Arcing

I recently discovered what I consider to be a very helpful tool for Bible study. It’s called “arcing.” This may be extremely well known to most other people, but it’s new to me, and I’m a bit excited about it. I’ve used it several times recently as I’ve prepared for sermons and/or Bible studies. The idea is that you take a given passage of scripture and you break it up into arcs and sub-arcs. Each arc represents some sort of logical connection between two (or more) statements, be it an if/then, either/or, both/and, compare/contrast, sequential, or a variety of other sorts of connections. I suppose one could do this with pen and paper, but I found a great website that makes the process much cleaner and quicker. It’s biblearc.com, hosted by Bethlehem College and Seminary. Here’s an example of an arc structure I created using the online app (it should open as a PDF):

Arc Structure for Philippians 1:27-2:30

Now, this might look like a big mess… I’ll show you what came of this mess in a moment, but before I do, you might want to look at some simpler examples of arc structures. You can find plenty of examples on the Biblearc website. For example, here is one from Colossians 3.

After creating an arc structure for Philippians 1:27-2:30, I was able to create the following outline of 1:27-2:18 (the portion I was most interested in understanding).

  • We must live lives worthy of the gospel of Christ
    • Despite the opposition we face!
    • Therefore,
      • Because of all that Christ has done for us
        • We must pursue unity in Christ
          • Therefore
            • Because of the lowliness and lordship of Christ
              • We must pursue lowliness
              • We must pursue helpfulness
    • Therefore,
      • Because God is working in us
        • We must embrace our own salvation in Christ
          • Therefore
            • We must not grumble or dispute
    • So that we can prove ourselves to be blameless children of God
      • So that we can effectively proclaim the Gospel of Christ

Basically, arcing the passage helped me see Paul’s train of thought more clearly as he focuses on our need to live lives worthy of the Gospel. I then used the above outline to provide structure to a sermon I preached at my church (which you can listen to here), and I also used this outline while I was recently in India preaching to a group of pastors and preachers about the need for unity and humility in the ministry.

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