In the last article, we continued our discussion of the “four P’s” (prevalence, purpose statements, petition verbs, and prayers). We’re on the second one – purpose statements. Occasionally, the inspired writer identifies clearly the book’s main goal. What a blessing that is! However, believe it or not, sometimes we make the following exegetical mistakes:

First, we may not take the time to even see if there is a purpose statement. We would do this because we assume there isn’t one. However, there are more purpose statements than expected.

Second, we may note that there is a purpose statement but fail to give it the attention it deserves. For example, we might conclude that the purpose statement doesn’t apply to the whole book but just a particular section. Or, we may conclude that purpose statements are not that significant.

Third, we might take note of the purpose statement, and recognize its importance, but then forget about it as we’re studying a book.

All three of those mistakes must be avoided. God has inspired the writer to lay out clearly the goal of the book. This makes that verse (or verses) rise to the top in importance. It also requires that we take steps to remind ourselves – continually – of the purpose statement. I do this by writing the purpose statement on a 3×5 card and then taping that card on the top of my computer screen.

Proverbs 1:1-6

The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction, To discern the sayings of understanding, To receive instruction in wise behavior, Righteousness, justice and equity; To give prudence to the naive, To the youth knowledge and discretion, A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel, To understand a proverb and a figure, The words of the wise and their riddles.”

As Solomon begins this book, he establishes its purpose. Actually, you will notice that Solomon gives several purposes that can all be wrapped up in one major theme: wisdom.

Take a look at this purpose statement. In it, there is a list. See it? Try to find it before I give the answer. We will actually talk about finding lists in a future article. Anyway, here there is a series of infinitives. Infinitives are identified in English by “to —” verbs. (Here, there are six wisdom, discerning, and understanding). Briefly stated, then, Solomon says that the purpose of this collection of proverbs is to establish wisdom. As we study the book, we will keep in focus that Solomon will address wisdom in one’s walk with God, wisdom in relationships, wisdom in business, wisdom with wealth, etc.

1 Timothy 3:14-15

I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.”

Notice that purpose statements are not always found at the start of a book (like with the Proverbs reference above). There are different reasons why an author would locate the purpose statement in different places. Remember that John had his purpose statement at the end (John 20:30-31). Our job, though, is to be on the lookout for these purpose statements. If we had read through the book in one sitting (as recommended in an earlier article), we would have already found the purpose statement.

In this purpose statement, Paul says clearly “this is why I’m writing.” What a great head start when we begin our study through this great book! It is important, even crucial, that God’s children conduct themselves in an appropriate way in the church. Paul reminds them that the church is the “household of God.” Since it is God’s house, God has the right to determine what will take place in the church.

With this purpose statement, we understand that proper behavior includes…

  1. Confronting false teachers…1:3-11

  2. Being active in prayer…2:1-7

  3. Roles for men and women…2:8-15

  4. Requirements for various positions such as elders…3:1-7

  5. And deacons…3:8-13

You get the point. As we navigate through the rest of the book, everything (literally!) is governed by the purpose statement in 3:14-15.

You might be saying, “This is just common sense.” Yes, it is. Sometimes, we make things more complicated than they need to be. Reminding ourselves of study tips like this will greatly enhance our time in God’s word and make it much more productive. Be on the lookout for those Purpose Statements!

Denny Petrillo
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Denny is married to the former Kathy Roberts.  They have been married since January 1978.  They have three children (Lance, Brett, and Laura) and Six grandchildren (Chloe, Ashlyn, Sophie, Easton, Brelyn, and Kyson).  He has served as the President of the Bear Valley Bible Institute since 2004 and has been a full-time instructor since 1985.  He has preached in Mississippi, Arkansas, Nebraska, and Colorado.  He has taught numerous classes for the World Video Bible School and has authored several books and commentaries.  He graduated from the Bear Valley School of Preaching (now the Bear Valley Bible Institute), received an AA degree in Bible (York College, York, Nebraska), BA in Bible and Biblical Languages (Harding University), and an MA in Old and New Testaments (Harding Graduate School of Religion), and a Ph.D. in Religious Education (University of Nebraska).