A main point is not the same thing as a summary.
In Bible study, it’s important to find the author’s main point. If you miss the main point, you’ve missed the main point. You’ll get caught up in secondary issues, questionable interpretations, or divisive doctrines.
One of the most difficult struggles for people in learning to study the Bible is to figure out the author’s main point. It requires them to learn how to think. They must learn how to ask good questions, and how to get the answers they need.
In addition, it requires them to learn how to figure out why the passage is there.
The most common counterfeit of the main point is the summary. It’s not all that difficult to read a passage and summarize it. We do it all the time. We summarize news articles, blog posts, novels, and movies.
Note, however, that a summary is not a main point.
A summary may be the climax of observation, but it is not the same as interpretation.
A summary captures what was said, but not why it was said.
A summary restates a passage; a main point explains the passage.
Let me give an example.
In Hebrews 7:1-28, the author writes a profound theology of Jesus’ high priesthood. There’s your summary: “Jesus is a high priest like Melchizedek.” He contrasts Melchizedek with Aaron. He engages with a few obscure Old Testament texts. He provides fodder for our debates on Bible interpretation, the relationship between old and new covenants, and the relevance of the law.
However, he is crystal clear about his main point. Look at Heb 8:1, ESV:
“Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest…”
The theology serves a purpose. It ought to inspire hope and confidence. Those who fear God’s displeasure ought to rest assured in Christ. Those who presume on God’s graces ought to tremble at their indifference.
The author desires to move his audience to action. He doesn’t seek to inform their thinking (and then stop there). He wants to inspire them to set their hope on the only one who can give what he promises.
What does he say? Jesus is a great high priest, greater even than the Levitical priests.
Why does he say it? So you might trust him more confidently and draw near to God through him.
Do you see the difference? Do you see why it’s important to understand the main point (and not just the summary)? Unless we really hit the main point in Bible study, application remains far off and obscure or disconnected from the text.
The good news is that, once you have a summary of the passage, it’s not complicated to get to the main point. Just take your summary and ask “Why?”