Letter #13: Exegesis ≠ An Exit for Jesus
by Jonathan Haefs
So you’ve finally made it far enough along in your language studies that you are getting to do some exegesis! I’ll be honest…the third and fourth semesters of Greek were among my favorite seminary courses. I loved digging into all the nuances of the original text and seeing the grammatical connections that really made the meaning leap right off the page!
Yet, I did notice that my dedication to exegesis began to cause a problem that you might encounter as well. I began to allow my obsession with Greek grammar to invade my teaching within the church more and more…to the point that the sharing of information became my end goal.
Now before you get all up in arms and start defending your beloved language studies…hear me out. What I mean is this…I became so overly focused on exegesis that my teaching turned into technical lectures aimed primarily at educating my people.
I was filling heads with all sorts of knowledge, but I was not calling hearts toward a “knowing.”
The primary purpose of preaching is not education (though important), but encounter! We long for the Spirit to work through the Word and for people to encounter, see Jesus in all his glory and be drawn to him! We don’t want people to just walk out of a service knowing more about Jesus…we want them to know Jesus more!
The difference between knowing about Jesus and knowing Jesus is rather simple. The former involves the head only, while the latter involves the head and heart. Knowing about Jesus is the gaining of mere facts. Knowing Jesus means my heart is stirred with a desire for him, a love for him, trust in him.
The aim of preaching is for people to come know Jesus more and more so that they may be equipped to make him known!
Now, does this lessen the importance of exegesis? May it never be! On the contrary it increases the importance of it! I need to be pointing people as accurately as I can to the one true God through Jesus. To do this, I must carefully study the meaning of his Word. But, the end goal of my study is not to simply transfer that meaning to my hearers, but for that meaning to transform my hearers.
My exegesis should not serve as an exit for Jesus, but as an escort to him!
I’m not telling you to never talk about Greek grammar from the pulpit or never to share technical information. What I am saying is always make sure that information is not your end goal! Your end goal is that everything you share stir up people’s hearts to want to know Jesus!
Jonathan, be a good exegete! We desperately need good exegetes teaching in our churches! But, do not ultimately be an exegete, but a worshipper! Worship the God you see and come to know as you study the text and when you teach the text…help others toward worship as well.
Don’t let your exegesis serve as an exit for Jesus, but as an escort to him!
Grace and Peace,
*To know/understand the premise behind these letters please click here.