Exegesis is simply a close reading of the scripture so that you can extract the meaning from the text. Before you can preach a text you must understand the text. You can look in a number of places for instructions on how to do a proper exegesis of a text.
One thing that may not be in those methods is what I call a “stylistic exegesis.” Here you need to look at the text…is there any style in the text? How is the text presented? Is there style in the presentation?
What is the word choice of the author and how does this affect our understanding of the text. What images did the author chose to use and how does that affect our understanding? Often you can see style in the text of the Bible.
Look at the Psalms. That is style. They are songs and poems. When you preach a text with style in it, don’t remove all the style that is already resident in the text. Don’t dissect the style out of the text. Don’t dispose of the style while you are exegeting the text. Don’t turn it into dry facts and then try to inject style back into a style-less sermonic manuscript in the preaching moment.
If the Bible says: “The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want.” Don’t turn this into a historical lesson about shepherds and then attempt to get the people back at the end by whooping. No! Leave it as style. What does the “Lord is my Shepherd” mean? For what purpose does calling The Lord my Shepherd serve? In a stylistic exegesis you start to think about what that picture means. Maybe you might say, the Lord is the roof on the house? Here we took an image and we replaced that image with a modern image. Is it good enough? Maybe, maybe not. But it is our purpose to attempt to re-image the text into our images. I personally don’t think this, so we would continue looking. Well maybe Jesus is my football coach…is that a good image in the context of your sermon? I am not sure…but this lets you know about how you can re-image a text using this stylistic exegesis.
You can do the same thing with the poetry of the Bible or the songs of the Bible. You can even do it with the stories of the Bible. Can you retell a story? This is the way to think when you are attempting a stylistic exegesis.
Now certainly you will need to do some traditional exegesis. You need to closely look at the text using whatever methodology you use, but what I am hoping you will do is also attempt a stylistic exegesis that helps to retain the style that is already in the text.
Sometimes folks ask how can they celebrate a particular text and the text has the celebration right in it! We will talk more about this in the exegesis portion of the course, but for right now, think about a stylistic exegesis of the text.
Someone asked what is the difference between celebration and application? We often hear of the necessity to apply all our points. In addition, I have argued that we need to apply all our points. Are they the same? I answer that question in this video.
Just because something is true does not mean that it is of utmost importance. An idea must be both “true” and “relevant to the present time” to be worthy of our intense consideration.
This idea of relevance is an interesting one. Some people ignore it altogether and others place an intense amount of effort into showing the relevance of an idea or teaching. I am about to start a series that looks at four postures that preachers have taken to relevance and the demonstration of it.
The first way that we have demonstrated relevance is through “Brute Force.” Here is where we end up saying, “You better believe it or else!” The “or else part” could be “you will go to hell” or “you will be confused” or “you will be deceived.” Another softer approach is “you don’t really love Jesus unless you believe it.” Examples abound of this kind of preaching. I listened to the Bible Answer Man defending the trinity. He argued that if you don’t believe in the trinity then you are not a Christian. Here the argument is basically you must believe this or you are not in right relation with God and ultimately are lost. There was no attempt to demonstrate how the doctrine makes any difference in our living, just a statement “You Must Believe it or else!”
This kind of relevance, however, will not stand up in the real world. When I am dealing with real issues in my own life, these kinds of approaches to relevance makes me put this doctrine on the back burner. Even if I agree with the doctrine, I can’t use it, I can only “believe” it. I have to go to something else when I am hurting. I have to go to something else when I am in need of something.
Some think that most doctrines are only relevant in this perspective, however it is my contention that it is not that the doctrines are only relevant through brute force, it is that we have not thought through the practical ramifications of our doctrines.
I am not saying that there is never a place or time for the “Brute Force” method of relevance, but I think that it is used way too much and if not supplemented with something else turns “truth” into “irrelevant truth.”