something about God’s law. Everything we learn about eggs or petroleum or solar energy or cold fronts–all of this information shows us something of how we may glorify God in the use of His creation. It helps us exegete 1 Corinthians 10:31–and much more.
John Frame, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, p. 66-67