Too much what passes as application is implication (the principle God is teaching us in the passage) rather than real application which takes the implication and works it out for people in the world in which they live in tangible ways. Application is where we show people how the rubber hits the road!
Good application starts with good interpretation, once we’ve understood the meaning of the text then, and only then, we can begin to think about how it applied to it’s original hearers, and then to us, it will also reflect the context of the book and the bible.
All scripture is crying out for application it’s dynamic – God’s word designed to change! Just read a prophet and God so often tells us what the application of his word was, what it was designed to do. Jesus gives us a number of parables of trees and fruit and wise and foolish builder and sower and soils to show us the word is designed to be applied.
Here are some question I’ve found helpful in thinking about this, though I have a long way to go in applying God’s word better:
- What was the application for those to whom the book was written?
- What truths did it teach them about God, and how ought they to respond to that?
- What did it teach God’s people about their hearts and thinking?
- What direct application does it give concerning actions?
- Is it simply reporting or recommending actions?
- Apply what the passage says – your main teaching point will shape your main application point: What is the same for us? What is different?
- What is the application for our Christian friends?
- What is the application for our church as a body (DON’T SKIP THIS so much of God’s word calls for community application)?
- What is the application for our unbelieving friends?
- Apply in the light of the gospel – don’t apply a ‘do this’ but apply by changing the heart with the gospel, aim for affections and desires.
- Don’t apply all at the end, apply as things come up in your structure and in asides. Don’t back load application.
- Apply boldly but graciously (as if to the person you love most in the world)
- Application should shape your introduction and introduce the issues God’s word will be applied to