As a continuation of the last post, 5 Great Ways to Study The Bible, here are 5 MORE Great Ways to Study the Bible for those of you who are just starting out with studying the bible on your own, or for those of you who are looking for more in depth ways to add to your current bible study routine.
1. After you read a chapter it could help to think about and write down these three things about the chapter.
- What did you learn about God?
- What did you learn that you should apply to your life?
- What did you see in the passage this time that you didn’t see before?
2. You could also ask yourself and write down the answers to these questions after reading a chapter for a more in depth study.
- What is the main subject about?
- Who are the persons revealed in this passage: Who is speaking? About whom is he speaking?
- What is the key verse of this passage?
- What does this passage teach me about the Lord Jesus Christ?
- Does this passage portray any sin for me to confess and forsake?
- Does this passage contain any command for me to obey?
- Is there any instruction for me to follow?
- Is there any promise for me to claim?
3. Follow the cross references.
Most bibles, especially study bibles, have reference scriptures which are placed either underneath a specific verse or they’re lined up in a group in the middle of the page with either numbers or letters next to them so you can identify which reference scripture belongs to which verse. I just recently discovered the beauty of reference scriptures and it really helps with understanding certain passages sometimes.
What a reference scripture or a cross reference does is take you to other scriptures in the bible that have a similar word or concept as the scripture you’re reading. Sometimes the reference scripture has nothing to do with scripture it’s linked to other than a shared word. Other times it’s very significant in understanding the scripture it’s linked to. A very basic example of a useful cross reference comes from the scripture John 10:34.
John 10:34 – Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?
If you follow the cross reference it leads you back to Psalm 82:6
Psalm 82:6 – I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.
By following the cross reference, you can see what Jesus was referring to when he said what he said in John 10:34
4. Look up the history or culture behind the time period of the book of the bible you’re reading.
Now, in order to do this, you would have to have access to a study bible or history books of some sort, preferably a study bible. The study bible I use which helps me with this tip is the Archaeological Study Bible: An Illustrated Walk Through Biblical History and Culture, 2010 . (link to where they can buy).
It has all kinds of pictures and historical information in it. Knowing the history or culture of the time period behind a specific chapter or verse can greatly help you come away with a correct understanding of a passage in the bible. To illustrate this example I’m going to use 1 John 4:1-3.
1 John 4:1-3 – 1.Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 2.Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: 3.And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.
I remember every time I read that I never understood what he was talking about because I would think to myself, well a lot of people confess that Jesus came in the flesh, but they don’t all truly believe in him so how does that tell me anything? It wasn’t until I read the history behind this chapter and what was going on when John wrote this that I understood.
Here’s an excerpt from the Archaeological Study Bible: An Illustrated Walk Through Biblical History and Culture, 2010, p. 1794:
“Gnosticism was one of the earliest Christian heresies. Gnostic writings are many and varied, frequently drawing upon Platonic concepts, imagery from the New Testament and pagan myth. Some Gnostics believed that “the Christ” (a kind of spiritual anointing or presence) came upon the man Jesus at his baptism and departed before his crucifixion-thus, that there was no lasting union of divine and human natures in Jesus. In their view, the true Christ had no physical body. One particular brand of Gnostics, called “Docetists,” believed that Jesus was actually a divine spirit who only appeared to be physical: His body, they argued, was not truly flesh but was only an illusion. First John 4:2 (Every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God”) refutes this teaching.”
Reading the historical excerpt told me that the reason John said what he said in I John 4:2 is because there were a group of people that did not believe that Jesus Christ had died and risen in the flesh as a human. They could not reconcile is divinely human nature so they created a different false teaching to try to make sense of it. I would have never known that had I not looked at the history behind it.
5. Use scripture to understand scripture.
I like to base this point off of 2 Peter 1:19-21 – 19.We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: 20.Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
This scripture is important because it tells us that no prophecy of scripture is of any private interpretation. That means that there is nothing hidden in the word of God that the Holy Ghost can’t reveal to ALL of us, through the bible.
The bible is a complete book and it has all of the answers, sometimes we just don’t know where to look for them. When we’re studying the word of God and we come across something that doesn’t make sense or sounds contradictory, the answer to our question is going to be somewhere else in the bible or within the context of the chapter or book of the bible we’re reading. (This is where tips #3 and #5 come in handy.)
We never have to make up our own answers or rationalize; the answers will be in the bible. Let’s look at Matt 1:18, 19 as an example of how to use scripture to understand scripture.
Matt 1:18,19 (KJV) – 18. Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. 19. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privately.
When Joseph found out Mary was pregnant he decided to divorce her privately and not make her a public example. To understand what it meant to divorce a woman without making her a public example I followed the cross reference associated with that scripture which was Deuteronomy 24:1,2.
Deuteronomy 24:1,2 (KJV) – 1. When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. 2. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife.
From there I followed the cross reference under that scripture and it took me to Deuteronomy 22:13-16,20,21 which tells me what would have happened if Joseph had made a public example out of Mary.
Deuteronomy 22:13-17, 20, 21 (ESV) – 13. If any man takes a wife and goes in to her and then hates her, 14. and accuses her of misconduct and brings a bad name upon her, saying, ‘I took this woman, and when I came near her, I did not find in her evidence of virginity, 15. then the father of the young woman and her mother shall take and bring out the evidence of her virginity to the elders of the city in the gate. 16. And the father of the young woman shall say to the elders, ‘I gave my daughter to this man to marry, and he hates her; 17. and behold, he has accused her of misconduct, saying, “I did not find in your daughter evidence of virginity.” And yet this is the evidence of my daughter’s virginity.’ And they shall spread the cloak before the elders of the city.
20. But if the thing is true, that evidence of virginity was not found in the young woman, 21. then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done an outrageous thing in Israel by whoring in her father’s house. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
Both of these scriptures tell me why Joseph was going to divorce Mary privately and not publicly. Deut 24:1,2 tells us he was able to divorce her because he found uncleanness in her, (or so he thought) and that with a simple bill of divorcement she would be free to marry another man. This is the example of putting her away privately.
The public version is found in Deut 22:13-17, 20, 21 in which she would be condemned to die. The bible tells us that Joseph was a just man so he did not want her to be put to death for what he thought were her indiscretions.
This is an example of using scripture to understand scripture. It’s like the concept we learn in school of using the test to take the test. When we understand this concept about the bible, we won’t come up with our own private interpretations of scripture.
**Bonus – The most important thing to remember when studying the bible is that it is a spiritual book and we can’t understand it with our natural minds (1 Cor. 2:14). The only way we’re going to truly understand scripture is if our understanding is opened by the Holy Ghost. Because of this, the best thing to do before studying, or while studying, is to pray for wisdom and understanding.
James 1:5 – If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
I hope that these 5 MORE Great Ways to study the bible will help you during your studies whether you’re just starting out or trying to dig deeper.
Givin’ It To You Straight,
Ephesians 4:25 – Put away lying, speak every [wo]man truth with [her] neighbor: for we are members one of another.
What are some ways that you have found helpful when studying the bible?