One of the more helpful things my Greek professor has taught is how to “phrase” a passage of Scripture. This isn’t the same as parsing, nor is it like the diagramming we used to do in high school English. I like this better because it forces me to slow down and really look at the passage I’m reading.
Also, I used Bible software that has the capacity to show me the Greek sentence structure with the English words (I’ll never be able to read Greek). That structure shows where the proper emphasis goes, and in some cases, this avoids a flawed interpretation.
Today, I didn’t use the software, but tried phrasing according to the English structure. The professor says that each person might do it a bit differently, so the rules are not too rigid. The passage is from Titus, a letter Paul wrote to a young pastor who may have had an unruly congregation. Since I like to make to-do lists, this came out looking a bit like one, with a “to-not-do list” included as a play-by-play reminder of what life was like before Christ. (Tabs don't work in Blogger, sorry.)
Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities,
to be obedient,
to be ready for every good work,
to speak evil of no one,
to avoid quarreling,
to be gentle, and
to show perfect courtesy toward all people.
For we ourselves were once foolish,
slaves to various passions and pleasures,
passing our days in malice and envy,
hated by others and
hating one another.
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,
he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness,
but according to his own mercy,
by the washing of regeneration and
renewal of the Holy Spirit,
whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
so that being justified by his grace
we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.
But avoid foolish controversies,
quarrels about the law,
for they are unprofitable and
As for a person who stirs up division,
after warning him once and then twice,
have nothing more to do with him,
knowing that such a person is warped and sinful;
he is self-condemned
As I read this over a few times, it is not too difficult to see the mind of Christ in those positive lists. This is how He wants me to live, because this is how He thinks.
I can remember when my life looked mostly like that “foolish, disobedient” list, but because (and notice the way that word “but” begins a few lines) I have been justified by His grace, my life has changed.
Those who believe in God need to think like He thinks, and devote ourselves to good works. I’m to avoid arguing about things that do not matter and lest I think such spats don’t matter either, look again what He says should be done to those who are divisive. I would never want that to happen.
Jesus was not a weak, wimpy person, but neither was He feisty and argumentative. I can stand for truth and the gospel, yet not quarrel with others. To see how I measure up, I’m thinking of putting check boxes in front of those lists.