Step 4


So you’ve opened the Bible and cho­sen vers­es to read. Good. Now go ahead and read the pas­sage you chose ... at least twice. Af­ter you’ve read, grab some pa­per and a pen so we can sum­ma­rize the pas­sage. Now sum­maries may seem sim­ple, but they are one of the most pow­er­ful tools you can use to un­der­stand God’s Word. Sum­ma­riza­tion is one of the most im­por­tant tools for read­ing the Bible. In fact, if you can­not sum­ma­rize, you will nev­er un­der­stand the pas­sage you just read.

But what ex­act­ly is a sum­ma­ry? A sum­ma­ry is a rough sketch; a small­er, abridged ver­sion of a larg­er sto­ry. A sum­ma­ry is kind of like a map. For ex­am­ple, New York City is full of parks, build­ings and stores. A map of of New York would not try to enu­mer­ate every sin­gle build­ing or park. Sim­i­lar­ly, a good sum­ma­ry zooms out above the city to show you the land­scape or a map of the sto­ry. A sum­ma­ry should NOT try to re­peat the whole sto­ry word for word. In­stead, sum­maries strive to hide some de­tails, while shin­ing light on oth­ers.

God The Mas­ter Sum­ma­riz­er

You’ll be hap­py to know that God Is The Mas­ter Sum­ma­riz­er. The Bible is it­self a sum­ma­ry as John 21:25 im­plies. The book of Proverbs and all prophe­cies are also sum­maries. The most fa­mous sum­ma­ry ever, ever, is found in Gen­e­sis 3:15 “I will put en­mi­ty be­tween you and the woman and be­tween your off­spring and her off­spring; he shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel.”

You see there. God Just Sum­ma­rized The En­tire Bible, every­thing, past, present and fu­ture in a sin­gle Glo­ri­ous Sen­tence. Let us look more close­ly to see how God Folds all of time into a sin­gle sen­tence. No­tice that He Doesn’t Tell you how it’s go­ing to hap­pen. He Doesn’t Men­tion spe­cif­ic de­tails like Pe­ter deny­ing Christ. He Just Tells you what is hap­pen­ing and what will hap­pen. He Fo­cus­es on only a few de­tails while Leav­ing out so so many oth­ers. And yet, every­thing that hap­pens in life falls into the two cat­e­gories God Men­tions. For ex­am­ple, Pe­ter deny­ing Christ: this is an ex­am­ple of the ser­pent bruis­ing the heel of Je­sus Christ. But Pe­ter preach­ing at Pen­te­cost is an ex­am­ple of Je­sus Christ crush­ing the ser­pent’s head.

Good Sum­ma­ry, Bad Sum­ma­ry

But now you’ll say, “I’m not God. What if my sum­ma­ry leaves out some­thing im­por­tant? What if my sum­ma­ry has too many de­tails?”

Good ques­tion. A sum­ma­ry, like a map, can be good or bad. A good sum­ma­ry strives to glo­ri­fy the sto­ry­teller and hon­or the sto­ry. A bad sum­ma­ry scorns the sto­ry­teller and abus­es the sto­ry. A bad map of NYC, for ex­am­ple, would be pos­i­tive­ly in­sult­ing if, some­how, the car­tog­ra­ph­er made the city look like Chica­go. A bad sum­ma­ry of Pride and Prej­u­dice, might, for ex­am­ple, in­tro­duce zom­bies as the main char­ac­ter.

So when it comes to sum­ma­riz­ing a Bible pas­sage, don’t wor­ry right now about too many or too lit­tle de­tails. In­stead, set your heart to glo­ri­fy God, The Sto­ry­teller, and hon­or The Bible, His Sto­ry. God Will Help you choose the de­tails.

Through the win­dow of time

So let’s go back to Matthew 7:24-29. Ask God to help you hon­or Him and then sum­ma­rize what hap­pened in the pas­sage. The best way to start sum­ma­riz­ing is to look at the pas­sage through the win­dow of time. We can do this by an­swer­ing the fol­low­ing ques­tions about the pas­sage you just read: What hap­pened first? What hap­pened in the mid­dle? What hap­pened in the end?

Here is what your sum­ma­ry might sound like: First Je­sus Told the peo­ple that if they lis­tened to Him and did what He Said, they are build­ing their house on sol­id rock. Then He Told them that if they lis­ten to Him and didn’t do what He Said, they are build­ing their house on sand. Fi­nal­ly, the peo­ple were in awe of Him Be­cause He Taught with au­thor­i­ty.

We’ll get more de­tailed in fu­ture steps but, for now, just re­mem­ber that you have to sum­ma­rize the pas­sages you read in The Bible. Your sum­maries should strive to glo­ri­fy God, The Sto­ry­Teller and hon­or His Sto­ry, The Bible. Prac­tice sum­ma­riza­tion by ask­ing your­self: What hap­pened first? What hap­pened in the mid­dle? What hap­pened in the end. Do this and you will quick­ly be­come more like your Mas­ter; a sum­ma­riz­er more able to prof­itably ex­plain and ap­ply God’s Holy Word.

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“But his delight is in the Law of the LORD, and on His law he med­i­tates day and night.”
- Psalms 1:2

Wanna reach out and ask me some ques­tions? Or do you want clar­i­fi­ca­tion on some­thing writ­ten here? If so, write me a let­ter. I’d love to hear from you and I’ll respond. I bet your hon­est ques­tion will pro­duce insights that will ben­e­fit other read­ers.