Application is Not About Benefits

In the understanding of expository preaching espoused on this site, application is central.  Expository preaching must involve the explanation of the meaning of the biblical text while emphasizing the relevance of that text to the contemporary listener.  This is born out of an understanding that the Bible is highly relevant to us all.  However, there is a danger of misunderstanding this emphasis on relevance and application.

The danger is that people may take away the thought that we are advocating a strong view of the benefits associated with applying the Bible to our lives.  In reality, we are saying much more than that.  Paul House, in his article in Preach the Word, gives Christopher Wright credit for identifying the opposite reality.  We do not apply the Bible to our lives, but rather, “through the power of the Holy Spirit we must learn and help others to learn to ‘apply our lives to the Bible.’  God and his Word – not our lives and minds – comprise the horizon of reality and authority.  We are required to conform to the Scriptures; they are not required to conform to us.”  (Preach the Word, p25)

Only in this way do we protect listeners from getting the impression that they can pick and choose those parts of the Bible that appear most valuable.  As Tozer said, “Nothing less than a whole Bible can produce a whole Christian.”  So application is not primarily about the benefits for our lived reality.  Application is about conforming our lives to reality.


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