The Big Idea(s) . . . .

BigIdea Graphic 1




Is there more than one Big Idea to a “chapter” or “self-contained and cohesive section of verses” of the Bible?*

Typically, if we were to speak of the “Big Idea,”  we would be speaking of the main and overall point of #1) a chapter(s) or #2) a cohesive group of verses.**

For instance, it could be said that . . . .

√ the main argument or the “Big Idea” of Romans chapter 1 is . . . . “No man will ever rightfully argue that God never showed Himself to him or her.”

√ there are numerous “Big Ideas” throughout Romans chapters 1. . . . “All men KNOW deep down inside that there is a God which is reflected in their being.”  or “All men who see the world around them can know that there is a God above them.”

√ the “Big Idea” of Romans, chapters 1-11, is found in the word “Therefore” — 12:1.  That is, these eleven chapters have been moving to the word “therefore.” — Therefore, I beseech you, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice . . . .”



Let me illustrate that another way . . . .

The “Big Idea” of I Corinthians chapter 8  (verses 1-13) — shows up in verse 7.  After verses 1-6, the Big Idea, which is NOW going to be made, is found in verse 7 and then developed through verse 13.

Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. . . . . . . . . Take heed lest . . . . stumbling block . . . . Through your knowledge . . . .Wherefore . . . . .”

For instance, I could say that the “Big Idea” of I Corinthians 8:1-13 is . . . .

“You can be right in your theology (“for we all know”)

and wrong in your practice (“become a stumbling block).”

[Let’s label this the “Big Idea” of the passage/chapter =  (PC-BI) of I Corinthians 8:1-13.]

However, I would also say that as we moved through the argument of the passage, that there are other supportive truths, principles, arguments, and/or precepts which lead to and frame the argument of the chapter as a whole.  A teacher or preacher could focus on other Big Ideas (BGs) within the chapter.

For instance . . . .

I Corinthians 8:1 states a biblical principle which is true, not only as it applies to the argument of the whole passage (PC-BI of 8:1-13), but that principle is a true even when removed from the developing argument which is being developed in those 13 verses.

The biblical principle is stated in verse 1 is . . . .

“Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.”

“Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth” is a biblical principle or truth which we encounter as the very first stepping stones of the chapter’s ultimate point (PC-BI) to which all the verses are contributing and driving.

“Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth” is one of the truths, principles, points which Paul states and uses to develop and drive the full argument of the passage.  He uses that truth, point, or biblical principle to contribute to the chapter’s argument (the PC-BI).

In fact, verses 2 and 3 play into this initial truth or principle which is made in by Paul in verse 1.  The first three stepping stones are . . . .

#1) the biblical principle — which is stated in verse 1

#2) the warning about knowledge — as stated in verse 2, and

#3) how love is what reflects being known of God — as stated in verse 3.

Then there is a clear break from #1, #2, #3 — and Paul dives into the real-life situation he wants to address and argue.

A teacher or preacher could take the ultimate argument of the chapter as found in 8:1-13  The chapter’s Big Idea(PC-BI / 8:1-13) is. . . .

“You can be right in your theology (“for we all know”)

and wrong in your practice (“become a stumbling block).”


A teacher or preacher could take these first three verses as the focus of his message (which is separate from the ultimate argument of chapter 8).

You could state another (BI) which covers these only these first three verses (BI / 8:1- 3).

The (BI / 8:1-3) could be stated various, but similar ways . . . .

Love Should Never Be Disconnected From Knowledge.


When Love Is Disconnected From Knowledge, We No Longer Reflect God’s Love


When Knowledge and Love Are Uncoupled, The Love Of God Is Unknown


Couple Knowledge & Love, and God is known


The “Big Idea” could be seen as the Big Idea of your message, rather than the “Big Idea” of the chapter.  The Big Idea would and should still be reflected in the passage or verses selected within that chapter.

So if I want to preach the argument of 8:1-13 then my PC-BI is . . . . “You can be right in your theology and be wrong in your practice.” 

If I am preaching 8:1-3, then my BI is, “Couple knowledge with love, and declare that God is understood.”


Niagara Falls

Sub arguments, points, truths, principles, applications-examples, or precepts are part of the flow of the far broader argument which is being made.  They all play into the ebb and flow of the water which is moving toward the great waterfalls.

If you have visited a famous sight-seeing location, you have probably seen those big, clunky, shiny “binocular stands.”  Drop in a nickel (probably a quarter these days), and you hear the shutter click open, and you can now use it to view the landscape.  At Niagara Falls such “binocular stands” are positioned to help view the immense waters dropping down into the river below — 225,000 cubic feet of water a second dropping over the edge of the falls

However, there is much more to see than just the vast volume of water dropping over the edge into the gorge 167 feet below.  You can focus in on the Horseshoe, or the Bridal Veil, the American Falls, or Goat Island which separates the river shortly before the actual falls.  Each contributes to the whole.

Or you can swing your focus up the river which is feeding the falls and see the great length of the river as it winds its way north to Buffalo.  You can even focus on the waters just before the perilous drop and see the swiftness and volume of water moving in its various currents over the rocky river bottom.

There is much more than just the climax of Niagara Falls, the conclusion.  There is a conclusion, but there are also many other features which all play into the whole event, or the whole picture, which are worth our attention.

No, not everything is worth our rapt attention, or maybe even any real focus.  Likewise, there are some words in the passage which are there to get us to the next word.  Preaching is not just a running commentary on the obvious, nor is it wringing out the meaning of every word, step by step!  There is a point which is being advanced, and the passage is steadily moving towards that point, the PC-BI.  On the way to the (PC-BI), there are some other “sights” (other BIs) worth seeing which ebb and flow and drive the argument.



* Some thoughts on biblical passages, Bible chapters, verses, and biblical arguments.

A Bible chapter may contain several biblical passages. 

Biblical passages are part of a greater whole.

Some Biblical arguments may go on for several chapters (as seen in the book of Romans).

The passages/verses of a chapter may contribute to a single biblical argument.

The passages/verses of a chapter may contribute to several biblical arguments.

Biblical passages/verses typically contribute to the main argument of the chapter.

Biblical passages/verse may not contribute to the argument of the chapter or section in which they are found (They may be just a series of final exhortations – I Thessalonians 5:14ff)

Biblical passages may make a point which not only contributes to the argument of the chapter or section in which it is found, but a point worth attention in and of itself.

Some chapters are poorly divided.

Some biblical passages are poorly divided.

A verse is not a passage.  It may be the “conclusion” or “pinnacle” truth of a passage or chapter.

A passage is a group of verses which are designed to stick together in word and thought.

The argument of a passage or a chapter is the Big Idea of that portion of Scripture.

There may be more than one Big Idea of a chapter.


**There is an argument which is developed and ultimately made in these didactic portions of Scripture.    There is a flow, a progression, a movement of thought which is leading somewhere, and even “somewhereS” ( “plural” because at times there are a number of points which are being made as the argument develops).  That “somewhere” is ofter called the Big Idea of the passage.

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