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Friday, August 5, 2011

Exegesis-How to read and interpret the Bible

Frank Hunting on his 80th Birthday

Delivered at Grote Street Telecom Lunchtime Bible Study-30-5-78,6-6-78

Exegesis-- Frank Hunting
Very seldom, a bit more often likely to happen these days with the
kinds of things that are happening, but there, only a few years back
you could pretty well say that nobody would see a robbery take
TAB’s and banks are being robbed today, but that’s a new
phenomenum isn’t it?
But most robberies or murders that took place, were never seen!
There was nobody there to witness it!
And yet the evidence could be so piled up, that it became beyond all
reasonable doubt that a certain person committed that robbery
or a certain person committed that murder.
And nobody had any doubts about it.
Now the same sort of thing is true about the Bible.
If their had been any reason or any good reasons why the Bible
should not be received as revelation from God It would long ago,
have been shown and exposed.
Because I don’t think that any book has been so critically looked
at , as the Bible, no book that I know of. Not even within cooee
have they tested out other books as they have the Bible.
Alright ,now, let’s settle down. I don’t think I’ll get through this
today so it will be on next week too I would say.
So let’s settle down to “Rightly Dividing the Word of God”.
And as we do the Bible itself helps us in the first instance.
For it divides itself into the Old and New Covenants or
Testaments and that’s pretty obvious isn’t it?
The Old Testament. Any accurate exegesis of the Old Testament
requires that we recognise several simple but none-the-less
important factors.
And that is that the Old Testament is made up of ,
this is perhaps the first division you could make, you could make
others if you wanted to.
Law, the first 5 books
Drama. I’d put Job in there.Some would put him in the devotional
but it’s certainly mighty drama.
Poetry or Devotional literature.
Prophecy (Divided into Major and Minor)
This has nothing at all to do with the importance of the prophets.
Their writings.It merely refers to the bulk, the size.

In the New Testament it’s made up of the Gospels, biographical,
because they’re not a true biography of the life of Jesus,
History, in the book of Acts, the Letters, and Prophecy in the book
of Revelation and the other parts too.
Now each of these types of literature or Books as we call them,
has it’s own special importance, and it’s own special function in
the Biblical Canon.
If we are to rightly divide the Word of God, we may need to be
giving attention to the special function of the book we are studying.
For instance we cannot answer the question: “ What must I do to
be saved?” from the Psalms. Or anywhere in the Old Testament.
That question cannot be answered by us from the Old Testament.
Before we move on to certain principles to be followed in correct
Exegesis let us make one further thing clear. Hear it from the Old
Testament itself!
The Old Testament divides itself into two periods, any rate these
are very plain. There are others if you like to divide it up.
First you have the Patriarchal period. This is the time from Creation
to Moses. And the book of Genesis is mostly concerned with this
I would be inclined to put the book of Job into that period too.
It seems to have that sort of stamp about it.

But Job has a special purpose with a very special message.
It grapples with a very great problem that’s still with us.
It’s the problem of a righteous man suffering. The problem of pain
if you like,is part of it’s lesson.
And then secondly in the Old testament, from Exodous on,
we have the Hebrew nation coming into being and the giving of the
Law to Moses by God, for the Hebrew people to keep it.
For the rest of the Old Testament we have God’s dealings with
His special people Israel, in order to give to the World the
Saviour, Jesus.
Now you can split that one up a bit if you want to.
So then the Old testament is largely an inspired account of the chosen
people of God, the Hebrews, under the Law of Moses.
And how God dealt with them in order to bring a rebellious people
to the kind of place where they could give to the World, a Saviour.
They are a remarkable people on many scores the Hebrew people,
the Jews, none more remarkable than that they gave to us our
In some senses the Old testament is the bible to the Jews, the New
Testament is the Bible to the Christians.
Both are the inspired word of God, and the Old testament is the
soil out of which the New Testament grew.

And it is very important for a proper understanding of the New.
The Old Testament speaks powerfully to the Christian but he is
not under it’s laws or commands.
The Christian is under the Law of Christ, we’ve lived in the day of
Now admitted there are many more things that could be said about
both the Old and the New Testament which need to be kept in mind
if we are to rightly interpret the Bible but I think enough has been said
to underline the importance of using correct Exegetical principles
when seeking to interpret the Bible.
So let’s have a look at some of these principles.
So that we rightly divide the Word of God.
Well the first one is this.
In what period was this passage written?
Patriarchal? Mosaic? Christian?
This is the general outline and you can take up the finer
divisions yourselves.(after some interjection by Harold Long)
What type of Literature is it?
Law? History? Poetry? Narrative? Apocalyptic? A Letter?
A Parable? A Prophecy? Promise?
Who is saying it?
That’s pretty important! In the Bible, God speaks! Men speak!
The devil speaks! Inspired writers or Apostles speak!

Jesus speaks!
So, who said it? That’s very important, to ask that question!
Who is saying it?
The fourth principle is:
Before I move on, it’s quite obvious of course, it’s so obvious but still,
let’s keep it in mind if we are going to interpret the bible rightly.
But who it is that says it, gives the importance or otherwise to what’s
being said.
That’s so isn’t it?
I’ll come up with some illustrations of this later.
In the fourth place ,or fourth principle,
To whom is it being said?
Now that also is very important. Many different people are specifically
spoken to in the Bible.
There are some occasions when it is being said to a certain
individual. At other times to various nations.
The Word of God might be specifically to the Jewish people,
they are the ones being spoken to.
On other occasions it may be for people for whom certain conditions,
or to certain people doing certain things.
I heard somebody the other day say “there is no promise in the bible
without conditions.”

Now I would say generally that’s true, I can’t think of any one that’s
got an unconditional promise.
I’ve not been through to check it out, that’s what I’d say next.
But you see when you’re taking up a promise of the Bible,
have a look for the condition if you are going to interpret the Bible
I meant to look up this quote and I forgot, For instance when Jesus
utters the terrible woes in Luke, you know he says, “Woe unto you
Pharisees, remember that frightening passage.
He was not lashing out at them in anger ,or temper, or bad grace as
we would, it was a kind of last attempt to have them see where they
were standing with God.
He was doing what he was always doing, trying to redeem them,
I don’t know what you fellows think about this but anyhow what I think
of this is that there are some men so hardened ,so evil in their hearts
because of their attitudes, so certain and impressed with their own
righteousness or importance, that they don’t respond to the ordinary
appeals of Love and kindness. Only the sting of the lash will
awaken them to their peril.

In the end they come up with things that do not represent God at all.
So we’ve gotta watch that about ourselves. Let’s take the hint.
Have a look at the rich young ruler for a moment and we’ll apply the
principles to him.
Well in Matthew 19;16-22,Mark10:17-22,Luke 18;18-27 you have
the story of the rich young ruler.
And the ruler asked him,”Good teacher what shall I do to inherit
eternal life?”
Now in my humble view, for what it’s worth,that young man asked
the most important question anyone can ask.
Now I might be simple minded, and I might be quite naive, but the
more I’ve thought about life and it’s meaning,and it’s purposes,
I don’t think we can ask any more important question than that one.
And I’m not saying that because I’m an old bloke now, with one foot
in the grave and another on a banana peel.
I’ve thought that since I was a young man.
I ‘ve known nothing I’ve come across to change my view on that one.
That seemed to me as a young man to be the most important
question asked and answered. I still see it that way.
Well, there are many,many important questions which we ought to ask
and get answers to.

This is the most important.
What must I do to inherit eternal lfe?
To which question Jesus gave an answer,so, let’s apply the principles
of Exegesis.
Who asks the question?
The rich young ruler.
A conscientious jew, who really wants to know.
Who gives the answer? Jesus!
You couldn’t get a higher authority, could you now?
In what period did this take place? In what dispensation?
In the period when Jews were under Law!
That’s when it took place. Not in the period, or era, or dispensation
of grace.
Still under the old jewish law! Hence Jesus gives the only answer
that could be given to that young man!
But it is not the answer that we would have to give to that question.
Why? Because we are no longer in the period of law.
By the great Goodness and Grace of God we are in the Gospel
era, the era of Grace!
So the answer is a very different one that we give!
Now, for that is so, and I’m not just saying that. And a very similar
question is asked of Peter on the day of Pentecost, and if you read
through the book of Acts, you’ll find it answered in various ways.
But you’ll find that the identical question is also asked by the jailer of
Paul in the 16th Chapter.
Peter is asked this question on the day of Pentecost.
“Brethren what shall we do?”
Now you’ll remember that that question came out of agony.
They were cut to the heart by what they had heard of the gospel
preached by Peter.
What are we to do? The answer is given,repent and be baptised
everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of
your sins and you shall receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit.
Now Paul is asked the same question by the jailer.
“Men ,what must I do to be saved?” (addressing Paul and Silas)
The answer is not the one which Jesus gave. Not at all!
He gave the answer, “keep the law” . That was His answer.
Why? Because the time or period of the Mosaic Law has been
fullfilled by the time the jailer asks it!
We’re now under Grace. We’re in that era.
We’re in the Gospel era.
It would have been quite wrong for Paul to have told that jailer the
same answer that Jesus gave to the rich young ruler.
Paul’s(Paul and Silas) answer is “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and
you will be saved ,you and your household.”

And if you are a good exegete, you will read the next verse.
“And they spoke the word of the Lord unto him and to all that were
in his house; and he took them the same hour of the night, and
washed their wounds, and he was baptised at once, with all his
family”(Acts 16:32)
The word of the Lord was very fully and thoroughly taught to this man
who wanted to know what he had to do to be saved.
Now another point in exegesis, a further point, would be this,did you
note that Peter begins his answer with a command to repent and says
nothing about belief? At all!
It says repent and be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the
remission of your sins.
Now why did he leave out belief?
Why didn’t he? Well it becomes quite obvious when you read the
context ,and what we learned last week, that you always study the
context. So that you get the accurate, the right meaning.
Well when you read the context it becomes very very clear, that
the men who ask, or the people who ask what are we to do,
believe what he has said!
And what has he said? He has said Jesus (taught?) as their Messiah,
crucified, raised by God, to save them from their sins!
And that’s what they believed. Now, the next thing thet they’re to do
is to repent. To be Baptised, to receive the Holy Spirit.

Now that’s what good exegesis brings out and makes very clear.
But the Jailer, he had to start with believing!
That was his first and primary need.
From there ,the word of the Lord is spoken to them and, as
consequence, he and his household are baptised.
So, why was this profound change? The new covenant which God
had promised in Jeremiah 31;31-34 has come.
I don’t know whether you are aware of this passage, but here it is.
“Behold the day is come saith the Lord that I will make a new covenant
with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah, not according to
the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day that I took them
by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, which my
covenant they broke although I was a husband unto them
saith the Lord.
Butr this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of
Israel. After those days, saith the Lord ,I will put my Law in their
inward parts and write it in their hearts and I will be their God and they
shall be my people.”
And there’s the promise of the new covenant which has come
by the time that the Peter has to answer that question and which Paul
has to answer to.
The new covenant,the day of Grace.
Boy am I glad that I’m living in the day of Grace!

Very much so!
Now let’s have a look at Luke 22: 29-30 and apply the principles
of exegesis we have been studying.
You will clearly see that these remarks are made by Jesus .
Perhaps if I read them to you that will put you in the picture a bit.
(edited ou the bit about his wife’s cooking making things difficult.)
“And I appoint unto you a Kingdom as my Father hath appointed unto
me that you may eat and drink at my table and my Kingdom and sit
on thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel.”
Alright let’s apply the principles of Exegesis.
1.  You will clearly see that these remarks are made by Jesus
Who is saying it? That was one of our principle wasn’t it?
2. They are made to the Apostles.
To whom is it being said?
And then note this they are said to the Apostles alone.
So they are the only ones who are going to sit on the 12 thrones
judging the 12 tribes of Israel.
You won’t be, I won’t be, the Archbishop of Yorke won’t be nor
will the Pope of Rome!
I’m not being funny I’m just saying clearly, just what it says.
For instance just looking at another principle just being applied,
Christians have had. I don’t no whether they do it these days, but
they used to have what they called “tarrying” meetings.
Meetings at which they waited and prayed for the Holy Spirit
to fall upon them ,or to come afresh ,if you like, and we sing a chorus
that’s not scriptural, “Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.”
We sing it with great gusto ,because we love the tune ,and we vaguely
think that it’s quite accurate ,but their are lots of things that are not in
the scripture ,in that chorus that we sing.
Well folk used to have these tarrying meetings to, well they’d
ask perhaps for the baptism or the filling of the Holy Spirit.
Now this practice was based so it was claimed upon scripture,
and the scripture was Luke 24:49 and Acts 1: 4-5.
Where Jesus told his Apostles, if you look those passages up,
that they were to wait in Jerusalem until they were clothed
with power from on high.
Is that right? If you’ve looked it up you will find that to be the case.
Now let’s apply exegetical principles.
Who is the speaker?
The answer is Jesus. Our highest authority.
To whom is Jesus speaking?
The answer is The Apostles . The text makes that very clear.
Are we included in this command? The answer is no!
It’s to the Apostles and to the Apostles alone.
We cannot tarry in Jerusalem. And furthermore the purpose of the
tarrying has long since been fulfilled.

But when we get this Idea that the Christians have got to tarry
and wait for the Holy Spirit, we are going to give a slant to
teaching about the Holy Spirit that the scriptures don’t know.
Because we are not applying the principles of exegesis.
This taking of a command given specifically to the Apostles and to
the Apostles alone, and making it present day practice gives a
wrong slant to our understanding of the Holy Spirit filling us.
This practice gives the idea that if we want to be filled with the
Holy Spirit, we must tarry we must wait upon God.
For it, to be filling or Baptism, or whatever you’re looking for,
until He is gracious enough to give it!
Now that idea is entirely out of step with the scripture!
The scripture makes it very clear the Holy Spirit was given in all His
fullness on the day of Pentecost!
HE has never been withdrawn. Whether you can believe it or
whether you don’t, this is true!
He is as available to you and me, today,as He was to those Christians
on the first day they heard that first Gospel sermon.
Under Peter’s preaching.
We do not need to wait for God to give us the Holy Spirit.
Something He has already done, and you know a lot of our praying,
you know if God could speak to us do you know what he would say?

“Listen son, wake up to yourself! I’m giving you this will you
please take it and not ask for it!
You keep on asking and I’m handing it to you and you won’t take it!”
You keep on asking, asking, asking,asking just take it!
Am I going to get the grace of God by asking for it ? No!

I have transcribed this the best I can from the tapes I made of these lunchtime meetings. The people who attended were staff from Australia Post and Telecom Australia. I worked in Telecom Australia at the time.   I had instigated these lunch time Bible Studies as our Church was setting up many small groups at the time. I had heard Dr. Ray Stedman of "Body Life" fame speak at our Church and he had been talking about gifts of the spirit. In one of his illustrations he mentioned how one of his Church Members who worked in the Post Office had set up a Bible study in the workplace.That was my inspiration to do the same. I was the official "leader" but  those of us who attended had the privilege of Pastors Harold long and Frank Hunting attending on most Tuesdays.The sessions were very well attended and continued for at least 15 years until I transferred in my employment. I was unable to attend after that due to travel difficulties.The principles of Exegesis I learned from this and subsequent sessions I have found invaluable over the years.The group was multi denominational but the teaching was strongly influenced by Churches Of Christ theology. Some found some things not how they understood them but were willing to learn and be part of it.
This teaching on acts 2:38 in particular is something I hold dear and makes understanding all the differences of opinion about things like Baptism in the Spirit, our salvation and how we appropriate that so much clearer. 
For one lady in particular these lunch time meetings became her Church as she had difficulties attending on Sundays.
We had set printed studies prepared by Frank that we studied at these meetings.
I have most of those studies and if anyone is interested I can make them available in PDF form.

geoff thompson

Footnote: A wonderful book was written by the late J. Sidlow Baxter called the "The Strategic Grasp of the Bible".
I believe it is available as a free down;loadable PDF. You might find copies available for sale on the internet.
It is highly recommended.



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