3 Questions to Help You Apply the Bible to Today

Questions to Help You Apply the Bible to Today

One of the most important things we do as preachers is to apply the Bible to today in our sermons and teachings. If we exegete the Scriptures well but don’t connect them to today, what we proclaim isn’t a sermon but a lecture.

To say it plainly, a sermon without application isn’t a sermon at all.

We must preach the biblical text to the point that people see how it comes to bear on their lives today. If we fail to do this, we have failed to preach.

So how can we do this well? How can we apply the Bible to today in our preaching? I have found that asking the right questions of the text makes all the difference.

Questions to Help You Apply the Bible to Today

1. What does this speak against?

After you’ve done good exegesis, this should be the next thing you address in your sermon preparation. Cement the truth of what the passage is saying and ask the question, what does this speak against?

Specifically, what does this speak against today? A way to bridge your teaching of the text to the application of the text is to consider the overlaps between what it spoke against then and what it speaks against today.

But ask the question, what does this speak against today?

And now comes the art of Bible application… How you answer this makes all the difference.

Let’s look at a passage as a case study for our questions:

Brothers and sisters, if someone is overtaken in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual, restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so that you also won’t be tempted. Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Galatians 6:1-2 CSB

What does this speak against?

First, let’s think of themes this speaks against:

  • Self-reliance
  • Self-centeredness
  • Sin
  • Isolation
  • Emotional aloofness
  • Pride

These are the themes that, in general, Galatians 6:1-2 speak against.

Next, we can drill down to specific moments these themes are seen in our lives (I’ll add one for each just so you get the feel for it):

  • Self-reliance
    • When someone struggles with a sin but doesn’t think they need to tell anyone because they think “I’ve got this.”
  • Self-centeredness
    • Someone is struggling with a sin but they wouldn’t dare take someone’s help because they “don’t care what people think.”
  • Sin
    • Someone is sinning in some area that is destroying their life – addiction to pornography that is destroying their marriage.
  • Isolation
    • A lack of community in their lives due to busyness and lack of priorities – maybe they said no to joining a small group because they work too much.
  • Emotional aloofness
    • This can play into self-centeredness as well, but this would be someone who sees a brother or sister in Christ who is struggling in some way but doesn’t notice long enough to truly care. It’s their problem, oh well.
  • Pride
    • Someone becomes self-righteous after they help restore a fellow believer from a sin that overcame them. Now, instead of loving their brother or sister, they repeatedly judge them.

As you think through the specifics, you’ll likely have illustration ideas come to mind as well.

Now, let’s move to the next question.

2. What does this speak to?

God’s word is so powerful because it speaks to the depths of the desires of our hearts. Deep down, what we truly want is the life that is possible through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the heart behind this question.

What does this speak to?

In other words, what are the underlying desires of our hearts that this passage speaks to?

Let’s look at our passage again…

Brothers and sisters, if someone is overtaken in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual, restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so that you also won’t be tempted. Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Galatians 6:1-2 CSB

What does this speak to?

Again, let’s start by thinking of themes this speaks to:

  • Holiness
  • Making a difference
  • Helping others
  • Love

Now, let’s drill down on each of these:

  • Holiness
    • We deeply desire to live better – that’s why we see such a level of popularity around self-help books and content.
  • Making a difference
    • Look at all the ways people advocate for things they’re passionate about. When many people notice injustice, they feel a deep desire to do something about it. Many times we think of making a difference on a large scale, but what if our difference-making could happen right where we are? The barrier to this is courage, not desire.
  • Helping others
    • Whenever someone goes on a short-term mission trip, they come back from it feeling blessed. Why? Because they spent focused time helping others and it made them feel good. When we focus on helping others, we step into the abundant life that Jesus told us about.
  • To be loved
    • We all want to be loved and this speaks to how love invades our burdens. This is a great point to paint a picture of what it would look like for every person in your church to be loved. When they have a burden, what are practical ways people could love them through those burdens (i.e. helping them carry burdens in specific ways).

These first two questions have set us up to be able to passionately proclaim the answer to our last question.

3. What does this advocate for?

Now, this last question is where we’ll get the bulk of our application material. We want to take into account the answers to the first two questions and build on them to answer this last one with passion.

Again, here’s the text we’ve been using as an example:

Brothers and sisters, if someone is overtaken in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual, restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so that you also won’t be tempted. Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Galatians 6:1-2 CSB

When it comes to what this text advocates for, here are the themes I see:

  • Love
  • Community
  • Humility

Let’s dive into specifics:

  • Love
    • We are called to love as Jesus loves. To pursue people in real, tangible ways especially when we see a brother or sister in Christ who is overtaken by sin. To love as Jesus loves would require us to step into the discomfort of confronting them because ignoring it would be a lack of love. This naturally leads us to apply this text by advocating for the next thing.
  • Community
    • We need each other. We must live in community with one another. Because living an isolated life leads to destruction. There will, no doubt, be times when we need someone else to restore us. Not only that, but we are called to be restorers of others. We can’t do that if we live in isolation. The same is true for us bearing each other’s burdens. Our discipleship must move beyond learning about God and move toward loving as God loves. Restoring and bearing are primary examples of what love is. And this is what the Holy Spirit is doing in us (see the end of Galatians 5). If you’re living in isolation, change that.
  • Humility
    • There’s a sneakiness to pride. When we step into the role of restorer (v.1) and bearer (v.2), pride can creep in and we can become judgmental. How can we remain humble? By continually reminding ourselves of our own story of grace. God’s not done with us yet. We still sin and that sin is just as serious as someone else’s.

As you work through these, you’ll want to dive even deeper into specific situations that these things may come to bear on.

These questions should help you get there.

A Quick Note: The Importance of Illustrations to Application

Now, a conversation about application in preaching would be incomplete if I didn’t also advocate for illustrating well.

In every point you make, it’s best if you can do three things:

  1. Teach it
  2. Illustrate it
  3. Apply it

Oftentimes, your illustration ideas will come through answering these three application questions. So make sure you show and don’t just tell.

To help you out with illustrations, I put together The Ultimate Guide to Sermon Illustrations. Be sure to check that out as you work at improving how you apply the Bible to life in your preaching.

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Written by Brandon Kelley

Brandon Kelley is the co-founder of Rookie Preacher and the author of Preaching Sticky Sermons and Crucified to Life. He serves as the Lead Pastor of First Church of Christ in Bluffton, IN. He also writes at BrandonKelley.org. You can follow him @BrandonKelley_. Watch his sermons here.

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