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Outlining God’s Word

Outlining God’s Word can help us to properly interpret God’s Word. An outline of a Bible passage helps to show relationships between different verses and even within phrases and clauses within verses. Outlining requires a patient and careful reading of Scripture. Below is a sample outline of Philippians 2:19-30, which by God’s grace I will preach next Sunday morning, March 7, at Union Grove. (My outline uses the ESV.)

1. I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon,
     A. so that I too may be cheered by news of you.19
     B. For I have no one like him,
          i. who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.20
     C. For they all seek their own interests,
          i. not those of Jesus Christ.21
     D. But you know Timothy’s proven worth,
          i. how as a son with a father
               a. he has served with me in the gospel.22
     E. I hope therefore to send him to you
          i. just as soon as I see how it will go with me,23
     F. and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also.24

2. I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus
     A. my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier,
     B. and your messenger and minister to my need,25
     C. for he has been longing for you all
     D. and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill.26
     E. Indeed he was ill,
          i. near to death.27
     F. But God had mercy on him
          i. and on me also,
               a. lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.28
     G. I am the more eager to send him, therefore,
          i. that you may rejoice at seeing him again,
          ii. and that I may be less anxious.
     H. So receive him with all joy
     I. and honor such men,29
          i. for he nearly died for the work of Christ,
          ii. risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.

This, of course, is but one example of an outline. Some of my points and subpoints could have been arranged differently, I am sure. The point of an outline is not to adhere to a set of grammatical/organizational rules but to help the outliner understand Scripture better. Below is an explanation of my outline. The first part explains what goes on in each point/subpoint; the second part shows which point/subpoint(s) that explains.

Paul’s future intent (what the Scripture said): 1 (where this Scripture is within the outline)
Purpose: 1A
Why Paul sends Epaphroditus (1): 1B-Bi
Why not others: 1C-Ci
Timothy’s worth: 1D
Aspects of worth: 1Di-Dia
Reiteration: 1E
When: 1Ei
Paul’s hopeful coming: 1F

Paul’s present action: 2
Epaphroditus’ relation to Paul: 2A
Epaphroditus’ relation to the church at Philippi: 2B
Why: 2C-D
Epaphroditus’ Illness: 2E-Ei
God’s mercy on Epaphroditus: 2F
God’s mercy on Paul: 2Fi
Why Paul sends Epaphroditus (2): 2G-Gii
Paul’s command: 2H-Iii

The above are my outline for Philippians 2:19-30 and my verse-by-verse explanation of Philippians 2:19-30. Please note that an outline is NOT required for us to understand and interpret Scripture, but outlines can help us to see the relationship among verses of Scripture. Outlines are also helpful in Scripture memorization (notice how I included the verse numbers at the end of each verse, regardless of where this verse ends in the outline). By writing down the Scripture and by organizing it into the various levels of an outline, that Scripture is more indelibly written on our hearts (Deuteronomy 6:6).

We will conclude this series on working with God’s Word tomorrow, with the post on paraphrasing God’s Word. (We will also be using Philippians 2:19-30 in the post tomorrow on paraphrase.)

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  1. February 28, 2010 at 10:23 am

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