Step 3: Outlining
Many students find that making an outline before beginning to write an essay or research paper is helpful in organizing their thoughts. The format for an outline is made up of an alternating succession of numbers and letters which are indented to show levels of detail in thoughts. When studying the Bible, we can put the text into outline form in order to find the main thoughts, sub points and supporting details. This will help us when reading for understanding and summarizing what the text says.
Preachers are taught to outline when studying for an exegetical sermon. By outlining, the preacher is able to draw out from the text a “three-point sermon” and stay within the text itself for the sub points as well. This is the most difficult type of sermon because it challenges the preacher to take all his points directly from the text and not to go to other passages in scripture.
While in school, one of our assignments was to outline the entire book of Ephesians. This is something that will be greatly beneficial to any student of God’s word, but we are going to start by outlining smaller portions of scriptures in order to get the technique down.
How to Outline
A basic outline looks like this:
I. Main point
A. Minor point
1. Sub point
2. Sub point
a. Sub point
b. Sub point
B. Minor point
Showing examples is the best way to understand how to outline the Bible text. When I teach this material, I have a white board and other visual aids, but for the purpose of this article, I will give the text and my version of an outline and leave it up to you to go try it for yourself and make your own outline. These are a couple of outlines I have been working on recently and will continue to work on as I study further.
Example #1: Galatians 5:16-21
16But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. 19Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
I. Walk by the Spirit (v. 16)
A. You will not carry out the desire of flesh (v. 16)
1. Flesh sets its desire against spirit/ in opposition to spirit (v.17)
2. Spirit against the flesh/ in opposition to flesh (v. 17)
3. Flesh and spirit are contrary/ opposite of each other (v. 17)
B. You may not do the things you please (v.17)
C. You are not under the Law (v. 18)
II. Deeds of the Flesh are evident, which are (v. 19)
A. Sins against own body/ self (v. 19)
B. Sins- other “gods” (worship or relying on power other than God’s) (v.20)
C. Sins involving others (v. 20-21)
4. Outbursts of anger
D. Sins of excess (v. 21)
Right now, I have the sins grouped into categories, but further on in the process, I may re-title the categories as I learn more about what the words themselves mean.
Example #2: 1 Timothy 6:17-19
17Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. 18Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share,19storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.
Those who are rich in the present world:
I. What they should not be/ model of what not to be (v. 17)
A. Not to be conceited (v. 17)
B. Not to be those that fix their hope on uncertainty of riches
II. What they should be/ model of what they should be (end of v. 17 and the contrast v.18)
A. Those who hope in God
1. Who richly supplies all things
2. Supplies all things to enjoy
B. Those who do good
C. Those who are rich in good works
D. Those who are generous
E. Those who are ready to share
III. What they will be/ model of what they are striving for (future reward) (v. 19)
A. Those who will store up for themselves treasures
1. of a good foundation
2. for the future
B. Those who may take hold of that which is life indeed
As you can see from these two examples, outlining is a helpful tool for Biblical exegesis. Something to keep in mind is that your outline is not written in stone. In later steps of the exegetical process, you may find that your outline needs to be adjusted. Organizing thoughts into main ideas, sub points and supporting details can help us when reading for understanding and give us greater insight into the Biblical text.
Step 1: Investigate
Step 3: Outlining
By Aimee Lemus