Preachers and teachers frequently give the impression that Greek exegesis is a mystical craft, designed to open whole worlds of meaning to the initiated. "In the Greek, this word literally
means..." they intone, and they leave their hearers gasping, "I would never have found that in the passage!" They "learn" that Greek words possess stronger magic than their English equivalents. Nevertheless, such an approach is almost invariably wrong-headed and erroneous.
Part of the task of exegesis is the defining of words. The Greek NT, by one count, contains 5425 vocabulary words, most of which appear less than ten times. You will not perform full-blown word studies on every one of them, but those you perform must be accurate and honest.
An Inductive Method of Word Study
Your goal in word study will be to determine:
Step 1. how the word was used generally at that time
Step 2. how biblical writers typically used the word
Step 3. how this author typically used the word
Step 4. how the word is used in this specific context
Most of Steps 1-3 may be accomplished with a few good tools: a solid, up-to-date lexicon (Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich is the most reliable); a Greek concordance; and if you want to go deeper, Moulton & Milligan's The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament
surveys the use and meaning of many NT words in Greek papyri of the Hellenistic period...
A note of warning! If you do a massive word study on, say AKOLOUQEW in Matt 8:19 and after all that work decide that in fact it means nothing more than "to follow," a meaning you could have gotten right out of the NIV, you may become disenchanted with the value of all your Greek learning. After all, how can you say, "In the Greek, this word literally
means 'to follow,'" when anyone with a Bible can readily spot that? In fact, you may have stumbled on the true value of Greek exegesis: that while it occasionally yields insight into individual words, its goal is to help you to follow the flow of sentences and paragraphs.