Making Application in Preaching

Every Bible teacher or preacher will agree: biblical application to life is essential and challenging at the same time. In his book A Quest for Godliness J.I. Packer acknowledges this challenge and provides seven keys he learned from his studies of Puritan preaching. Packer writes, "Application must always be relevant, otherwise it is hollow historionics, and since congregations contain people in many different spiritual conditions a wide range of applications must constantly be made. There must be something of application for everyone. Perkins (William) offers preachers a sevenfold pastoral grid for planning application.

-First, he says, there are 'unbelievers who are both ignorant and unteachable'; the strategy with them must be one of 'reproving in them some notorious sin, that being pricked in heart and terrified, they may become teachable'.

-Second, 'some are teachable, but yet ignorant': they need to be taught the basic gospel, preferably by use of a question-and-answer catechism (a much favoured Puritan means of instruction) to supplement sermons.

-Third, 'some have knowledge, but are not as yet humbled': these need to hear how God's law condemns them.

-Fourth, 'some are humbled': these need to hear 'the doctrine of faith and repentance, and comforts of the Gospel'.

-Fifth, 'some do believe':these need grounding in '1. The Gospel touching justification, sanctification and perseverance. 2. The law without the curse, whereby they may be taught to bring forth fruits of new obedience beseeming repentance.'

-Sixth, 'some are fallen' from true faith or true righteousness:these need 'that doctrine which do cross their error...demonstrated and inculcated (or beaten upon them) together with the doctrine of repentance, and that with a brotherly affection.'

-Seventh, 'there is a mingled people. A mixed people are the assemblies of our Churches.' What to do here? Let preachers ring the changes on all these types of applications on a regular basis. Each will be right for some hearers, and the well of applicatory material will never run dry. (Packer, 72)

PreachingRush Witt