Bible Study Techniques

The Shape of God’s Word – Part 1

Did you know that passages in the Bible have a unique shape?   

Definition of SHAPE:  Something seen in outline, as in silhouette.  A particular or definite organized form or expression.

Have you ever read a long passage in the Bible and all you can remember is one word or phrase in the cluster of words?  This selective viewing is the same as the saying, “I can’t see the forest for the trees.” You are only seeing the individual trees rather than the forest as a whole.  

When walking on the forest floor, you are surrounded by the trees, and they tower above you. As you step on the road, the road appears to be straight rather than bending. However, when you get on a plane and fly over this same forest, it becomes evident that the forest’s shape and the road are turning rather than straight.

Both perspectives of the forest give you a deeper understanding of it. The same is true for Bible passages. Noticing the details and then zooming out to see the whole message brings a greater understanding of what you read.

For over a year now, I have been writing down Bible verses in my art journal with a felt tip pen.   In doing so, I have noticed that the Bible makes a statement and then gives more information about it in the next sentence.  Then the Bible makes another statement and further explains that thought in the following sentence.   In other words, there is a flow of logic until an idea is complete.

Sometimes one verse is just one slice of the pie, and we need to consider the slices (verses) that come before or after it to complete the pie and come to a full understanding of what God is trying to tell us.

I look for the connecting words in a cluster of sentences in order to know when the pie has all its slices.  By noticing words that connect thoughts, it helps me know when a thought begins and when it ends, and then I can see a passage has a unique shape. Thoughts are connected to other thoughts through connecting words such as: because, and, therefore, so that, but, etc.  

I call this technique: Find the connecting words.

Consider the group of verses below:

Romans 5:1-5  Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have also obtained access into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of God’s glory. 3 Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance, character, and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

How does one begin to decipher God’s message to us within these 101 words?

For Romans 5:1-5, I created a graphic that uses the “Find the connecting words” technique. I do this in three steps as I write down the verses:

  1. Place each connecting word/phrase on a separate line.
  2. Draw a line to separate sentences.
  3. Create a bulleted list where there is an obvious progression.

Now I can see there are three distinct thoughts that are tied together to make one message.  Also, it begins with “Therefore” which indicates that these connecting thoughts are a continuation of thoughts before it!!  

Thought 1:  My faith in Jesus is significant in my relationship with God.  With my faith, I am declared righteous and have peace with God.  But this peace is only because of my Lord Jesus Christ, who grants me access into his grace.  Because of this, I rejoice in the hope of God’s glory displayed in my life. 

Thought 2:  Not only do I rejoice in the hope of God’s glory, but I rejoice in my sufferings.  Why would I rejoice in my sufferings?  Because difficulties require perseverance, and when I persevere, my character develops. It takes a strong character to hope; otherwise, I would just quit.  

Thought 3:  As I suffer, endure, and build character, the hope I have does not disappoint me.  Why?  Because God pours his love into my heart through the Holy Spirit.  In other words, my perseverance and sufferings are not done in my own power. 

Conclusion:  Romans 5:1-5 is all about Hope in God’s glory.

First, the Bible tells me that Jesus is the only reason I can have this hope.

Then, I learn that my hope in God’s glory will involve suffering, but it will be productive suffering – the kind that builds character.

Finally, my hope in God’s glory will not disappoint me.  It will all be worth it in the end. God’s love and the power of the Holy Spirit will enable me to rejoice in this hope.

This is just one of the many techniques I use to understand God’s word. Not all passages will be filled with connecting words. I will be publishing more blog posts to explain the other techniques I use.

I’ll give you one more example of using my 3-step process with Ephesians 5:3-7.

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.[a]6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.

Now try this yourself by noticing groups of verses that have connecting words and then organizing the verses using this 3-step process.

14 thoughts on “The Shape of God’s Word – Part 1”

  1. Dear friend, this is a fantastic way to study passages! I have been underlining key words and phrases to study anything and then going back and reading what I have highlighted. This is my technique to remember, and as you say, it is really effective!!! As usual dear Diane you have given us a way to more understanding of the Scripture. Love it!!

    1. Hi Kathy, that is a good technique to underline key words and phrases. Thanks for the feedback.

  2. This is the only way I can study and remember anything.Then I go back and re-read my highlights!! Excellent job as usual my dear friend
    Love you

  3. Wow just love this!!! Such a different way for me to read the bible. You’re amazing in your wisdom and insight, Diane. Thanks!!!!

  4. wow, I love this!! What great help and insight. Gives me another way to look at the scriptures. Thanks!!!

  5. Love how you started with a good analogy and lead into your new very perceptive interpretation and understanding of the verses. This is a very good way for us to interpret The word’s of God .
    Thanks for your message!

  6. Wow! There are two things that really jumped out to me in this article and that inspired me to write a comment. First, is the idea of writing down a Bible verse with a felt tip pen. I love this because it brings a new perspective to a Bible verse. When you write something down, you feel the coarseness of the writing under your hand and it gives depth to what you are writing. It can bring new meaning to a verse you’ve previously read or heard many times. Second, I love that you highlight God’s emphasis on suffering in Romans 5:2-5. Too often, it’s thought that being a disciple of God means that God will remove all suffering from your life, when that’s not true. There are so many instances of suffering in the Bible, demonstrating that suffering is the preamble to reward, and this is true in every aspect of life. Thank you for this article! I look forward to the next.

    1. Thanks for your feedback, Jennifer. I write down verses for the exact reason you describe in your comments. It is a tactile experience!! And this is truly one of my favorite passage about the purpose of suffering. I love what you said about suffering.

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