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Eisegesis Unplugged

Exegesis and eisegesis are two conflicting approaches in Bible study.  Exegesis is the exposition or explanation of a text based on a careful, objective analysis.  The word exegesis literally means “to lead out of.” That means that the interpreter is led to his conclusions by following the text.

The opposite approach to Scripture is eisegesis, which is the interpretation of a passage based on a subjective, non-analytical reading.  The word eisegesis literally means “to lead into,” which means the interpreter injects his own ideas into the text, making it mean whatever he wants.

Obviously, only exegesis does justice to the text.  Eisegesis is a mishandling of the text and often leads to a misinterpretation.  Exegesis is concerned with discovering the true meaning of the text, respecting its grammar, syntax, and setting.  Eisegesis is concerned only with making a point, even at the expense of the meaning of words.

The Passage

“Judge not, that  you be not Judged."  (Matthew 7:1 ESV)

Christians are often accused of “judging” others whenever they speak out against a sinful activity.  The “Don’t judge me!” reaction might be justified when a personally judgmental attitude accompanies the revelation of “sin.”  Probably most of us have been on the receiving end of such “revelations” at one time or another.  On the other hand, some of us have probably been guilty of communicating a “You’re going to hell if you don't change your ways” attitude.

In the spirit of “unplugging eisegesis,” we need to ask ourselves, does this Matthew 1:7 passage really prohibit speaking out against that which God calls sinful, or is it teaching something else entirely?  So following the first rules of biblical interpretation (context, context, context) let’s see if we can answer the question.

Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.  Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. (Matthew 7:1-5 ESV)

When Jesus told us not to judge (Matthew 7:1-2), He was telling us not to judge hypocritically.  The same way we judge others we will be judged.  Jesus was talking about how to judge, not prohibiting judgment concerning sin.

In Matthew 7:3-5, Jesus warns against judging someone else for his sin when you yourself are guilty of worse sins (think specks and planks).  That’s the kind of judging Jesus prohibits.

What sort of judging is permissible?

If a believer sees another believer sinning, it is his Christian duty to lovingly and respectfully confront the person with his sin (Matthew 18:15-17).  This is not judging, but rather pointing out the truth with the hope and goal of bringing repentance in the other person (James 5:20) while maintaining and/or restoring fellowship.

We are told in Ephesians 4:15 to speak the truth in love.  That applies to our relationships with both believers and non-believers. We should never shy away from bringing God's truth to any situation or topic of discussion. Our duty is to speak truth in love and stay out of God’s way.

The Apostle Paul counseled young Timothy to preach God's word whether or not it's popular or welcomed by the hearers:

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. (2 Timothy 4:1-2 ESV)

How are we doing?

That’s the question we must ask ourselves, the one I must often ask myself.  Am I a “sin hunter” who intentionally looks for opportunities to pass judgment?  I certainly hope not.

At the other end of the spectrum, do I avoid taking a stand for truth when the lie is being proclaimed from the rooftops?  The current cultural environment concerning the issue of homosexuality and same-sex marriage might just be a glaring example.  I certainly hope I do not.

Do I back down from speaking God’s truth to a situation or issue because I am labeled a judgmental “hater” or one of a growing variety of ‘…..phobes’? (You fill it the blank.)  I certainly hope not.

Sadly, we see Christians all around us who seem to be weakening and sometimes caving to cultural pressure concerning issues that are clearly set forth in Scripture.  Dear friends, let us not join their ranks!

 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.  Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.  In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  (Ephesians 6:10-17 ESV)

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