A New Testament Story Reveals Clues to the Power of Observation
Most Christians know Luke wrote one of the four Gospels that open the New Testament. In fact, it’s identified by his name. . . Luke. But he also wrote another New Testament book . . . the book of Acts!
In my first book I told you, Theophilus, about everything Jesus began to do and teach until the day he was taken up to heaven after giving his chosen apostles further instructions through the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:1-2)
What follows is Luke’s sequel to the Gospel of Luke, as a detailed chronicle of the birth of the early church.
In this familiar text that begins the book of Acts, Luke, the writer, offered clues to how the story would unfold. In this single verse, there is much to be learned by paying close attention to the words Luke used to set the scene.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
Notice that the word “but” begins this verse. This is a connecting word that signals a contrast in thought. When you see a word such as “but” or “therefore” or “since,” it’s a clue that what has just been written or said is linked closely to what will follow.
By paying close attention to what was happening and being described in Acts 1:8 and any other passage you may be studying, you can learn some important principles of observation. We’ve already highlighted one clue: contrast. Here are some others you should watch for in your observing.
But (contrast) you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes
- Cause and Effect
You will receive power (effect) when the Holy Spirit comes upon you (cause)
- People and Places
When the Holy Spirit (God) comes upon you (the disciples). And you (the disciples) will be my (Jesus) witnesses, telling people (unbelievers) about me (Jesus) everywhere—in Jerusalem (city), throughout Judea (region), in Samaria (region), and to the ends of the earth (all nations).
You can begin to see the significance and expansive impact of Jesus’ vision for the disciples simply by taking note of what you see—observation—in the text.
Four Ways to Read the Text with Open Eyes (Observation)
Below are four important principles for you to learn and ultimately to practice each time you sit down to search the Scriptures for yourself.
- Read as if you are reading the passage for the very first time. This guards against the danger of familiarity. You might try reading the same passage in several different versions and then comparing the expression. Fresh eyes are the best eyes for searching the Scriptures.
- Read the passage as if you are reading a love letter from a special someone or dear friend. That means you are reading with great care and paying close attention to every word, not skimming or speed reading.
- Read the passage like a detective—looking for clues such as details, dialog, emotions expressed, etc. Take careful notes!
- Read as if you’re in the text—placing yourself in the story or in the context of when and where it was written. Imagine the scenes, chock full of sounds, smells, and impressions.
The more you practice this important step in studying the Bible for yourself, the more the Scriptures will come alive to you personally and to those with whom you share your observations!
Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, Searching the Scriptures: Find the Nourishment Your Soul Needs(Carol Springs, IL: Tyndale House, 2016), 83–89.