Have you noticed the paragraphs in your Bible?
These micro-segmentations of the Bible have been going on for millennia. It is not just at the so-called verse level. It has happened by page length in some ancient formats, paragraphs without verses, varying by Jewish or Gentile heritage and many more. The manner of Biblical micro-segmentation is by no means rigid.
In his letter to the church, James admonished that not many should become teachers. Here is how the translators of the ESV made James’ words accessible to us.
3 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers… (James 3:1a–ESV)
What? Why not? Isn’t teaching others an honorable thing? Read on for James wastes no time in answering this question.
…for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. (James 3:1b–ESV)
“Oh great, I am a teacher.” I cannot recall aspiring to this, but I suspect my aspirations matter not a lot. James was not associating stricter judgment with aspiring to teach but actually teaching. So here I am. For more than a decade I have been tromping through the scriptures and tacking up lessons on the minds of others.
So, I loathe teaching the wrong thing. That is like a big negative pyramid scheme. I never want to hear God say, “That is not what I meant.” Or John either for that matter.
Still not quite to my point let us now move right on up to the relevance for this lesson. Since I am not much of a KJV aficionado, and because I teach through the Bible in chunks or micro-segments, I cluster verses together.
Look at verse 19. Then look, again, at the scrolling screenshots at the top of this page. See how the ESV and the NIV launch a new paragraph with that verse? From grammar school, our teachers say, “Start your paragraphs with an introductory sentence.” Maybe that is why it is called grammar school. So with that rut in my mind, I apply verse 19 to the rest of the paragraph as the ESV and NIV lay it out.
19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us. (1 John 3:19-24–ESV)