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.

Colossians 1:9b-12.

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.

  1. 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?
  1. 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)?
  1. 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?
  1. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

This is not middle school English, but we can use sentence diagramming to clarify Paul’s super-long sentences. #BibleStudyTools #NotAboutMe via @Carole_Sparks. (click to tweet)

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!

17 thoughts on “Spiritual Maturity and Sentence Diagrams

  1. I didn’t do any sentence diagramming that I recall. (Or maybe it’s been blocked from memory due to mental trauma??) But I did do this when we homeschooled the kids. They still thank me to this day. (plastic smile here).

    This question challenged me: Do I seek Him more often than I seek His solution to my problems?

    The answer is, no. But I’m learning to seek HIM more not what He can give me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, my Carole, I saw myself in this question–“Does it take me longer to get angry now?” Thankfully, I can say yes! I’ve always had a quick temper, but with God’s help, I’ve become more patient, tolerant, and compassionate (I’ve prayed to live by the Fruit of the Spirit–Gal 5:22-23 and God blessed me). So much good stuff here–thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My food for thought question is “Is my life producing/causing good in the world?” I go into hermit mode sometimes and don’t expend time or energy watching for and making myself available to meet the needs of those around me.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I loved this! These questions were convicting but, a few times, I felt a little pat on the head that I was improving in that area. Nowhere near where I need to be but making progress. Other times I felt God’s gentle prodding that I had much room for improvement.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Carole,
    Wow! This is a wonderful way to break down Scripture. Love it!

    Yes, I do remember sentence diagraming … a long time ago. As you know, I like to journal Scripture while using the SOAK method (acronym: S for Scripture, O for observation, A for application, and K for Kneel in prayer). My dear friend, Patty and I wrote a study using this method. But I’m excited to try the diagramming method now, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for giving me the acronym–I was trying to decipher it on my own. I think a diagram or even bullet points just helps with the “S” when it’s not clear upon first reading. It’s too easy to get bogged down in all Paul’s prepositions!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m a #wordnerd, too. Sentence diagramming was a favorite of mine when I was in school. I took a class on Structuring (sentence diagramming) when I trained to lead Precepts Bible Studies … and loved every minute of it. It really does help clarify some of those complicated sentences.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I actually took a sentence diagramming class in college! I loved it! I didn’t get to sentence diagram in elementary or middle school—the schools I went to didn’t do it, unfortunately. I can see how useful it would be for studying the Bible, though!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I diagrammed sentences in school and in Precept Bible studies. I loved it. One of your questions put patience in a new light. “Does it take longer for me to get angry now?” I think several words could replace “angry,” and if the answer is yes, we are making progress! Thanks for the new thought. Happy Sunday, Carole!

    Liked by 1 person

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