Wednesday, September 12, 2007

'Preach the Word': Tools for Interpreting & Applying God's Word

By Ryan Townsend @

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. - 2 Timothy 4:2

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. - Hebrews 4:12

Below are three useful tools that I picked up from godly mentors who have been faithful in preaching God’s Word. May God use these suggestions to better equip and prepare you for the wonderful task of interpreting, preaching, and applying His whole Word to your family, friends, and congregations.

The Puritans – their methodology for interpretation and application
The following points come from chapter six of J.I. Packer’s A Quest For Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life.

1. Interpret Scripture literally and grammatically. Ask yourself: What do these words actually mean?

2. Interpret Scripture consistently and harmonistically. Ask yourself: What light do other Scriptures throw on this text? Where and how does it fit into the total biblical revelation?

3. Interpret Scripture doctrinally and theocentrically. Ask yourself: What truths does it teach about God, and about man in relation to God?

4. Interpret Scripture christologically and experimentally. Ask yourself: How are these truths related to the saving work of Christ, and what light does the gospel of Christ throw upon them?

5. Interpret Scripture experimentally and practically. Ask yourself: What experiences do these truths delineate, or explain, or seek to create or cure? For what practical purposes do they stand in Scripture?

6. Interpret Scripture with a faithful and realistic application. Ask yourself: How do they apply to myself and others in our actual situation? To what present human condition do they speak, and what are they telling us to believe and do?

“The soundness of their [Puritan] method is unquestionable; we shall do well to follow in their footsteps” (Packer, 105).

The Joseph Hall Questions
Joseph Hall was an Anglican, Puritan from 17th century who wrote The Art of Divine Meditation in 1607, which was one of best selling books of its time (available for free online at His questions are a useful tool in generating good information when meditating on and teaching Scripture.
1. What is it (define and/or describe what it is)?
2. What are its divisions or parts?
3. What causes it?
4. What does it cause, i.e., its fruits and effects?
5. What is its place, location, or use?
6. What are its qualities and attachments?
7. What is contrary, contradictory, or different to it?
8. What compares to it?
9. What are it’s titles or names?
10. What are the testimonies or examples of Scripture about it?

Mark Dever’s Application Grid
Mark often takes the main points of his sermon outline and plugs them into his application grid (available online at The main sermon points go down the first column of the grid. And then the first row has the six application headings listed below, asking, what does this mean for:
• Unique Salvation-History
• Non-Christian
• Public (e.g., culture, society)
• Christ
• Christian
• Your Church

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