I was reading some familiar passages in the Bible the other day (1 John 5:13-15). Passages I have preached on many times and in many places. There are, after all, an abundance of messages in those three verses and so much to learn from them.
As I was reading, thinking, marking them up with my colour-coding system, in a new translation God spoke to me and said “Hear My heart.” Of course, my answer was quick and as might be expected: “I am hearing Your heart as I am reading Your Word so that I would.” And again, He spoke very clearly to me and said, “Hear My heart.”
It was then that I realized what I was doing… I was reading God’s Word and interpreting it through my experiences, my desires, my current situation.
In seminary this was called “eisegesis.” Eisegesis is the process of interpreting a text or portion of text in such a way that the process introduces one’s own presuppositions, agendas, or biases into and onto the text.
So, it involves 1) imagination: what idea do I want to present? 2) exploration: what Scripture passage seems to fit with my idea? and 3) application: what does my idea mean? Notice that, in eisegesis, there is no examination of the words of the text or their relationship to each other, no cross-referencing with related passages, and no real desire to understand the actual meaning. Scripture serves only as a prop to my own ideas.
We are ‘proof-texting’ our beliefs and resulting lifestyle. Not the way to really hear God’s heart and what He is saying to us.
Eisegesis is best understood when contrasted with exegesis.
Exegesis is the critical explanation or interpretation of a Bible passage. Synonyms for the word would include: interpretation · explanation · exposition · explication · elucidation · clarification.
The process of exegesis involves 1) observation: what does the passage say? 2) interpretation: what does the passage mean? 3) correlation: how does the passage relate to the rest of the Bible? and 4) application: how should this passage affect my life?
To hear God’s heart through reading and studying His Word we need to be in “exegesis” mode and not “eisegesis” mode. We need to approach God’s Word objectively allowing it to speak to us. We should not approach God’s Word subjectively, trying to make it support what we think, what we want, what we need, what we believe.
Let the Word speak for itself – in the context it is written (the chapter, the book, the testament, the Bible). Let the Holy Spirit, who inspired the Word, show you what it means in its context and then help you to apply it to your own situation and circumstance. Then you will truly hear God’s heart for you for that day.
So, we are to read listening for God’s heart. Not reading to back up what we believe in our heart.
When you look at the Church today – you will realize that most of what we do in our churches is not biblical. We have read the Bible and interpreted it according to our hearts, our thoughts, our traditions, our culture. We have looked at Scriptures and used them to proof text what we are comfortable with or familiar with. This is eisegesis! We need to read the Bible and see what God says about His Church. Read it and let Him speak. This would be examining Scriptures exegetically. This is how we hear God accurately and often.
I knew this, of course. But, I had slipped back into reading it to hear my mind and heart and not to hear His mind and heart. So, I repented and made the decision to be more careful with my time in His Word.
How about you?