Better Bible Study Tip #40: Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing

The Bible puts more emphasis on certain things, and less emphasis on others. For example, think about what the Bible teaches us about the life of Jesus. A vast majority of what the Bible tells us comes from about a three year period of his life. We know almost nothing about Jesus’s first thirty years on earth. We’re given details about his birth (Mt. 1-2; Lk. 1:1-2:40), and one story from when he was twelve (Lk. 2:41-51). Other than that, about all we know about Jesus’s early life is that he worked as a carpenter in Nazareth, and he “increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” (Lk. 2:52).

This absence of detail isn’t an oversight. It’s intentional. The writers of the gospels weren’t writing to give us a full biography of Jesus. They wrote with the purpose of convincing people about the gospel. They were intentionally selective about what details they gave us, and what details they omitted as unnecessary. Keep in mind that these writers were inspired by the Holy Spirit. The details we are given are precisely the details we are supposed to be given. When details are lacking, that’s important too. If the Holy Spirit wanted us to have more details, He certainly could have given them to us.

The same is true with points of doctrine. For example, the Bible includes a lot of teaching about the importance of baptism and living a new life in Christ, but there’s only a handful of verses that help explain the roles of angels and demons. The Bible includes several clear principles about the roles of men and women in the church, but it doesn’t give us all the details we might want to answer every question about application with precision. Remember, all of this is intentional. The inclusion and omission of details is all inspired.

It’s important to think carefully about what this means, and what it doesn’t. This does not mean that details don’t matter. They do (see Bible Study Tip #14). If the Holy Spirit chose to include a detail, it’s important.

What it does mean is that we need to be careful to keep the main thing the main thing. If the Holy Spirit continually emphasizes certain points of doctrine, we should recognize this, and try to emphasize those same points. Where the Bible gives few details, we should resist the temptation to fill in the gaps. “Speak where the bible speaks, and be silent where the bible is silent” is good advice, not only for our teaching, but also for our personal study. Keep the main thing the main thing.