In a recent interview with PreachingTodaySermons.com, Haddon Robinson notes, “One thing a thoughtful preacher wants to do is understand the text. You can talk about exegesis, and it can sound cold. Sometimes when people think of exegesis, they think of analyzing words and phrases. But basically what you’re trying to do when you exegete a text is to really understand it—understand its flow of thought, how the author is developing that thought.
“So when I come to didactic literature, such as Romans or Galatians, I analyze how the thought develops because there tends to be a logical flow. I get to a parable and I can’t do that. The danger is to go to an epistle and see that Paul has three moves in a particular paragraph in which I can trace that development, then move over to a parable and try to say there are three things we learn from this parable. One thing you have to say is, ‘Couldn’t Jesus have said that? Why did He tell a story when He could have just as easily said, “There are three things I want you to know about God’s grace?”‘
“Part of exegesis is to recognize the form of literature ought to have some influence on the form of the sermon. A sermon developed from didactic literature, the literature of the epistles, will be different than a sermon developed from the parables, the Psalms or from the narrative literature of the Old Testament, because the writers are using a different form…
“We all carry this hermeneutical grid around with us. So if I start out by saying, ‘The party of the first part owes to the party of the second part,’ and I’m trying to establish a legal contract, but you take it as poetry, we’re going to have trouble in court.
“So one of the things I have to do is look at a passage and say exegetically: What’s going on here? What is the genre? What is the writer doing? You have to assume the author didn’t just choose this genre because any old genre would work. If Jesus tells a parable, then I have to be aware when I preach the sermon that I can’t treat it as if it’s didactic literature. To be true to the Bible, I have to understand the genre; that’s part of exegesis. Different genres, different kinds of literature, have different rules.”