Our goal as preachers of God’s Word is to help the church respond to the risen Christ, to be doers of the Word and not hearers only (James 1:22–25). God’s Word is designed to act on his people—to reprove, correct, and train in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). True, expository preaching is more than helping people comprehend the truths of a passage. Faithful proclamation and explanation of a text include application. God’s Word is believed and lived, and there are multiple ways to season a sermon with application.

Three Ways to Apply a Text

Application is answering the question, “How does God want us to obey, follow, and trust him in light of this text?” Some preachers are allergic to application because they’re leery of being labeled as legalists. But if you aren’t careful, you might become a preacher of antinomianism. Remember, the grace of God doesn’t minimize obedience, it actualizes it.

Preachers are chefs of the church. Every week you study, prepare, and feed Christ’s sheep with the recipe revealed in the passage. Brother chef, remember to season your sermon with the spice of application. And just like the varieties of seasonings you find in a grocery store, there’s a variety of applications you can use as well.

There are three ways we can bring application to the front. Think of them as flavors. And when you spice in all three, it’s savory.

1. Interrogative Application 

Interrogative applications are aimed at getting to the heart (Heb. 4:12). They invite the hearer to participate in the sermon and bring the text to bear on their life through the use of a question mark. Doesn’t our Lord do this? “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” (Luke 14:28).

True, expository preaching is more than helping people comprehend the truths of a passage. Faithful proclamation and explanation of a text include application. Click To Tweet

Asking questions provides a window of examination, where listeners are asked to look into the mirror of God’s Word. It’s here that a question might reveal sin. We have onion-style hearts: layers that need peeling, repenting, and restoring. And God’s grace is sufficient for each layer. The question, and the answer, may also bring comfort and joy in Christ. Questions bring sins—actions, thoughts, inactions—into the light to be examined through the gospel and then acted upon. Questions fill the canon, from Genesis to Revelation, so pepper them in your sermon.

2. Indicative Application

We often struggle to believe what the Bible says about us. The devil and our old nature make things difficult. So much of our spiritual turmoil is self-induced—listening to ourselves rather than preaching to ourselves. So preachers, let’s help the sheep with indicatives.

Indicative applications are when we apply what the Scriptures say about God, Christians, the world, and the world to come. This is when we season the heart with biblical truth. God is merciful. Jesus is Lord. We are saints. We are forgiven. We are new. We are loved. A new world is on the way. Indicative applications show the church who they are in Christ. “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 John 4:16). Preachers can come alongside those struggling to “know and believe” the love God has for them, and tell them what is true.

And as the Apostle John shows us in 1 John 4:16, indicative applications also show the church what is true about God. God is love. Believe it, receive it, trust it, rejoice in it, and live from it. To know God’s love, and to love God in return leads to transformation. “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar” (1 John 4:20). Explanations of indications of truth connect to transformation of heart, soul, mind, and strength.

3. Imperative Application

Imperative applications might be the most obvious applications, the ones we think of the most when we think of connecting the Bible to real life. They draw out what God says regarding actions we must consider as followers of Jesus. However, that’s not all.

Preachers are chefs of the church. Every week you study, prepare, and feed Christ’s sheep with the recipe revealed in the passage. Brother chef, remember to season your sermon with the spice of application. Click To Tweet

Remember to do more than isolate the “sanctificannots” of Scripture. Of course, there are sins to avoid. But also point out the calls for good works, for mercy, for loving one another, and so on as the passage warrants. Faithful preaching will draw out and give attention to “the do’s and the don’ts” of a text.

Look at the text, pray, meditate, and ask, “What is God telling us to do or not do?” Point out if there is a sin to confess and repent of, a truth to believe, a prayer to model, an attitude to embody, and so forth.

Put these seasonings to use. Flavor that sermon. We’re called to feed Christ’s sheep, so let’s feed them more than dry exegesis.

Jeff Medders
Written by: Jeff Medders on May 17, 2021

J.A. Medders serves on staff at Risen Church and the Risen Collective in Houston, TX. He’s a Ph.D. student in biblical spirituality at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also hosts The Acts 29 Podcast. Jeff is the author of Humble Calvinism and Gospel Formed. You can follow his writing and monthly newsletter at spiritualtheology.net.

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