This week I’ll explain the third of 3 steps for interpreting the Bible.
Step three was Determine the Author’s Main Point:
As you answer all your questions, pull them together into a big picture. Your job is to understand the main thing the author is communicating through the passage (2 Pet 3:15-18).
Most theological disagreements among Christians take place when people focus on things other than the main points of passages. I’m not saying that theology is bad (in fact, it’s very important). I’m simply saying that it’s important to focus on the main points of the Bible and not on secondary, questionable, or implied points (Matt 23:23-24).
Here are a few ideas to help you get to the author’s main point:
- Take note of the author’s flow of thought. How did he get from the first verse to the last verse? One way to do this is to break the chapter into paragraphs. Then determine the main point for each paragraph. String them together to see what might be the main point of the whole chapter. If you’re still not sure, you could break it down further into sentences before putting it back together.
- Outline the essential grammar. This requires careful observation of the passage. You can distill narratives to their basic plot structure. You can outline instructional texts by writing out just the subjects and verbs of each sentence. Often, noticing the shape of this skeleton helps with identifying the main point.
- Consider what the passage says about Jesus. We know he’s the main point of the Bible (John 5:39), so we should expect each section to say something about him. I believe Luke 24:46-47 provides a helpful template. Every passage of Scripture reveals Jesus by explaining at least one of the following truths:
- The Messiah would suffer (die).
- The Messiah would rise from the dead.
- We must repent of our sin and be forgiven.
- This message (that the Messiah’s death and resurrection make forgiveness possible) must be preached to all nations.
- Always ask “Why?” We’re after more than a summary of what the author wrote. We want to do our best to figure out why he wrote it.
Your analysis of the main point of Luke 2:1-21 might look something like this:
- verses 1-7: in contrast to the might of Rome, Jesus, the heir of King David, is born into great obscurity.
- verses 8-14: heavenly soldiers herald his birth to the lowly, not the powerful. Jesus is not presented as a conquering king, but as a savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.
- verses 15-21: the lowly serve the true King by racing, viewing, and testifying.
So far, so good. We could summarize the passage by calling it “The Birth of Jesus Christ.” But we must move beyond summarizing to ask why it is here. What does Luke want to teach us?
I’d suggest something like: God sent Jesus to be born so he might save the lowly and rule them graciously. This brings him highest glory.