Preaching is unique. It is not a lecture. It is not merely a data sump or a transfer of information. It is not just teaching. It is speaking the word of God to produce change. But I wonder if that’s the bit we find hardest, applying the passage, because it take time, it is as much as art as a science. It is pastoral and involves knowing our flock and their hearts.
Too much “application” is just implication (stating 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 its original hearers, and then to us. Good application will also reflect the context of the book and the bible’s big story, it’s grand narrative. Scripture is crying out for application it is dynamic – God’s word designed to change! So here are some questions and other points I’ve found helpful to work through, though it takes discipline to do so.
- 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? What are they told to do?
- 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, or we simply feed the individualism we naturally fall into)?
- What is the application for our unbelieving friends?
- Apply in the light of the gospel – don’t apply a ‘do this’ 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.
- Apply boldly but graciously (as if to the person you love most in the world)
- Application should shape your introduction