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Sentence Flows: Towards a More Objective Study of the Sacred Text

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A post at the Bible Workshop Forums simply illustrates the importance that an exercise such as the creation of Sentence Flows can contribute to a Bible study session in a cell group.  The post goes:


I visited my Sunday night bible study group last Sunday, after another meeting. And I thought a good sentence flow could have focused the discussions on the text itself. and possibly keep the study to an hour?

A cell group leader who has prepared him/herself for the bible session with a sentence flow of the text would be able to keep discussions around the text of Scriptures itself and not on what the other members think should be included in the discussion. Consider the parable of the two sons as found in Matthew. (Click on the image below for a bigger picture)


There is a temptation to focus on the story of the sons who were asked by their father to work in the vineyard and not on the moral lesson that Jesus himself draws from the understanding of the chief priests and elders of the story.  The whole point of the parable is that the the chief priests and elders did not change their minds about the preaching of John the Baptist when they saw that people who lived for money were already putting themselves under God’s reign.  If one focuses on the parable itself and not on the moral lesson — to be more precise, the judgment — that Jesus pronounces one can perhaps see similar situations of children saying No but then later changing their minds, but that would be missing the point of the Gospel message.  Jesus was not really concerned that sons should be working in the vineyard, he was more on the hardness of heart of the Jerusalem leaders and their fixation on what they think to be the will of God.

A sentence flow based on Matthew 21:28–32 would show the following:

  • that the story of the father and the two sons cannot be understood apart from the two questions that frame it, v. 28  “What do you think of this?” and “Which of the two sons did the Father’s will?” (v. 31)
  • the work of John the Baptist is at the back of Jesus’ mind when he told the parable (see v. 32)
  • the mention of John the Baptist forces the reader to refer back to the previous question thrown at Jesus (see vv. 23–27)
  • the moral lesson of the two sons is related to the way Jesus regards the mission of the Baptist in relation to his own (see v. 27)
  • an important keyword is the “way of righteousness” that forces one the reader to study what the word means especially with regards to the work of John the Baptist.

In other words, this is not a parable about “saying and doing” but about whether one obeys the will of the Father or simply chooses to obey what one wishes to obey.  The chief priests and elders have decided beforehand what they wish to obey and therefore missed the opportunity given them in the figure of John the Baptist.  It is not accidental that these two groups are also mentioned by Jesus in his first prediction of his passion and death.  Because they rejected John the Baptist, they too would reject the one greater than John the Baptist, and they will do this, in a violent way.

The sentence flow that we create based on the text of scriptures being studied does two things:  (a) it eliminates ideas that though related to the text may not be relevant to its understanding, and (b) it focuses the readers’ attention to what the author of the text intends to be understood.

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Originally posted 2008-09-29 18:25:50. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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