If you’re of a certain age, you remember diagramming sentences in elementary/middle school. If you’re a #wordnerd like me, you don’t just remember it, you enjoyed it! Yes, I am that weird kid who diagrammed sentences just for fun.
So when I showed up in New Testament Greek class and my professor started diagramming some of Paul’s sentences in Greek, I was delighted. A couple of them took up the entire board! (We were then using dry erase markers on white board, not the chalkboards of my grade school years. Ah, progress.)
When I come upon a long,
complicated sentence, I fall
back on sentence diagramming.
Paul could write some of the longest sentences. I often get lost in them. But when I do, I fall back to some mental diagramming. (Confession: if it’s extra-difficult, I might draw the diagram in my q.t. journal. Am I alone in this? Probably.) Hopefully, I’m not alone, however, in finding real spiritual truth in a well-diagrammed sentence.
Take this one, for example.
It’s one sentence in my NIV, and the ESV includes the first half of verse 9 in the same sentence. If not periods, Paul could have at least used some bullet points in this section. I won’t force a sentence diagram upon you now because it might unearth long-buried nightmares, so let’s turn it into a list. We like lists, don’t we? I took a little time to dig out the key words (watching for prepositions and paying attention to punctuation) then bulleted some questions I asked myself as I studied this.
4 Marks of Spiritual Maturity
One whose life is worthy of God and who pleases God (v. 10) will model these four traits.
- Bearing fruit
- Is my life producing/causing good in the world?
- Are people learning about Jesus?
- Are needy people blessed?
- Is my church better/stronger because of my service there?
- Do my thoughts and actions honor the Lord?
- Growing in knowledge of God
- Do I know more than I did last year about God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit?
- Am I more familiar with the Bible now?
- Do I know how to apply biblical truth to life situations (wisdom)?
- Being strengthened to have more endurance and patience
- Does it take me longer to get angry now?
- Can I withstand longer/harder trials?
- Do I seek Him more often than I seek His solution to my problems?
- Giving joyful thanks to God
- Am I perpetually thankful for my salvation?
- Do I find ways to give thanks regardless of my circumstances? (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
- Do I see God’s blessings in my life—the good parts and the bad?
- Is my perspective on life characterized by joy?
2 Notes of Caution
I’m sure you know what I’m about to say, but it’s easy to overlook the bigger picture of God’s Word when we zoom in so tightly.
- Doing these things doesn’t qualify us for heaven. God qualifies us through Jesus (v. 12b). Instead, these “marks” are evidence of what God has already done in our lives.
- God doesn’t supply this list so we can judge others but to affirm for ourselves that we’re on the right track. This is one of many passages designed to encourage us.
There’s so much more to this set of verses. We could go in ten different directions with all the Truth Paul packs into one long sentence. My goal today was to give you (or remind you of) one tool for dissecting the Scripture. (Oops—I switched from English to Biology.) I don’t know about you, but turning Paul’s long sentences into bullet points (a sneaky half-diagram) helps me understand, remember, and apply the guidance God has given us through Paul.
Do you remember sentence diagramming? Have you used it in your personal Bible study? Any other good suggestions for understanding Paul’s grammar? Or more personally: How have these verses spoken to you? Is there a particular one of my questions the Lord has highlighted for you to ask yourself? Any way you’d like to answer in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!