By Mark Molina
In the last few weeks we have discussed two terms: exegesis and eisegesis. We have seen examples of how each approach to the interpretation of scripture can either lead a person to truth or to error. We also know it is our individual responsibility to ensure that the person teaching or leading us in our Christian growth and development is teaching truthfully. “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (II Timothy 2:15 NKJV)
As a Pastor I use an expository approach. I teach line upon line, precept upon precept. I believe that scripture can and should interpret scripture. God does not need me to redefine His written, Holy Word with my own ideas or interpretations. What is expository preaching?
Expository preaching involves the exposition (comprehensive explanation) of the Scripture. In other words, expository preaching presents the meaning and intent of a biblical text, providing commentary and examples to make the passage clear and understandable. The word exposition is related to the word expose — the expository preacher’s goal is simply to expose the meaning of the Bible, verse by verse.
All of scripture validates, supports, strengthens and reenforces Biblical Truth. This method requires that one be diligent in his or her preparation, research, study and correct textual presentation of the Word of God. Biblical syntax is presented correctly and accounted for responsibly in expository preaching. So how does one prepare in this style and methodology?
To prepare an expository sermon, a preacher starts with a passage of Scripture and then studies the grammar, the context, and the historical setting of that passage in order to understand the author’s intent. In other words, the expositor is also an exegete — one who analyzes the text carefully and objectively. Once the preacher understands the meaning of the passage, he then crafts a sermon to explain and apply it. The result is expository preaching.
Can you see the correlation? A preacher, minister, or teacher of the Gospel who is concerned with Biblical Truth understands that the sermon is not made of his own ideas. There is a correct modem for Biblical application to the area being taught. Expository preaching requires one to be an exegete. It requires a comprehensive understanding and presentation of Biblical Truth.
- Campbell Morgan, pastor of London’s Westminster Chapel who is known as “the prince of expositors,” taught that a sermon is limited by the text it is covering. Every word from the pulpit should amplify, elaborate on, or illustrate the text at hand, with a view towards clarity. He wrote, “The sermon is the text repeated more fully.” A sermon’s primary function is to present the text. I repeat: the purpose of a sermon is to present the text, not the idea of the person trying to force scripture to say what they want it to say.
An eisegete uses the methodology of imagination and makes or forces the text to say what they want it to say. Unfortunately this is a very predominant methodology of preaching used in America today. Why is it so prevalent? Because it is easy. It requires no true commitment to correctly expounding Biblical Truth. It can be used for the purpose of manipulation and coercion by the one using it. Additionally, Christians in America are for the most part Biblically Illiterate. We don’t teach the Bible in schools anymore, much less in our homes! Therefore it is only a natural consequence that the Bible is incorrectly taught in many churches. If we had a personal, daily discipline of biblical studies we would not be so easily led astray.
This is not about producing an arrogant, high-minded, elitist self-view of how to study the bible or becoming overly critical of how others teach or communicate. This is about understanding and knowing when Biblical truth is being accurately presented or being intentionally manipulated. It is about learning how to properly SEARCH the scriptures.
An honest student of the Bible will be an exegete, allowing the text to speak for itself. Eisegesis easily lends itself to error, as the would-be interpreter attempts to align the text with his own preconceived notions. Exegesis requires us to agree with the Bible; eisegesis seeks to force the Bible to agree with us.