Recently, a prospective church member told me he was tired of preachers who just tell stories and life lessons and do not also talk about what the Bible means. What he was saying was that until he understood what a specific text means, the application does not hold much water.
Douglas Stuart said it this way: “A sermon is a presentation to apply the Word of God to the lives of people…They need to be shown how the application is based on a proper comprehension of the passage’s meaning; they will probably not take the application to heart unless this is clear to them.”
This raises the question of how much time should be spent in exposition and how much in application is given in any sermon. To a fault, some would say exposition is supreme. They do not spend much time on introductions, illustrations or application because they are convinced that if they can get people to see what the text means, the Holy Spirit will take it from there (Isa. 55:11). However, moving from what the text meant historically to what the text means today is not always as easy as it appears. Many books and articles have been written about this particular issue. I remember my first interaction with this topic in Walter Kaiser’s Toward An Exegetical Theology. His syntactical-theological method is an attempt to bridge the gap between the biblical text and the actual delivery of a message.
Other preachers spend very little time on exposition. They pull topics from a given text or multiple texts, and spend time telling human interest stories or giving 10 steps to a happy life. This sort of preaching is divorced from the authority of the text.
What I am driving at is that the life change we desire to see in people needs proper exposition and application because once people grasp the text, the application that flows from that text brings them face to face with God, not simple suggestions about how to have a good marriage. When people are confronted by God, they have a very serious choice to make. Will they obey or rebel against the Most High?
This type of preaching touches the best of both worlds. The authority of the text is central, but listeners also learn how the Bible impacts their lives today. The Word is applied to them.
Exactly how to move from exposition to application is a subject for another day, and much already has been written on this topic. For now, I challenge and encourage you to preach the Word; and in the authority of that Word, show people how to apply it.