Studying the Bible doesn't have to be boring or tedious. Think of it as a love letter from your husband when the two of you were dating. What if, after reading the words he wrote, you could delve in deeper and see hidden messages that showed you even more about him? Would you have just skimmed the letter to "get the gist of it" or would you have devoured everything to find out more about the one you loved?
Yes, the Bible is like that. There is beautiful truth just from a cursory reading. However, though not really hidden, much of the deeper knowledge of our Wonderful Creator comes from "soaking in" those words.
Let's look at one of the most familiar verses in the Bible and apply a few different methods to study it:
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16 (KJV)
The basic meaning of this verse is easily understood by those with any background in the Christian faith. However, it can become even more meaningful when it is studied a little closer. Here are a few methods and tools we can use:
Cross referencing. Sometimes, when using a devotional book, I find it gives very little Scripture and I am mostly reading an author's thoughts. I like to read the verses given in my Bible translation and look for cross references. You will have to have a Bible with a center reference to do this. A verse may have a phrase proceeded by a small alphabet character. In the center reference, it will show other verses that are similar which in turn have their own center references. I like to spend some of my study time just following these "rabbit trails" and meditating on the verses.
In this verse, my Bible has a small letter a before "For God so loved the world". It references Romans 5:8 and 5 other verses. When I look up Romans 5:8, it says very much the same thing. However, it also has a cross reference letter in it. I can look that up and follow it and find many similar verses. After I've exhausted that particular "rabbit trail", I can go back to the other five verses referenced in John 3:16 and get a very thorough understanding of just how much God loved the world by finding other related passages.
Word studies. Sometimes it is meaningful to find all the Bible has to say on a certain word. Let's say, in our study of John 3:16, we wanted to learn more about the word everlasting. We could look it up in the back of our Bibles and it would give a list of references with that same word in it. Or, we could use an exhaustive concordance (such as Strong's) that has every single reference where that word was mentioned and a definition in the original language. In this case, the word everlasting appears 91 times in the King James Version, so we could learn a lot about that word by seeing all the different ways it was used!
Topical studies. It is also helpful to learn about certain topics by looking at that topic in the Bible as a whole. In our example verse, we could pursue study of love, the deity of Christ, or eternal life. The concordance could be a place to start in this type of study, however other tools could be helpful as well.
I truly believe that a clear understanding of what we believe from the Word of God is imperative to our success as Christians, wives, and mothers in this world. Our culture is very spiritual, but most of it is not Biblically based. We must know the truth and the only way to understand it is to read and study for ourselves the only infallible Book. Since I believe this is so central to our calling as women, I will do one more post sharing a few of my favorite Bible study tools.
I would love to hear about your favorite methods of Bible study as well. Please feel free to share in the comments or send me an e-mail!