Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Finding Paragraph Themes

For the index for the Colossians Series, click here.

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Paragraph themes are not something I do for every chapter or book, but it can be very helpful when doing an in-depth study or compiling notes on a book or subject.  Today, we will walk through how I find paragraph themes and use those in my study.

Step one:  Find the first (or next) paragraph; if it is only one verse, join with the previous or following paragraph based on context.  In our case, the first paragraph is Colossians 1:1-2.

Step two:  Read it and decide what the main point is.  For us, it would be a greeting.

Step three:  Repeat first two steps until chapter is complete.  Pretty simple, right?

Here's what my final list for Colossians 1 looks like:

Greetings (1:1-2)
Epaphras Told Us About You (1:3-8)
Our prayer for you (1:9-12)
Jesus is Savior (1:13-14)
He is Above All  (1:15-20)
Through Him We Have Hope (1:21-23)
I am His Minster (1:24-29)

I use these basic points to form a simple outline, using my chapter theme as the heading.

Colossians 1: We Proclaim Him
I.   Greetings (vv. 1-2)
II.  We Have Heard of You (vv. 3-12)
      A. From Epaphras (vv. 3-8)
      B. Our Prayer for You (vv. 9-12)
III. We Serve Jesus Christ (vv. 13-29)
      A. He is Savior (vv. 13-14)
      B. He is Above All (vv. 15-20)
      C. He is Our Hope (vv. 21-23)
      D. I am His Minister (vv. 24-29)

From here, each point can be further outlined or detailed.  If you are converting your notes into a lesson or sermon, this is a great way to organize your material.  (For Colossians 1, we have a simple three point lesson with underlying information.)

I normally make an outline for each chapter or section and then combine them at the end of the book so I have something simple to look over for each book; however, with a small book like Colossians, sometimes it is easier to get in the mindset of outlining and conquer the book at one time!

Outlining Tip:  For every 1 there should be a 2; for every A there should be a B.

Q:  I'm confused!  What is the difference between the sectioning we did yesterday and choosing paragraph themes (making an outline) today?
The main difference is how they are used.

Sections (from yesterday) are bigger and tend to focus on an overall topic; they are more inclusive.  Paragraph Themes/Outlining is more detailed and focuses on what the verses are saying; it is not a topic, but a summary.  These Paragraph Themes are more exclusive and typically cover a smaller number of verses.

Sectioning is the fly-over big picture (which is why is pairs with our Overview).  Outlining is a street map or guide to what the book actually says.

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