National Association of Christian Ministers Leadership Series
By Michael Mooney, NACM Exec. Elder
Now we begin a consideration of the big picture principle. This approach is driven by the concept of summarization.
A summary is an attempt to condense a large quantity of information into a smaller portion that relays the primary idea, theme, or subject. It is not intended to dismiss the significance of the smaller details. Rather, it adds significance to the smaller details by providing a context for their consideration.
There is an old saying, “don’t miss the forest for the trees.” This saying is intended to remind us not to focus so much on the smaller details, that we forget the big picture. In other words, it is a reminder to keep the main thing, the main thing! In a similar way the big picture principle does the same thing.
While this is applicable to just about everything in life, it is extremely beneficial to Bible study. The Bible is a large book consisting of 66 sections which are divided into two categories both Old and New Testaments. In addition to these, there are some 1189 chapters. This is an extensive amount of information for anyone to rap their mind around. Yet by applying the big picture principle, we will at least have an advantage towards climbing the mountain of God’s word.
How To Find the Big Picture
By now you are probably wondering if there is a method to extracting the big picture. The simple answer is “yes.” However, there is no one way of doing it. This being said, there are a few steps that seem to be worthy of mentioning in conjunction with a brief consideration of the differences between data and information.
- Data is a collection of facts and reports that have not yet been organized and analyzed for meaning.
- Information is the organized results of analyzed data that can be used to interpret meanings and to make decisions.
Let’s consider the Bible as an example. If we did not have the Bible, but were to find a variety of scrolls that had been scattered, we would have data. Once we were able to determine that the scrolls were scattered portions of larger written works, we would be able to begin trying to organize it. Then in time, lets say that we found all of the contents and organized them into individual books, then we would have information. From there we would be able to continue organizing until one day we have an identifiable 66 books with sections known as the Law, major and minor Prophets, Poetical, Gospels, and Epistles. All of these categories are generally identifiable by average ministers. Yet, they would not be without the analysis and organization of data.
One of the most fundamental approaches toward organization is the method of identifying “comparisons” and “contrasts.”
- Comparisons are a consideration of how two or more things (or even ideas) are similar.
- Contrasts are a consideration of how two or more things (or even ideas) are different.
This is a means by which to organize content into categories: similar and different. While these differences might seem obvious on the surface, they become much deeper points of consideration when they are held as standards by which to value the things to which they are compared or contrasted. Below you will find an example of this. There are some striking similarities and contrasts to be noted from the first three chapters of the Bible Genesis 1-3, and the last three chapters Revelation 20-22. As you look over the points noted below, be sure to consider how there seems to be deeper meanings attached to these verses when they are compared and contrasted with one another.
PLEASE NOTE: The following outline was not written to teach on the subject of eschatology (prophecy concerning the end of earth and its inhabitants). Rather, it was developed as an example of using the principles of “comparisons” and “contrasts” to develop a better understanding of the Bible.
The NACM is an interdenominational organization, and the content herein is not intended to express a position of the correct interpretation of the book of Revelation, etc.
Contrast of Genesis 1-2 and Revelation 20-22
Beginning of this Earth
Beginning (Alpha) In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (1:1)
End of this Earth
End (Omega) I saw new heaven and a new earth (21:1).
Beginning of Sun and Moon
Then God said, “Let there be lights in the sky to separate the day from the night. (Gen 1:14 GW).
End of Sun and Moon
The city doesn’t need any sun or moon to give it light because the glory of God gave it light. The lamb was its lamp. (Rev 21:23 GW).
Beginning of Darkness
God named the light day, and the darkness he named night. (Gen 1:5 GW).
End of Darkness
There will be no more night, and they will not need any light from lamps or the sun because the Lord God will shine on them. (Rev 22:5 GW).
Beginning of Sea
The water which came together he named sea. God saw that it was good. (Gen 1:10 GW).
End of Sea
The sea was gone. (Rev 21:1 GW).
Introduction of Serpent
The snake was more clever than all the wild animals the LORD God had made. He asked the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must never eat the fruit of any tree in the garden’?” (Gen 3:1 GW).
End of Serpent
The devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the fiery lake of sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet were also thrown. They will be tortured day and night forever and ever. (Rev 20:10 GW).
Beginning of Sin
The woman saw that the tree had fruit that was good to eat, nice to look at, and desirable for making someone wise. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. She also gave some to her husband (Gen 3:6 GW).
End of Sin
Nothing unclean, no one who does anything detestable, and no liars will ever enter it. Only those whose names are written in the lamb’s Book of Life will enter it. (Rev 21:27 GW).
Beginning of Separation from God
So the LORD God sent the man out of the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:23 GW).
End of Separation from God
I heard a loud voice from the throne say, “God lives with humans! God will make his home with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them and be their God.” (Rev 21:3 GW).
Beginning of Dominion
God blessed them and said, “Be fertile, increase in number, fill the earth, and be its master. Rule the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that crawl on the earth.” (Gen 1:28 GW).
End of Restricted Dominion
They will rule as kings forever and ever. (Rev 22:5 GW).
Beginning of Curse
Genesis 3:14-19: The Earth and its Inhabitants are Cursed
End of Curse
There will no longer be any curse. (Rev 22:3 GW).
Beginning of Death
You are dust, and you will return to dust. (Gen 3:19 GW).
End of Death
There won’t be any more death. (Rev 21:4 GW).
Beginning of Restriction from The Tree of Life
After he sent the man out, God placed angels and a flaming sword that turned in all directions east of the Garden of Eden. He placed them there to guard the way to the tree of life. (Gen 3:24 GW).
End of Restriction from the Tree of Life
Blessed are those who wash their robes so that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. (Rev 22:14 GW).
They Both Have Clothes
The LORD God made clothes from animal skins for the man and his wife and dressed them. (Gen 3:21 GW).
Blessed are those who wash their robes (Rev 22:14 GW).
A) As a personal exercise, read Mark 5:21-43, then make as many comparisons and contrasts as you can.
B)Then discuss the implications of your findings.
The authors of “Grasping God’s Word” Duvall & Hays (2005) make the following observation.
Read Mark 5:21-43. It is two stories-the first about Jairus and his daughter, the second about a bleeding woman. Note that the story interrupts the first; that is that the bleeding woman story is presented right in the middle of the Jairus episode. This seems to be something that Mark is trying to suggest to us. Look at the two stories and list as many comparisons and contrasts that you can find between the two. Look hard!