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More Questions to ask when studying the Bible and a study on John 4:1 - 3

Updated on June 3, 2014

John 4: 1 -3

"The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John, although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee."

The key to understanding what the Bible has to say to us and unlocking the power it has to change our lives is to ask questions. This is called inductive bible study. Begin with prayer and ask God to show you the truth he wants you to see in the passage you are reading. This hub will focus on John 4:1-3, although you want to apply these questions to any scripture you are reading. Read the verses several times including the surrounding verses to get a good idea of the setting. Remember the chapter breaks and verse numbers are for our benefit. They were not a part of the original text. This means that you may have to read beyond the chapter to get a good idea of the context. In this case, you could go back to chapter 3, verse 22. You will see that after Jesus leaves the city and goes out to the countryside to baptize, there is an argument with John’s disciples over baptism. Then, we can put ourselves into the story, imagine that you are there and ask the famous questions: Who, What, Where, Why and When. This will begin our study in John chapter 4 verses 1 – 3. “Now the Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John, although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.”

The Questions

Who are the characters in our passage today?

-The Pharisees, Jesus, his disciples, John the Baptist

What is happening?

-Jesus’ disciples are baptizing more than John the Baptist. They leave Judea and return home to Galilee.

Where does this take place?

-In Judea outside of Jerusalem, Near the Jordan River.


The Pharisees find out that Jesus is becoming more popular than John the Baptist. They have already shown hostility towards the Baptist for his influence over the people. Now Jesus is posing a bigger threat to them. You can read in Meet a Pharisee how much they liked having power over the people and enjoyed their influence as the spiritual leaders of the Jews.

When does this happen?

This happens in the first year of Jesus’ ministry, after His first Passover where he cleared the Temple of the merchants and money changers. He has just begun baptizing outside of Jerusalem.

Now that we have a good idea of the context and setting, we can go a little deeper by asking ourselves what is the meaning behind these verses. Is there a command to be followed, or a promise to hold

See results

Now that you have found some meaning in the passage, you want to ask yourself some of the most important questions…So What? How can I apply this to my life?

For example, as we read through the gospels, there are plenty of times when Jesus does confront the Pharisees so we can assume he isn’t afraid of them. In that case you might say that he is trying to avoid an unnecessary argument. This may cause you to look at your own personality, are you someone who seeks out arguments that could be avoided? Perhaps you pick fights over things that don’t really matter. Jesus’ actions here could serve as a reminder to practice patience and wisdom in these situations. There is a time and place for confrontations and a time to keep the peace. We can ask God for the wisdom to know which is best.

Perhaps we see Jesus following a plan. He has somewhere else to be and isn’t going to let the Pharisees be a distraction, keeping him from his mission. Then we can ask ourselves what kind of distractions keep us from doing what God has for us to do?

If the Bible is going to change our lives, we must apply the lessons we learn. Ask God to show you if there is anything he wants you to do about what you just read. Write down a plan and ask someone trustworthy to keep you accountable and help you follow through. In this way, God can speak to us through his Word. Don’t miss what he has to say!

Please continue in John chapter 4 with a History of Samaria and find out who the Samaritans were. Thank you!


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