The main idea of a text in the Bible is important as it will help us understand its meaning and lead towards how we should apply it to our lives. It is also useful when you want to teach the Bible to your children or when an unbeliever asks about the Bible. When we study the Bible to get the main idea of a text it also stops us from drawing our own conclusions about a certain verse or taking a single verse out of context.
A very simple way to get the main idea of a text is to underline or encircle repeated words, phrases or ideas. Look, for example at these verses from the book of Philippians:
“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:3-11 ESV
After a short study you will find the following repeated ideas: prayer; partnership / partakers in the gospel; the day of Christ; love; righteousness.
The next step would be to make sure you understand the meaning of all the repeated ideas. A lot of churchgoers claim to know what the gospel is, but are rather vague and unsure of it when put on the spot. The gospel is the foundation of the Christian faith and if we don’t understand it we won’t be able to spread the Good News of Jesus to unbelievers. There are numerous verses in the Bible that explain the Gospel, but to stay within the context, here is another example from the book of Philippians:
“…Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:5-11
Look at these verses from the first chapter of the book of James (our new sermon series) and underline or encircle the repeated words or ideas. Ask your Bible Study Leader or pastor about words that you don’t understand.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.” James 1:2-11 ESV