Friday, May 04, 2007

The Greatest Exegete

Every time that I delve into God's Word I am overwhelmed with ceaseless amazement over the disclosure of God's glory.  Even passages that I have read and studied before often disclose new details that I managed to miss beforehand; and applications that I had not considered in the past are made evident through the Spirit's faithful tutelage. Holy Writ is a bottomless treasure chest, and it is the privilege of any believer to invest time in digging and discovering its endless treasures. For myself, this is an indispensable privilege within my own preaching labors. In fact, one recent textual-excavation supplied what I have come to expect from the diligent study of Scripture - a prodding of encouragement and conviction from the Lord. The text was John 1:18 - a passage that I have had the privilege to preach a few times before, and yet I was convicted by my past failure to emphasize an import word in this text:

John 1:18: 18 No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained [exegesato] Him.

The word that John employs, in order to describe the Son's communication of the Father, is - exegesato.  It may be evident to you already, but our own word exegesis is derived from this Greek root [exegesato > exegeomai].  Now this word is most commonly used in the sense of verbal communication, and yet exegesato > exegeomai is much more primitive than this - it generally means to make known or to provide information.  Perhaps this term's most familiar use is found in pastoral ministry to describe the process of preaching/teaching.  However, it is obvious, by the broader context of John's Gospel, that the Savior's exegesis of the Father went far beyond a message that was spoken in words:  Ultimately, He manifested the glory of the Father through every aspect of His being:

John 10:32: 32 Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?”

John 14:8-9: 8 Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

John 17:4: 4 “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do."

I believe that John's explicit message about Christ supplies us with an implicit application concerning our imitation of Him:  We must be guardians of both our message and conduct in this life.  In our representation of Christ in this world, we must remember that people often observe our actions much more than they do our words.  Like children in a home, a parent's actions can belie their words in even the smallest moment of hypocrisy.  A pedagogy of "do as I say, not as I do" renders the great danger of raising offspring who are content to live a contradictory life - just like mom and dad.  As Christians, we understand that it will never be by the perfection of our lives that others will be saved - after all, it is the Gospel that is the power of God unto salvation.  However, this important admission should never send us into the dark corridors of licentiousness, for we are called to communicate the Gospel by both word and deed.  Thus, we are called to keep our behavior excellent among the Gentiles (1 Peter 2:12), or as the Apostle Paul once said:   

1 Thessalonians 1:5: 5 for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.

The world watches us more readily than it hears us.  I find myself meditating on this principle often - and even more so as I am completing Christopher Hitchen's most recent book:  god is not Great.  I will be doing a review on this book later, but for now I must say that Hitchen's work is no surprise - he is an atheist.  But more than this, he is an atheist who was raised, as he says, with a Baptist/Calvinist upbringing.  I find his book disturbing, and at times rebuking, if only in this sense:  what he is criticizes (mostly) is man-made religion and American pseudochristianity.  Unfortunately, his selective criticisms of the Bible are filled with straw-man arguments, and are sometimes juvenile; but on the whole he offers enough valid criticism of hypocritical religion to draw the caring attention of any conscientious Christian.  It is for this reason that his book is strangely agreeable, especially when Hitchens manages to indict much of the hypocrisy that goes on in the name of God in our day.  I mention this because it serves as an important reminder to us all:  The world is watching us very carefully [1 Peter 2:12] - and we will do well if we endeavor to imitate the One who was the greatest exegete of the Father's glory - not just by words alone, but by His actions as well.