Bill Gernenz blogs at Broken and Undone.
Principle #2: Biblical Application Demands Thorough Exegesis
Unfortunately, God-centered application does not spontaneously appear in the sermon-preparing process. It demands thorough exegesis, exegesis that does not stop digging until sound, biblical application is unearthed. To this end, Douglas Stuart has aptly stated that application “should be just as rigorous, just as thorough, and just as analytically sound as any other step in the exegesis process” (How Sermons Work, 111). Until application has been made, exegesis is not complete. Bryan Chapell goes so far as to say that without application the preacher has no reason to preach. Of course, the very nature of Scripture heartily confirms this assertion. Scripture was not written for the mere sake of information, but to illicit a response. It was written for a purpose. Whether to prompt praise, infuse hope, call to repentance, or spur to good works, God has revealed himself with a deliberate objective. The prophets spoke, the apostles preached, and the epistles were written in order to secure particular ends for the glory of God. Doctrine and teaching aim beyond information to transformation. Likewise, all preaching must aim for deliberate application.
If application is not thoughtful and deliberate, it becomes confused and superficial. By default, the preacher resigns himself and his people to “the well-worn ruts of application he has travelled down time and again in the past” (Murray, 111).
Arriving at deliberate God-centered application necessitates thorough exegesis, specifically, a sound grammatical-historical approach to Scripture. While this assumes a high estimation of God’s Word, a high-view of Scripture is not enough to guard the preacher against inadequate application. Many pastors diligently employ a God-centered hermeneutic throughout the exegetical process only to abandon that same God-centered approach upon reaching the application phase. Yet, exegesis remains incomplete until the target of application has been exposed. Behind every text is the intention of transformation, and until the text has been seen within the workings of that transformative purpose, exegesis remains incomplete. The preacher cannot be haphazard in his approach to application but must laboriously consider, “What did the Holy Spirit want to see happen in the lives of the first recipients of this portion of Scripture?”
Now, the manner in which preachers move from Bible study to exposition may differ, and many sound and profitable approaches have been offered as a means of distilling exegetical application. Theologians have spoken of principlizing the text (John MacArthur), climbing “the ladder of abstraction” (Haddon Robinson), picturing application as a funnel (Jim Shaddix), and considering the “taxonomy of sheep” (Michael Lawrence).
Each of these methods are attempts to build a bridge from the first century text to the twenty-first century audience recognizing the sufficiency of God’s Word and focusing on the centrality of God’s purpose. What are some methods & approaches you employ to discern the Spirit’s goal in a particular passage?
To read a full treatment of this principle in pdf format click here.