About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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Verse By Verse Exegesis

The word "exegesis" is a fancy word that theologians have used throughout the decades and centuries. Webster’s Dictionary defines exegesis as "an explanation, or critical interpretation of a text". Simply put, "exegesis" means "explanation".

When you add the words "verse by verse" to the word "exegesis", you’re simply speaking about a verse by verse explanation of a certain portion of Scripture. Unlike the topical and word study approach to gathering information, a verse by verse approach uses an entire section of Scripture to explain what the author is saying.

The importance of this approach of explaining Scripture is that you get to understand each and every phrase in the context of what is being said. It is too easy to misappropriate a verse if you don’t understand why it is written.

Here’s an example. Matt. 7:1 is often misunderstood because people consistently take it out of context. The verse says, "do not judge, or you too will be judged". If you take this statement all by itself, you’ll think that we should never judge anyone. Many believe this is what Jesus means because they’ve failed to do a verse by verse exegesis. Many of these same people believe this because they don’t want to be judged in return, as Jesus says in the next verse. They say, "you don’t judge me and I won’t judge you". This is the "you’re okay, I’m okay mentality".

In order to understand Jesus’ statement, you need to understand the first six verses of Matt. 7, not just verse one. In verse two Jesus says, "in the same way you judge others, you will be judged". That’s pure common sense. Whatever we do to others, there’s a good chance they’ll return the favour. If we’re nice to others, they’ll be nice to us. If we’re nasty to others, they’ll be nasty in return. If we judge others, you can bet they’ll judge us back. This is human nature, and this is what Jesus is saying in verse two.

Then Jesus goes on to say, "why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye"? In this verse we see who Jesus is talking to concerning judging. He’s talking to the person who is judging unfairly, or unrighteously. He’s talking to the person who is pointing out a little sin to someone else, but is doing the same thing himself but to a much larger degree.

In verse five Jesus says, "you hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, then you will see clearly to remove the speck out of your brothers eye". If we’re judging others for their sin and are committing the same sin, then we are hypocrites, and I’m sure you know what Jesus thinks about hypocrites.

Jesus doesn’t stop at calling unrighteous judges hypocrites. He tells us that we can help remove the speck of sin from our brother’s life if we’re free of that sin in our own lives. At this point Jesus clearly says that we can judge.

So a good exegetical understanding of this portion of Scripture tells us that we can judge and help others with sin if we don’t have the same sin in our lives. If we do have the same sin, and we judge, we’re hypocrites, and deserve to be judged in return. Yet once we remove the sin in our lives and then judge, we’re no longer hypocrites. To say that Jesus told us never to judge in Matt. 7:1 is not what Jesus is saying and is bad hermeneutics.

There’s more to be learned on the topic of judging from other Scripture. For example, in John 7:24 Jesus tells us to judge righteously. Yet from this particular portion of Scripture we now have some understanding concerning judging that we’ve derived from a verse by verse exegesis of Matt. 7:1-6. If we had only looked at verse one, we would have come away with a wrong understanding.

It has taken me many years to come to this conclusion, but I feel the best way to study the Bible is to study it verse by verse, asking, "what is the author saying in this sentence"? You don’t ask, "what do I think this verse means, or, how do I feel about this sentence"? What we think or feel isn’t necessarily relevant. What is relevant is what the author is saying.

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