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How to Read the Book: Sentences

Authors J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays compare reading the Bible to reading a love letter. In the same way that we would peruse a love letter written to us, i.e. over and over again noting particular word choices, context, and authorial intent, so too, in the same way, should we read the Bible. In other words, we must read the Bible seriously, observing the details of the text very closely. Duvall and Hays offer nine things to look out for when observing a particular passage’s sentences. Two of especial note (speaking from personal experience) are cause and effect[1] and figures of speech.[2]

First, cause and effect helps us to better understand a particular idea. Take, for example, the notion of election/sanctification. Paul tells us that, “you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him” (Romans 8:9). Notice the cause (Spirit) that elicits the effect (being in the Spirit).

Second, figures of speech are helpful so that we can understand a particular concept. They are also sometimes easily missed. Take Jesus’ figure of speech in John 10:3-4: “To [the shepherd] the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name…” Here, Jesus is referring to salvation. Some Christians stretch this passage to include instances of direct communication. In other words, some Christians can hear Jesus in the sense that they can make decisions when He speaks. The problem is, John makes it clear that Jesus’ parable is a figure of speech in v. 6. The figure of speech is, thus, describing the unique connection He has with His chosen elect.

Duvall and Hays exhort us to dig deeper into our readings of Scripture. If we can do that, we will be able to extract the “solid food” (Hebrews 5:12-14) of God’s word.

Check back next week for Chapter 4: How to Read the Book – Paragraphs.

We’ve barely scratched the surface with Grasping God’s Word! We highly recommend you purchase this excellent book here.

[1] J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, Grasping God’s Word, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 56.

[2] Ibid, 57.