“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Studying a biblical passage begins with making many detailed observations, and Scott Duvall and Daniel Hays recommend nine things to look for in sentences: repetition of words, contrasts, comparisons, lists, cause and effect, figures of speech, conjunctions, verbs, and pronouns.1 This post will present observations about Acts 1:8 based on these nine factors: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (CSB).2
The words “receive” and “come” are verbs that tell readers what will happen as well as when and how it will happen. Power will be received denotes what will happen, while the Holy Spirit’s coming denotes the when and how.
The word “you” is repeated three times in the passage in reference to the disciples. The word “will’ is repeated twice denoting that something would follow. The word “you” is involved in two interrelated cause and effect relationships. The first relationship, “you will receive power,” which is the effect of the cause, “when the Holy Spirit comes on you” is a precursor to the second relationship, “when the Holy Spirit comes on you” will precede “you” the disciples, “ and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Therefore the word “you” is a pronoun, referring to the disciples, and the word “will” is acting as a helping verb to the action described both times it is used.
In addition to beginning with the conjunction “but,” which connects the verse to the previous verse in a contrasting manner, the word “and” is a conjunction repeated three times. Although “and” is repetitive like “you” and “will,” its conjunctive role is significant by connecting the two cause and effect relationships noted. The word “and” connects “when the Holy Spirit comes” to the disciples becoming witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, as well as to the ends of the earth. Though the word “witness” is not a verb, it does imply the action of bearing witness.
There are no direct comparisons made, Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria is an informal list, and no figures of speech are present.
I agree with the authors that understanding smaller parts of the text, such as words, phrases, and sentences, is essential to understanding paragraphs, chapters, and stories.3 This exercise reveals God’s orderliness within the given passage, brining attention to how the fulfillment of one promise leads to the fulfillment of another and so on, thus connecting God’s provision (i.e. power received) with the work he has assigned (i.e. bearing witness). Though this was far from an in-depth analysis, I hope it has demonstrated that there is so much meaning to be discovered by closely examining the words themselves, and it is not difficult to see how that study lends itself to understanding the larger parts of Scripture. This exercise helped me recognize the value of digging deeper into a passage by taking the time to carefully consider each word before jumping right into an interpretation. It is important to dig deeper in order to see more and to understand more of Scripture, confident that we can pull the truth out of a text and not just develop an interpretation arbitrarily.
1 J. Scott Duval and J. Daniel Hays, Grasping God’s Word Workbook: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible, Third Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic, 2019), 53-64.
2 Unless otherwise noted, all biblical passages referenced are in the Christian Standard Bible translation.
3 J. Duval and Hays, 53.
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John 14:17-19 “the Spirit of truth. The world cannot receive Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you do know Him, for He abides with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19In a little while the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you also will live.”
John 14:25-27 “All this I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have told you. 27Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled; do not be afraid.”
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