Making Words Clear

Here in London you can visit the British Library and look at such priceless items as Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Alexandrinus.  While it is a privilege to see them, they are not the easiest things to read and understand.  Written in uncials, ITISNOTEASYTOREADTEXTWITHOUTGAPSORPUNCTUATION.  Never mind the fact that it is in Greek, just the running together of endless letters is tough enough.

Thankfully we don’t have to read Greek text written in uncials.  We are blessed to have the Bible very accurately translated into our language, with all the blessings of spaces between words, punctuation, etc.  They’ve even conveniently added in the widely recognized and accepted verse and chapter divisions.  They usually also add the equally uninspired and sometimes unhelpful section headings.  Nevertheless, with all this help, the text is still often perceived to be a block of writing with one word running into the next.

As we study a passage in order to understand it and then preach it, we start to recognize the structure of the thought.  Just this week I was in Ephesians 5:1-14.  Initially it feels like a whole series of almost random instructions and explanations.  Gradually the flow of thought becomes clearer.  Major thoughts stand out, supporting thoughts fall into place.  Typically in the epistles I will use some kind of clausal layout and/or exegetical outlining approach to see the flow of thought more clearly.

When we preach our task includes the need to make a string of words clear.  We don’t have to start with an uncial script, but to all intents and purposes, we practically are.  Listeners hearing a string of verses often grasp very little first time through.  As we preach we look for ways to emphasize the main thoughts, we look for ways to demonstrate how the “support material” in the text explains, proves and/or applies the main thoughts.  Without technical jargon, our preaching needs to verbally achieve the formation of something like a clausal layout in the minds and hearts of our listeners.  Certainly, by the time we are done preaching, they should not see the text as a string of random words or thoughts . . . it should be much clearer than that!