Chapter 1 of Dr. Gordon Fee’s book Listening to the Spirit in the Text (Regent College Publishing, Vancouver, Canada (2000)) is entitled “Exegesis and Spirituality: Completing the Circle.” This post discusses some of my current takeaways from this chapter. I’m confident I will have more as time goes on.
2. Lens Through Which to View Exegesis
Page 6 sets out what I term a lens through which to view exegesis. It reads [emphasis and brackets added]:
Thus in the New Testament, Christian existence is Trinitarian at its very roots. At the beginning and end of all things is the eternal God himself, to whom both Jews and Christians refer over and again as the Living God. God’s purposes in creating beings live ourselves, fashioned in his image, was for the purposes of relationship – that we might live in fellowship with the Living God, as those who both bear his likeness and carry out his purposes on earth. From even before the fall, we are told that God had set about his purpose to redeem the fallen so as to reshape their now misshapen vision of God and thus to restore them into fellowship from which they fell in their rebellion. God has brought this about, we are told, by himself coming among us in the person of his Son, who at one point in our human history effected our redemption and reconciliation with the Living God, through a humiliating death and glorious resurrection. But he had not left us on our own to make a go of it; he has purposed to come to our aid – and this is the reason for his coming to us and among us by his Holy Spirit.
Thus God’s aim in our lives is “Spiritual” in this sense, that we, redeemed by the death of Christ, might be empowered by his Spirit both “to will and to do for the sake of his own pleasure.” [Philippians 2:13]. True spirituality, therefore, is nothing more nor less than life by the Spirit, “Having been brought to life by the Spirit,” Paul tells the Galatians, “let us behave in ways that are in keeping with the Spirit.” [Galatians 5:25].
Hence the aim of exegesis: to produce in our lives and the lives of others true Spirituality, in which God’s people live in fellowship with the eternal and living God, and thus in keeping with God’s own purposes in the world. But to do that effectively, true “Spirituality” must precede exegesis and flow from it.
What does this “lens” cause me to focus on during the exegetical process?
First, I want to look for any teaching about God creating human beings for close fellowship with Him.
Second, I want to look for any teaching about the fall and the resultant sin and separation of human beings from God.
Third, I want to look for any teaching about God’s solution for the sin-based separation; namely, the sinless life, death and physical bodily resurrection of God’s only unique Son, Jesus Christ.
Fourth, I want to look for any teaching about living a holy life in close fellowship with God, which includes being an intense pray-er, and consistent with God’s purposes for the world.
3. Suggestions of How to Carry Out True Exegesis
On pages 14-15, Dr. Fee gives four suggestions about carrying out true exegesis. I’ve expanded each suggestion with other content, some from Chapter 1 and some not.
First, it begins with the exegete’s view about Scripture.
The exegete MUST be absolutely convinced that the text is God’s Word. In other words, that God speaks and people are to listen. The goal is to hear the message of the text correctly from God.
Second, the exegete MUST have the conviction that the text is inspired by the Holy Spirit. This is the same Holy Spirit that indwells every believer and helps the exegete during the exegetical process to be a good historian and a good listener.
Second, the exegete must have a concern to carry out good exegesis under the presence and power of the Holy Spirit so as to hear the text first on its own terms, not their terms.
The exegete must analyze the text as carefully as their skills and opportunities allow. The exegete should ask the contextual questions about the literary context and the historical-cultural content. The exegete should ask the content questions of determining the original text, the meaning of the words, the implications of the grammar, and the historical-cultural background.
The exegete MUST be passionate to hear exactly what God says in the text, i.e., the correct single interpretation of the text. The exegete must be a pray-er who hungers and thirsts for God and lives consistently in His presence. The biblical text must grip or possess the exegete’s soul!
Third, the exegesis must be kept in the context of the believing community to whom the writer addressed the text.
This original community of believers are those who were committed to listening to God and were intentional about walking in His ways whether exactly or not. Listening to God and walking in His ways takes effort and intentionality.
Our 21st-century community of believers must want to live in fellowship with the eternal and living God, keeping with God’s purposes for the world.
Fourth, the exegete must realize that true spirituality is worship that evidences itself in obedience and the same kind of God like-ness we have seen in Christ himself.
The primary aim of theology is doxology, and there are two essential tasks to achieve this goal. First, for the initial task the exegete must ascertain the biblical writer’s intended meaning of the text (i.e., authorial intent). The exegete uses all of the necessary exegetical tools and techniques to carry out this task.
Second, the ultimate task is to hear the text in such a way that it leads the reader/listener into the worship of God and into conformity to God and His ways. This is the journey from theology to doxology.
One final comment. For the exegete to hear what God has to say, the exegete must be prepared to try imitate the life of Christ who poured our Himself for the sake of others, even to the point of death on the cross.
Wow! This exegetical process takes work, but that’s okay. It is apparent that this is an ongoing process ever-evolving lifelong process.
If you are not a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, what I have written above makes sense. But, if you are an unbeliever it probably makes no or very little sense.
If You Are an Unbeliever
If you are an unbeliever, then please (1) read through “God’s Plan of Salvation” so you can understand what God did for you through His only unique Son, Jesus Christ, and (2), from the bottom of your heart, pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” meaning every word. If you do, you will be reconciled to God – saved – through Jesus Christ.
God’s Plan of Salvation
In the beginning, God, who is holy, created the entire universe. As a part of His creative actions, He made humans (male and female) in His image to know Him. For a while, everything was right between God and our ancestors, Adam and Eve. But Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God, whereby Adam’s sin was passed down to all of humanity, creating a separation between God and humanity. We cannot do anything to bridge that separation so that without God’s intervention, hell is our eternal destination. Fortunately for us, in His great love and mercy, God provided us with the only means of salvation through Abraham’s lineage by sending the Jewish Messiah, Jesus Christ, God’s only unique Son. While retaining His deity, God the Son became a man in Jesus, lived a perfect life, thereby fulfilling the Law, and died a substitutionary atoning death on the cross, taking on Himself the punishment for the sins of all people. Jesus rose from the dead, showing that God the Father accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, thereby exhausting God’s wrath against humanity. God now calls on every unbeliever to repent of their sins and completely trust in Christ alone that Jesus died for their sins and rose to life from the dead. Every unbeliever who repents and trusts in Jesus Christ will be forgiven of all their sins (past, present, and future) and born again as a new creation in Christ, possessing guaranteed eternal life with God.
Scripture References: Genesis 1:1, 26, 31; Habakkuk 1:13; Genesis 2:7-25; Genesis 3:1-7, 22-24; Isaiah 59:2; Romans 3:19-20, 23; 5:17-19; Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 6:23; John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Colossians 1:15; 2:9; Matthew 1:18, 20, 24-25; Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:24; Hebrews 2:17; 9:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 1 John 4:10; John 3:16-18; Mark 1:15; Acts 17:30; 26:20; Romans 1:4; 4:25; John 3:5-8; 1 Peter 1:3.
Lord, Jesus Christ, the only unique Son of God, thank You for Your free gift of eternal life. I know I’m a sinner who cannot save myself no matter what I do, and I deserve to spend eternity in hell. But, I know that because You loved me so much, You voluntarily died on the cross for me taking my sins upon Yourself, and You physically bodily rose from the grave showing that Your sacrificial death was sufficient payment to give me eternal life in Heaven. I now repent of my sins and completely trust alone in what You did for my eternal salvation. Please take control of my life as I now receive You as my Lord and Savior. Thank You so much for saving me. I am now Yours forever!
(Scripture references: John 1:1-4, 11-14; John 3:16; Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 3:21-26; Isaiah 53:4-6; Mark 1:15; Acts 16:31; Acts 4:12; Romans 10:9-10, 13; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; John 10:27-29).
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