John Calvin and the Importance of Application in Preaching
While this may come as a shock to some, John Calvin’s preaching was accessible in its simplicity. “As a preacher, Calvin’s primary aim was not to communicate to other theologians, but to reach the common person in the pew. … Occasionally, Calvin would explain the meaning of a word more carefully, but without ever giving the Hebrew or Greek original. Yet Calvin did not hesitate to use the language of the Bible.” Moreover, Calvin’s preaching was pastoral in its tone. “The Genevan Reformer never lost sight of the fact that he was a pastor. Thus, he warmly applied Scripture with loving exhortation to shepherd his flock. He preached with the intent of prompting and encouraging his sheep to follow the Word.”
Shepherd-preachers, like Calvin, must apply the word of God pastorally, effectively, and in a God-honoring manner. David Murray defines application as “the process by which the unchanging principles of God’s word are brought into life-changing contact with people who live in an ever-changing world.” Murray lays out eight helpful, key components to effective, biblical application in our preaching:
1. Passage: The faithful preacher bases his application not on anecdotes or inspiring stories, but on God’s Word, and on that particular preaching passage.
2. Primary: Preachers must not draw applications from the accidental, incidental, or coincidental parts of a passage, but from its essentials alone.
3. Persistent: Although at times it may be appropriate to leave application to the conclusion of a sermon, it is usually best to apply throughout.
4. Prepared: Unprepared application usually means repetitive application.
5. Present: Applications should be up-to-date and relevant.
6. Personal: Hearers must know that they are being addressed personally and even individually.
7. Precise: The general principle must be pointed to specific, concrete, everyday situations by asking “How? Where? When?”
8. Proportionate: Application must be varied and balanced.
By God’s grace, with humility, wisdom, and intentionality, may the Lord help us to apply the Word of God in such a way that those who sit under our preaching don’t simply grow as hearers of the Word, but joyful doers of the Word (James 1:22).
 Nathan Bingham, “10 Distinguishing Marks of John Calvin’s Preaching.”
 David Murray, “8 Principles of Sermon Application,” Head, Heart, Hand Blog, May, 2013, accessed July 10, 2014, http://headhearthand.org/?s=application.