Relevancy & Actionable . . . .


There are times that you need to clear some ground and identify the biblical audience.

Who is being addressed

by the writer of this book or portion of Scripture?


√ Sometimes, the inclusion of the background of the biblical audience is  . . . .

  • just a general method of “sermonic warming up” or “sermonic time filler.”

i.e. — “Paul is writing to the Ephesians of whom he had twice ministered.  They are primarily Gentile believers, living in a city located in what we now call Turkey. . . . “


√ Sometimes, the inclusion of the background of the biblical audience is . . . .

  • actually a meaningful, thoughtful, and fascinating tour of Bible times

Ephesus was . . . .

  • at the crossroads between the East and West of the Greek & Roman World
  • one of the four largest cities of the then known world
  • sky-lined by a temple on top of a mountain
  • known worldwide – “whom all Asia and the world worshippeth” -Acts 19:27
  • a temple built for worshipping the goddess Diana
  • a temple which was almost 100,000 square feet, composed of 127 columns
  • a temple which was four times the size of the Parthenon in Rome

When you walked into the city of Ephesus, you were walking into a city of commerce, wealth, idolatry, and immorality.


√ However, at times there is need to identify the biblical audience because the understanding of the biblical audience is crucial to the rest of the message.


Relevancy-Actionable:  Classical Rhetorical Theory recognizes that a speaker will find it more or less difficult to be heard and/or understood if the listeners are uncertain that the message is relevant to them.

Relevancy is Actionable. 

  • If I am in my 20’s (little to no chance I will even seeing S.S. benefits), what would cause me to listen to and/or give attention to a presentation on Social Security benefits?  Typically, it’s not actionable and therefore not relevant.  What may be actionable is coming up with another plan to address my possible retirement years.
  • What would cause me to listen to and/or give attention to a presentation on choosing a career and college if I am in my 60’s (obviously, one can posit a scenario where that is actionable)?  Typically, it’s not actionable and therefore not relevant.

If what you are addressing is not actionable because it is not related to them, an audience has little reason to give you their attention or interest.

When I speak about “Relevancy & Actionable” I am speaking about whether the audience believes that there is “application.”

The first step that the teacher/preacher/speaker may need to take is to assure the audience that this passage applies to them and therefore they can take some action to apply these truths to their lives (as Stephen Davey states when he says – “not only in the interpretation but in the application of the text”).

Depending on whether or not the audience is theologically . . . .

  • adverse — Your audience does not believe that the biblical audience is properly identified by you — i.e. — “He is writing to / speaking to unbelievers!”
  • uncertain — Your audience uncertain whether the biblical audience is comparable to them or not — i.e. — “Little children . . . .” / “Are ye not carnal . . . .” / “Babes in Christ”
  • accepting of your teaching — Your audience just trusts you when you say that this biblical audience is not much different than us today.

. . . . you need to determine how much time you need to take to establish relevancy.

Even if the audience is very accepting, at a later time they may be persuaded by another speaker/teacher than the biblical writer is not speaking to their lives.  Therefore you may want to provide a few of the clear reasons to believe that this passage is for them.


Dr. Stephen Davey illustrates the need to do this when addressing Romans 7:14-17 in his message titled, “The Battle Begins.”

There happens to be quite a controversy over this passage as to just who Paul is referring to. It is not a small argument over interpretation. In fact, it is the most important thing to decide before you begin to study this text. Who Paul is referring to will make all the difference in the world not only in the interpretation of the text, but in the application of the text.

Who is Paul talking about when he says in Romans, chapter 7:

• verse 14,

I am . . . sold into bondage to sin.

• verse 18,

For I know that nothing good dwells in me . . .

• verse 21,

I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good.

If Paul is talking about an unbeliever, it will make all the difference in the world as you interpret and apply this text. If Paul is talking about a believer, that will have huge implications as well. Of whom is Paul speaking?


As Davey states, “It will make all the difference in the world as you interpret and apply this text.” 

And their perception as to whether the text applies to them makes all the difference whether or not your audience gives their sincere attention.

Attention and focus is half the battle in communication.  You can lose the attention of some or many because they are uncertain or absolutely unconvinced that the passage is relevant to them in 2017.

Stephen Davey is going to take a significant amount of time in his message to support his position that this passage is about them as believers, that Paul is talking about his post-conversion battle with sin.


Surely Paul cannot be talking about himself! Paul is a victorious believer, right? He said that we should imitate him, as he follows the Lord, right? How could Paul ever be so distraught and so weak to say of himself, as he did in verse 19,

For the good that I want, I do not do . . .

The trouble with this view is that, beginning with verse 7, Paul begins to use personal pronouns. He refers to himself over and over again, “I this . . .” and “my that . . .”. In fact, in the earlier part of chapter 7, Paul consistently said, “we” and “us,” but now, Paul talks about himself. And his agony reaches a climax in verse 24, when he cries out,

Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free . . .

Audio Link:

If he did not take the time to do that he obviously believes he would have lost some meaningful part of his audience, those who were uncertain or antagonistic — maybe even you???

Depending on the passage or the topic, you may need to add more content by identifying and supporting who the audience is, not as just filler, but as necessary for relevancy, application, AND therefore attention.


There are some areas of biblical truth which immediately come to mind when we speak about relevancy-actionable . . . .

  • Romans 7 – as presented above
  • The Sermon on the Mount – Is this for us?
  • The Ten Commandments
  • The use of many Old Testament passages in general
  • The Carnal Christian
  • The book of Revelation – depending on one’s eschatology
  • Warning passages in the book of Hebrews
  • Kingdom Parables
  • The Gifts of the Spirit
  • etc. etc.



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