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PRACTICAL Studies in 2nd and 3rd John


Because the books of 2nd and 3rd John has a significant amount of practical theology interwoven in its text it has many practical “day to day” applications.  Through this study you will see how to apply these truths to your life as well as gain insight into your relationship with God.

The method that you will use in this study will be “inductive.”  By this it is meant that you will read the text and observe certain things about what the author wrote.  Through your understanding of Bible history, what you discover about the text and your current relationship with God you will be able to pull practical applications from the text.

There may be times in this study that you will not understand a term that is used.  In the Glossary there are definitions of the terms used in this book.  By using these definitions you will find your study will be enhanced and your personal applications become more practical. 

The text that is used in this study is the New International Version.  Because all English translations of the Bible such as the King James, New King James, New American Standard Bible, etc. are all translations of the Hebrew (in the case of the Old Testament) or Greek (in the case of the New Testament); there will be occasions which those who translated the passages thought that the use of one English word over another would more clearly bring out the meaning.  If you know Greek or Hebrew you might disagree with the translation.  This does not mean however that the translation is wrong, only that there are different “flavors” of translations.

A good example of this translation technique can be found just by reading the first three verses of 2nd John:

King James New King James New International New American Standard
1 The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth; 2 For the truth’s sake, which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us for ever. 3 Grace bea with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love. [1]   1 The Elder,To the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all those who have known the truth, 2 because of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever:3 Grace, mercy, and peace will be with 2you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.[2] The elder, To the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in the truth—and not I only, but also all who know the truth— 2 because of the truth, which lives in us and will be with us forever: 3 Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love. [3]   The elder to the  chosen lady and her children, whom I love in truth; and not only I, but also all who know the truth,     2 for sake of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever:3  Grace, mercy and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.[4]  

One of the observations that you might make after reading the above versions is that one may seem more appealing to the way you speak and read.  Another observation is that to really do an in-depth study of a particular book or passage you might want to look at various translations.  By looking at various translations you will be able to gain a deeper insight into the meaning of words and phrases.  Finally, by looking at other translations you might begin to ask why a particular word was used over another.  For example in verse 1 all of the translations say “… whom I love in truth” except for the New International version which says “… whom I love in the truth” (emphasis mine).  Why does the NIV use a definite article (the) and all the other translations don’t?  Is there a reason to, or not to, use the definite article? These questions might cause other questions to be asked and through this process you might encounter a deeper meaning in the passage.

 The steps you will use in this study

Many books have been published that teach Bible Study Methods.  Each has its strengths and weaknesses and most people tend to take some part of one method and add it to another method.  In addition if you have had some kind of language training or been taught to use some of the language tools you will probably use these in your personal study.  It does not matter whether you are someone who has never studied the Bible or one who has studied it for 50 years.  In either situation you will be able to receive valuable truth from the same passage.  In addition you may study a passage or book one time and be able to apply what you found to your life and then the next time you study that same passage or book get something else to apply.  The Holy Spirit will illumine you as you grow.

I will say more about the term “Interpretation” later in this book however right now it is important that you understand that there is only one “Interpretation of a passage.”  There is a difference between “Observation”, “Application” and “Interpretation.”  Because you can easily mix up these terms it is important to know the difference between them.


When you “observe” something you simply make comments about what you see.  For example, if you observed the room you are currently in you might say something like: “I see three chairs in this room, a table, some pictures on the wall, and a door.”  If you were outside you might say: “I see four trees, several birds sitting in those trees, and a lawn.”  You have not placed any value on those items you have only observed that which you have seen.

Observation is only remarking on what you have seen.  It never involves saying things like: “I must…” or I have to ….”.  When you observe you put yourself on the outside and look into that object, picture, room, etc.


When you make observations you will invariably find that you will begin to ask questions.  For example: “Why did the author choose this word?” or “Why did the author write in this manner rather than another (ie. Poetry vs. Short Story)?”  These types of questions will help you understand the book better by “getting in the author’s head” and find out the “What’s” and “Why’s” of his thinking.

Questions will also help you in making the next step easier.  The summarization process is based on everything that you can glean from the text of the book or passage, your knowledge of who the author is, and to whom he was writing.  By asking questions you will find those answers and be able to gain greater insight through the Holy Spirit.


Summarization is putting the text into your own words.  This process is also known as “paraphrasing.”  During the summarization process you will begin to gain an even deeper insight into the author and the meaning of the book or passage.  There is an old cliché which says: “A mist in the pulpit is a fog in the pew.”  This cliché means that if you do not have a clear understanding of what the passage means then when you attempt to communicate that meaning that you do not fully understand to others, your confusion will become a complete misunderstanding to those listening.


Interpretation generally, but not always, refers to something theologically.  For example when Jesus said “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30) he is making a theological statement.  Therefore the interpretation of this passage would seem to be that Jesus is saying He has the same attributes as God the Father.  You could then interpret the passage to mean that Jesus claimed to be God.

There is a problem with interpretation however.  The problem is that there can only be one correct interpretation of any passage of Scripture (2 Pet. 1:20-21).  There may be many opinions as to what a particular passage means but eventually only one of those opinions, possibly, will turn out to be correct.  Therefore you must be VERY careful when you declare that a particular passage means something.  A classic example of this problem is found in the Revelation of John.

Revelation 20:1-6 presents a time when believers who have been martyred for Christ are resurrected to rule with Christ for 1,000 years.  If one uses a normal method of interpretation, i.e. the words mean what they say, then you would say that there is a literal 1,000 year reign of Christ (known as the “Millennium”).  However many denominations in Christianity view this passage as meaning that there is a time (now) in which those who die for Christ are ruling with him.  There are also some who believe virtually anything in-between these two “interpretations.”  Only one of those interpretations can be correct, but which one?

The method of how you interpret is known as “Hermeneutics.”  What you believe a passage means is determined by applying hermeneutical principles.  Therefore if your “hermeneutic” is that you do not believe that the words mean what they seem to mean then there must be another meaning. 

Most of the Bible is very clear on its meaning and because of this we can be very sure of our understanding of the Scriptures.  However there will be some passages that could have multiple meanings, based on your presuppositions.  Therefore when you are studying a passage, or book, it is good to find out what others believe about that passage or book AFTER you come to your conclusion. This may cause you to change your mind or confirm what you believe.

If there is a passage that has multiple meanings then you must decide on what you believe and why.  You cannot be dogmatic about that passage because someone else may hold to another position that could be the correct position.


When you create an “application” about something you use a personal pronoun such as “I” and “We”.  An example of an application could be found in the 10 commandments: “I should honor my mother and father.”  “I should put no other thing before God.”

Notice when you “apply” something you use a personal pronoun to make it real in your life.  You should be able to write down an application in such a way that you would be able to create a sentence or two on how that application could be carried out.  For example:  Because I am to honor my mother and father I need to listen to what they have to say and then honestly evaluate their position before I jump to any conclusions.

Method used in this study

This study will use the “Historical/Grammatical” method.  This method is commonly known as the “Normal” method of interpretation.  You will assume, unless it makes better sense not to, that the words mean what they say.  This method allows for various figures of speech such as “Allegory”, “Hyperbole”, etc.  but for the most part it will assume that the words generally mean what they would mean to that person during the time that the book or passage was written

Because the Historical/Grammatical method obviously uses both grammar and what others have held throughout the time that the Bible has been compiled you will eventually want to consult with others, through the use of commentaries and discussions.  However you will first want to find out what you think that the passage says and then research what others say.

The Process used in this study

This study will take six weeks.  The first three weeks will be spent on 2nd John and the last three weeks will be spent on 3rd John.  You will read each book twice a day for each of those three weeks, once in the morning and once in the evening.  After the reading in the morning you will spend ten or so minutes making observations and writing them down.  In the evening you will spend about twenty minutes working with either more observations, questions, summarization, or application.

It would be better if you did not use the morning time for your “quiet time” with God.  This time should be spent just listening (observing) what God has to say and the way that he has said it.  Try to “stand back” and get a sense of awe in what He has put in each letter.  After the first week in each book the evening will be used to generally ask and answer questions,  summarize what you have discovered, and then in the last week begin to write down specific applications and how you intend to apply them to your life.  You may only come up with a few applications or you may come up with many.  What is important is that you write down how you plan to apply those truths to your life and then keep a journal (found in the Appendix) on your progress.

Chapter 1:  Observation

The first step to understanding the books of 2nd and 3rd John is to observe what is there.  The 2 John has only 13 verses and 3 John has 14 verses so it should take you less than 10 minutes or so to read each one.  You should read each book in one sitting just to “get the sense” of the book.  After you have finished reading it try to remember what things seemed important.  DO NOT look back at the book at this time.  Just write what you remember that you thought was important.  Write what you remember on the Observation Form found in the Appendix.  There are enough forms so that a new one may be used for each of the 3 weeks you spend in each book.  Try not to look back at the book at this time just remember what seemed to “stick out” while you read the book.

Note:  Do not worry if you do not fill the form completely.  Observation takes time and practice.  Go to the back of this book, and take one of the Observation Forms and write your observations. Remember nothing is too small to observe.  As an example I have filled what could be the first couple of observations. 

Leave a space or two between observations so that you can write some questions later.

2 John
Observation Questions
The book is from the Elder  
He is writing to a woman  
The woman has children  
Even though he does not use his name he thinks that the woman will recognize who it is from.  

You will repeat this step each morning and evening for one week (7 days).  Don’t worry if you think that you will run out of things to observe.  Each time you read the letter you will find at least one thing that you did not see before.  During the process you might begin to remember a verse in another book.  If you do just jot it down like an observation.

You may be wondering why this step is so repetitive.  That is actually a very good question.  When you study something it is best to read or view it repeatedly.  The first time you look at it you will see certain things.  The second time you look at it you will see other things.  The third time you look at it you will see more things.  You will continue to see new things as long as you are reading to observe things.

For example, did you see that John mentions truth (in the positive) in the first half of the letter and then illustrates the opposite in the last half.  Another observation you might have made is that he talks about love in several verses.

Things that you may see

Repeated Words

When someone wants to make sure that you understand that they think something is important they may repeat the word or phrase several times.  You may have heard your parents, or even you may have said to someone:  “Don’t you ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER do that again.”  At the time they said it I think that you understood (or if you were saying it to someone they understood) that they were not to do that again.  Many times Biblical writers will repeat something that they think is important. 

The author of 2nd John uses the word “Truth” 4 times in the first four verses and he uses “Love” four times in the letter.  As you read 2nd John you will discover that those two word become very significant.

Other books in both the Old and New Testament will repeat words and phrases to emphasize a point.  This emphasis is one of the first indications of what could be the theme of the book or letter.


Sometimes authors group phrases together to make a point or to emphasize a certain positive or negative behavior.  For example in the book of Jude you will find that several times he groups actions in “three’s.” 

5 Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lordb delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. 7 In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. (NIV)

11 Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion. (NIV)

Note in verse 5 through 7 he mentions the Israelites, the angels who left their positions, and Sodom and Gomorrah.  In verse 11 he uses Cain, Balaam, and Korah all as examples of what people should not do.


In Hebrew poetry authors do not use meter, instead they use parallelisms.  Look at Psalm 1:1-3

1.  Blessed is the man
Who does not walk in the council of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of scoffers

2.  But his delight is in the Law of the LORD
and on His Law he meditates day and night.

3.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does he prospers.

Notice the parallels in verse 1.  He does not walk, stand, or sit.  There are wicked, sinners, and scoffers.  Verse 2 the parallels are “delights” and “Meditates.”  Verse 3 illustrates a tree that is firmly planted, bears fruit at the right time, and the leaf does not wither.

Sometimes the parallelism or opposites are not as easily seen but as you observe the passage more and more you will quickly pick out those items.

Figures of Speech

As was mentioned in the introduction this study uses the “Historical/Grammatical” method of Bible study.  Sometimes this is also known as the “literal” method.  Those who do not like this method generally, when speaking about it, say that it does not allow for figures of speech.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The literal method not only allows for figures of speech but when they do occur in the Bible they recognize them as figures of speech.  For example, United States sailors in the 18th and 19th century had a saying:  “Red sky in morning sailors take warning, Red sky at night sailors’ delight.”  This saying comes from Matthew 16:2-3: 2     But He replied to them, “1aWhen it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ 3 “And in the morning, ‘There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ aDo you know how to discern the 1appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times?[5] (NASB).

Another figure of speech would be personification.  In Ps. 114 says “the sea looked and fled” (v. 3) and the mountains skipped like rams (NIV).  No person who reads the bible with a historical/grammatical method would say that the mountains literally “skipped” or that the “sea has eyes.”  They accept the fact that language uses word pictures to communicate.  In this case inanimate objects are given human characteristics to communicate truth.

When you are observing write down those figures of speech so that you can come back later and make a determination as to their meaning.

Paragraph/Thought Changes

Many times a letter or book will change paragraphs or thoughts.  You should be prepared to see if you can organize your study so that it reflects the changes that you observe.  A word of warning may be appropriate here.  Most Bibles will break books down by chapter and then paragraph.  Others just break them down by chapters.  These are arbitrary breaks that were done many centuries ago and do not necessarily reflect the intent of the author.  In addition some Bibles will leave verses out or place them in a footnote (cf. Mark 16:16 and following).



The next step within the observation process is to begin to ask questions.  No question is too small or too big.  Each question will peak your interest and deepen your understanding of the book or letter as you answer it.  I will give you just a note of caution.  You may begin to get so involved with the questions that you begin to neglect the “Big Picture.”  If a question is beginning to take you off track just put it aside and plan to answer it later.  Make your questions short and keep them focused on the observation.

Questions should be designed to enhance your observation.  By asking and then ultimately answering the question(s) you will be able to gain greater insight into the passage, text, phrase, or word.  If you first observe and then question, the book or passage will begin to make sense to you and you will be able to write out summaries and applications that are meaningful and able to be incorporated into you life.

The first types of questions that you will want to ask are the “Who” questions.  Who wrote the book, who did he write to, who carried the letter (in the case of the New Testament).  These questions will begin to open your eyes to the background of the letter or book.

The next set of questions are the “Why” questions.  Why did the author write to these people?  Why where the people doing what they were doing?  Why was it important to “start”/”stop”/”continue” doing what they were doing or supposed to do.  The “Why” questions will open the door to not only the background of the book but later on will help you in your interpretation, summary, and application.

The next set of questions should be the “What” questions.  “What is the background of the book?”  “What was the background of the people reading the letter/book?”  “What was the authors’ purpose in writing the book?”  “What are the people supposed to do?”  The “What” questions are the “Action” questions.  They will encourage some kind of response from you.

Fourth are the “When” questions.  These may be the hardest questions to answer.  Many of the books of the New Testament and some of the books of the Old Testament may not give a clear answer to these questions.  Sometimes they just need to go unanswered or answered to the best of your ability with the understanding that the answers may change over time.  “When was the book written?”  “When were these things going to happen?”  “When are the recipients to do certain things?”  “When” questions may require that you look up things in reference books such as Biblical Encyclopedias, Bible Dictionaries, and Introductions to the Old and/or New Testament.

The final type of questions are the “Where” questions.  These questions have to do with the background of the book (generally) or in the case of prophecy “where” this prophecy will take place.  “Where is the church/people to whom the author is writing?”  “Where are the actions to occur?”  “Where do they do these things?” The “Where” questions will allow you to fill in the background as well as give you insight on where you might be able to apply these principles/truths to your daily life.

Observation Form
Book:  2 John                                             Date:
Observation Questions
The book is from the Elder Who is the elder?
He is writing to a woman Who is the woman?
The woman has children Is John related in some way to the children?
Even though he does not use his name he thinks that the woman will recognize who it is from. Was the woman expecting the letter?

Chapter 2:  Explore

In this chapter you will begin to explore what John meant by certain words and subjects he used.

As you begin to explore the questions and probably make many more observations while you are doing so, you will want to use various tools that may be available to you

Exploring the Questions

The questions may be answered using various tools such as Bible Dictionaries, Lexicons, other passages of Scripture, and through the passage itself.  There are many other tools which are available that will help you answer the questions.  However, at this stage of your study you do not want to go to a commentary.  Commentaries should be used last in the process.

Bible Dictionaries

A Bible Dictionary is a book that has information about people, places, and things.  You could find out information about the author of the book, where the church was, what the general spiritual condition was of those in the area.  There are several good Bible Dictionaries available:  Unger’s Bible Dictionary, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Tyndales’ Bible Dictionary, and Vines Expository Dictionary of Old/New Testament Words is a great place to start.

It would be good to say just a word about Vines Expository Dictionary.  This book is a classic and should be in everyone’s library who wants to study the Bible more deeply.  It is reasonably inexpensive and well worth the cost.

Bible Handbooks

A Bible Handbook differs from a Bible Dictionary in that it generally is smaller and more concise.  You may or may not find the references for which you a looking.  There are several good Bible Handbooks, Unger’s Bible Handbook, Manners and Customs of the New Testament, and Willmingtons’ Bible Handbook.

Reference Bibles

In the past few years there have been a great number of reference Bibles printed.  The Ryrie Study Bible, The Criswell Study Bible, The Scofield Reference Bible, and various study Bibles put out by publishers.  All of these Bibles have good things about them however each may come with the author’s own ideas about how a particular passage should be interpreted so you should be aware of that prior to just accepting what the author says.  Probably the best reference Bible that I have ever found is the Thompson Chain Reference Bible.  It is available in both the King James and the New International Version.


A Exhaustive concordance is a book that lists all of the words found in the Bible.  Most Bibles have a concordance in the back that has a limited list of words and where they can be found.  There are at least three good concordances currently marketed.  Each has its strengths and weaknesses.

The first concordance is Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance.  This is an incredibly good concordance because it has so many study helps in it.  Not only does it list every word found in the Bible with the reference where it is located but it also lists them with a numbering system which has become the standard in Bible Study.  You can quickly see if the Greek word from which the English is translated has one or more meanings.  In addition you can see if there are other words that are translated with the same English word but mean something different in the original language.  The word “Love” is a good example as there are four different words in Greek that have been translated as the word “love.”

The second concordance is Young’s.  This concordance is very good and is very helpful.  It has many features of the Strong’s concordance but it sometimes lacks the depth of the Strong’s.

The third concordance is the Exhaustive Concordance of the New American Standard Bible.  This is an excellent concordance if you us the New American Standard Bible (NASB).  It correlates its numbering system with Strong’s.

Finally, the New International Version (NIV) has a concordance that is similar in scope with all the others but uses the NIV translation.

Topical Bibles

It may at times be helpful to look in a Topical Bible if you find a subject that interests you and is woven in the Scripture passage.  One of the best topical bible is Nave’s Topical Bible.  A word of warning, topical bibles are sometimes difficult to work with because the one you have may be in King James English.  If you are going to use a topical bible see if you can find one in modern English.  Just remember that a topical bible is designed to deal with topics rather than books or letters.

Internal References

Many Bibles have center column references.  These are excellent starting places to begin answering your questions.  Generally however they are only “one way”.  By that I mean that they generally go forward from Genesis to Revelation (if the subject or reference goes that far) before referencing back to the beginning.

Bible Study Software

In today’s world computers are everywhere and so are Bible Study programs.  Bible Study software programs vary in their depth as they do in their cost.  Their value however is incalculable.  You would generally not be able to purchase all of the books that are available in these programs and even if you did you could not search through them fast enough.

The premier software program is Logos Bible Software.  They have produced various levels of books based on the end user’s needs.  The cost for this software is from around $100.00 to $1,000.00.

The Internet

If you have a computer chances are you are “plugged into the internet” in some way.  The Internet can be as good a resource as any that you might have in your library or Bible Software.  However you should be aware that just because it is on the “net” does not mean that it is true.  This is especially true of Bible related subjects.  Be very careful who you believe when you are reading what they are writing.  It used to be you could tell whether the book’s author was liberal or conservative based on the publisher now with the Web it has become nearly impossible.  One site that will consistently steer you in the correct direction is  While many of those who write on this web site are from the very conservative area of Biblical Study you will find that they are one of the best overall sites with which to work.


Bible Dictionaries

A Bible Dictionary is a book that contains information about various subjects (people, places, etc.) that you will find in the Bible.  It is a very helpful tool because you can quickly find out information about a place, subject, or person.  Bible Dictionaries tend to be very brief in their explanation because they cover such a broad area in a very small space (generally one volume).  There are several good Bible Dictionaries available in print.  Unger’s Bible Dictionary is an excellent tool as well as the Zondervan Bible Dictionary.

Word Dictionaries

Several authors have produced dictionaries that are complete and you do not have to be a Greek or Hebrew scholar to use them.  Men such as Vincent, Wuest, A. T. Robertson, and Vines all produced dictionaries that are easily understood.  One of the best dictionaries is Vines Expository Dictionary.  It can be purchased from a bookstore or you can find it on line at  Note that the words are taken from the King James Version so you will need to use that translation to look up the word.

Looking at specific words

Probably one of the first observations that you made was that the author called himself “The Elder”  (NIV).  You might now ask the question “What does the term ‘Elder’ mean?”   The author does not identify himself any further:  “Why did he not say ‘John the Elder’” or in some other way identify himself?

The author addresses the letter to the “chosen” (NIV) or “elect” (KJV) lady.  Why do the new King James Version and the King James Version both use the term “elect” instead of “chosen?”  What does the word “elect” or “chosen” mean?

To find out you will go to either a concordance such as Strong’s and look up the word.  You will notice that there is a number by that word (1588).  Remember that number and go to the back of the concordance.  There you will find a brief meaning of the word and see if the word is translated differently anywhere else.

Another way to find a more expansive meaning of the word is to look it up in Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words.  Using this tool you will find that he references the word elect in several other verses.  Put those verses in the Word Study Form for later reference.

The next observation could be that those who are loved by the author.  As a side note you might, if you read 2 John in the New American Standard Version, find that it says “whom I love in truth while the NIV says “whom I love in the truth.”   You might ask the question why the translators used either no article before the word truth or used the article “the.”  Does it really make any difference? Again you will probably want to find out about that word “loved.”  Stop here and find out the information you need using a concordance and Vines.

You should find that the word used there is Strong’s number 25 “AGAPAO” and it means to demonstrate love, or have a fond affection for someone.  While the root of the word is “AGAPE” it may not mean that “above all” love that the word “AGAPE” means.  You might also notice that “AGAPAO” is used twice in 2 John (vv. 1, 5) and “AGAPE” (Strong number 26) is used twice (vv. 3, 6).  Again this might cause you to ask the question “Is there a difference in the two words and why would one be used in two places and the other in two places?”   You may come to the conclusion that there is no difference or you may come to the conclusion that there is a difference that can be brought our when you write your summary.

Use the Word Study form in the Appendix

Word Study Form
Book-Chapter and Verse English Word Strong Number Other Verses Meaning
2 John 1 Chosen (NIV)Elect (KJV 1588 Rom. 16:13 lit. signifies "picked out, chosen" (ek, "from," lego, "to gather, pick out"), and is used of (a) Christ… and used of individual believers (cf. Rom. 16:13 and 2 John 1, 13

After you have looked up all of the words that seemed to “jump” out at you, you should take a few minutes and reference each word that you found to the other verses where it is used the same way.  In this way you will begin to create a link between passages and as you study the Bible over the years you will find that this method will help you not only quickly find references but also help you in remembering where words, terms, and thoughts are located and linked

Chapter 3:  Summarize

In this chapter you will summarize what you have gleaned from your observations, questions and exploration.  There are several steps in this process and this process is the most “in-depth” part of the process.

Organize your Questions

The first step in the summary process is to organize your questions.  Through this process you will discover questions that have been asked twice (possibly in different forms or ways) and questions that have not been asked but should.  The Question Form at the end of the book will aid you in organizing your questions.  The form below will give you an idea of how the form is to look at the end of the study.  It is important that you DO NOT attempt to answer the questions at this time just simply organize them so that they can be answered later.

2 John
Who Answer
Who is the Elder  
Who is the woman  
Are there those who are doing what he wants them to do correctly/incorrectly  
Why Answer
Why is he writing  
Why is it important  
What Answer
What is he wanting them to do  
What will be the outcome if they do/do not  
Where Answer
From where is he writing  
To where is he writing  
When Answer
When does he want them to do something  
When is he coming  
When will something happen  

Answering the Questions

There are three things you must consider when answering the questions that you have asked based on your observations.  The first thing you must consider is the historical context of the writer and readers.  Who was the writer of the book or letter?  What is authors’ background?  Was the book written from memory or is it a letter that is designed to bring about a response from the reader(s).  What is the background of the readers?

The only way that you can find most of the answers to the above questions is by looking at some Bible Helps.  These can be in the form of a Bible Dictionary, a set of books that Introduces you to the Bible, such as Hahn’s introduction to the New Testament, Heibert’s introduction to the New Testament, or a Bible that has study notes built into it.

A word of caution is due here.  Just because a book has been published and it is about the Bible or some other subject that addresses spiritual things does not mean that the author is correct in his or her opinions or writing.  You must understand the background of the author you are reading.  I remember as a young Christian (I was 24 or 25 at the time but had only been a functioning Christian for about 4 or 5 months) that I purchased a commentary from a Christian bookstore.  This book had been published by one of the largest denominational publishing houses and seemed, to the uninstructed person, to offer all that one would have wanted in a basic Bible study help.

I later discovered that the authors of the commentary had very dissimilar views than I.  They were of the opinion that the Bible was simply a book that had some history in it but it really had little value except that it taught you how to live better.  While the book had some good insight into historical context it was very slanted towards a weak view of God.  I still use the book at times to see historical notes or to look at how they argue their position but I do not use it for anything else and would surely not recommend it for a novice believer or even one who has been a believer for some time but not “gotten into” some of the more weighty subjects.

There are several Bibles that are excellent in their summary of the historical context of the Bible.  Some of them come from a very conservative theological position but are very fair in they discussion of subjects or passages that could have multiple meanings.

The Ryrie Study Bible

This Bible has notes from Charles Ryrie (a former professor at Dallas Theological Seminary).  It is one of the best study Bibles available.  His positions are on the conservative side and he holds to the inner racy of the Bible.

The Scofield Reference Bible

C. I. Scofield was a 19th/20th century believer who was instrumental in beginning several mission organizations (Central American Missions is the largest).  This Bible may be found in the King James version.  Scofield was a lawyer with a very good grasp of Bible History.  Some may disagree with parts of his theology but for the most part this Bible is very helpful.

Thompson Chain Reference Bible

This reference Bible should be in everyone’s library.  It has some of the best Bible Study aids that you could put in one book and still be able to carry it around.  This is the one you would want if you were on a desert island and only had access to one Bible.  It comes in both King James and New International Version.

Other Study Bibles

There are many other study Bibles available for purchase.  Your basis for choosing which one will be based on many factors.  Two of the most important are: who is the primary editor and who is the publisher.  These two factors will go a long way in deciding if you can trust what they say or if they are just going to add their own theology to the Bible.

You should always be open to other views as you do your study.  You may have believed something just because someone else told it to you or you heard it in a sermon.  You should derive your opinions from as wide a selection of sources as possible, even if you do not agree with them.  By reading a source with which you may disagree you will either solidify your position or decide that you have to struggle a little more before you make up your mind.

Looking at the Historical Context

All books in the Bible have a “history.”  Some of them have a more complete history than others but each one’s history can give you insight into the book and how to interpret it. 

When you look at the background or history of a book you should look for particular things:

  1. Who wrote the book?  (Is there a controversy such as the author of Hebrews or 2nd and 3rd John?)
  2. To whom was the book written?
    1. Were they Gentile Christian, Jewish Christians, Jewish (Israelite)
    2. What language was it written in?  - Just a note about language.  God used Hebrew and Greek for because of their attributes.  Hebrew is a very expressive language.  For example one of the terms for anger in Hebrew means “enlarging the nostrils.”  So if the book was written in Hebrew look for words that express emotions.
      Greek is a very exact language.  Each word that is used could mean something with a particular “bend.’  The classic example is the word “love.”  There are four words used for love in Greek (2 of which are used in the New Testament).  The first “AGAPE” is the one that demonstrates God’s love, and the one that the author of 2nd and 3rd John uses to show how we are to love each other and how he loves us.  The second is “PHILEO” and it means brotherly love. 
  3. What is the date of the writing?
  4. When it was written was it accepted as authentic?
  5. How did the early Church interpret the book?  (This is great to know but not for people who don’t want to do a really deep study.)

If you can answer these questions you will be a long way to getting a more full understanding of the Bible and how you can apply it to your life.

Use the Historical Context form in the back of this book.

Finishing the Questions

After you have gleaned all of the information you need to answer the questions you should then write out your answer.  This activity will accomplish two things.  First it will force you to put in your own words that which you have discovered.  Repeating something because someone else said it is one thing.  Developing what you believe to be the best answer to something is completely different. 

When you repeat something you heard then you are just being a parrot.  You might not know what you are talking about but everyone will be amazed at what you say for a little while.  When they figure out that you don’t have your own thoughts they will no longer seek you out for discussing the deeper things of God.  They will just assume that you only know what you have read and not what you have taken into your heart.

Secondly you will begin to “place things in your heart.”  As you study God’s word you will begin to remember things that you have seen in other places.  When that occurs you might want to put those references next to the passage.  For example, you might remember that Paul also writes those who were “called” in Rom. 1:6, 7.  As you write down those locations in your Bible the next time you go to that passage you will begin to see all of the other places where that term is used and the different ways that it can be used. 

Beginning the Summarization Process

 The summarization process begins with statements summarizing small (paragraph size) sections of scripture.  You should be able to summarize using simple sentences.  Remember that it is not the size of the word you use but rather the word itself.  For example if you are used to theological words such as “Soteriology”, “Eschatology”, and “Pneumatology” (the doctrine of salvation, the doctrine of future things, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit) then go ahead and use them in your summary.  However if you are writing this summary to present in Sunday School or in another public type of forum those there may not understand those words.  Therefore if you do use words that others might not understand make sure that you define them and that you are using them for clarity and not just because you want people to think that you know a lot.

You have discovered that the Elder is probably John (because of what church history has told us).  You have also discovered that there is a bit of controversy as to who the woman is (the church or a woman in particular).  Depending on who you believe that the lady is will change who the children are. 

Let us summarize the first three verses of 2 John. Your summarization could be something like what is written below:

“John is writing either someone in a church or a woman who is a believer and has believing children whom he loves in the command that Jesus gave and in the fact that Jesus made them right with God and will live with them without end.  Because of the truth which will remain with us forever we have peace, mercy, and grace from both God the Father and Jesus in both truth and love.”

Summarization is a skill that needs to be developed.  You cannot just repeat what the writer of the book has written.  When you summarize a passage you will need to use your own words and phrases.  By using these words and phrases you will be able to grasp the meaning of the passage and then be able to convey those thoughts to those around you or be able to apply what you have gleaned to your own life.

As you have seen, one of the purposes of summarizing the passage is to be able to place in your own mind a grasp of what the writer has conveyed to his readers.  Another purpose is so that you may convey what you have observed to others who may be also studying the book or those who might have a question about that book or passage.

Chapter 4:  Application

In this chapter we  will










Observation Form


Observation Form
Book:                                                           Date:
Observation Questions


Observation Form
Book:                                                           Date:
Observation Questions








Question Form


Question Form
Question Answer

Question Form
Question Answer





Word Study Form


Word Study Form
Book Chapter and Verse English Word Strong Number Other Verses Meaning



Word Study Form
Book Chapter and Verse English Word Strong Number Other Verses Meaning








Summarization Form


Summarization Form
Who/What/When/Where/Why? Answer



Summarization Form
Who/What/When/Where/Why? Answer








Historical Reference Form


! Historical Reference Form

You should at least ask the following questions:

1). Who wrote the book?  2). What is the date of the book?  3). To whom was the book written?  4.) What is the date of the writing?  5). From where was the book written?  6). Was the book accepted by the early Church as being authentic?

Historical Reference
Question Answer


Historical Reference
Question Answer



Paraphrase Form


Paraphrase Form
Book:                                                                                     Date:
Chapter/Verse(s) Paraphrase


Paraphrase Form
Book:                                                                                     Date:
Chapter/Verse(s) Paraphrase


Paraphrase Form


Application Form
Place the book, verse, application and how you are going to implement it (a plan) in the following sections
Plan to implement the application     
Plan to implement the application     




a be: Gr. shall be

[1]The Holy Bible : King James Version. 1995 . Logos Research Systems, Inc.: Oak Harbor, WA

[2]The New King James Version. 1996, c1982 . Thomas Nelson: Nashville

[3]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 . Zondervan: Grand Rapids

[4]New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 . The Lockman Foundation: LaHabra, CA

b Some early manuscripts Jesus

1 Early mss do not contain the rest of v 2 and v 3

a Luke 12:54f

a Luke 12:56

1 Lit face

[5]New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 . The Lockman Foundation: LaHabra, CA


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