Sometimes, Bible study can be a little daunting, especially when we stumble over confusing or difficult passages. Sometimes, the text isn’t as clear as we would like it to be. Sometimes, we doubt our ability to interpret the text correctly.
Let me give you a few words of encouragement before we talk about some helpful Bible study tools.
This is not solely up to you. If you are a believer you have the Holy Spirit living in you. He is your helper. He helps you understand truth and gives you a desire to live by that truth.
“It is not a giving of new revelation, but a work within us that enables us to grasp and to love the revelation that is there before us in the biblical text as heard and read, and as explained by teachers and writers.” – J.I. Packer
The Bereans were commended for their faith and their practice of searching the Scriptures to make sure that what they were being taught was true. They were a strong, knowledgeable church, and all they had were their Bibles. Because you have the Holy Spirit, you are able to gain wisdom and knowledge from the Bible.
This doesn’t mean that every passage and text will be easy for us to understand. It takes time, prayer, reading and re-reading, comparing verses, and asking others for help.
In God’s grace and goodness, He has given some people extraordinary abilities to understand and explain the Bible. Many of these people have written books and commentaries that we can used to help us in our study.
Commentaries can be very helpful. Some commentaries cover the entire Bible while others only cover a certain book of the Bible. For example, one of my all-time favorite pastor/theologians is Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892). He wrote an in-depth commentary on the book of Psalms called The Treasury of David. (You can read it online for free.) His commentary is both explanatory and devotional.
Some commentaries give a general explanation of the text while others are extremely detailed (like John Owen’s seven volume commentary set on only the book of Hebrews—wowzers!)
Commentaries can be helpful in giving us an explanation of a verse that might be tripping us up. Remember, be careful not to rely too heavily on commentaries. Let those be the place you turn when you desire to dig deeply into a passage, or have a host of questions you cannot find answers to. Commentaries are most useful when we have been diligent to do our own study first.
Another helpful tool is a Bible Dictionary. They give you definition of words, theological terms, people, places, and names. Many include the Greek or Hebrew word as well as verses where these words are found.
You don’t have to know Greek or Hebrew to study your Bible, but sometimes, knowing the original word can give a clearer insight into your verse.
A free online lexicon is available at Blue Letter Bible. Let’s take a few minutes to get comfortable using this resource with today’s SOAP verse, Colossians 3:16. Enter this verse into the search bar at Blue Letter Bible. It doesn’t matter which English translation you choose, because we will be looking at the original Greek.
Next, click on the bold “Col 3:16” on the left side of the page. What pops up is the interlinear version of the verse, with the English in the left column and the Greek words in the middle.
We’re going to dig into the Greek word for dwell, enoikeō. Click on the lexical identifier, G1774. On this page, we will find a lot of information about the word, including a pronunciation recording.
When using a lexicon, we want to be sure we find the definition of the word that aligns with the passage we are studying, not the definition we think fits best with our interpretation or gives us a new understanding of the word. Scroll down the page and find the “Outline of Biblical Usage” section. Here we will find the ways this Greek word is used throughout the New Testament.
As we continue to scroll down the page, we see that Strong’s definition of enoikeō is “to inhabit (figuratively):—dwell in.” Next, we find Thayer’s lexical definition of enoikeō. Here, there are several verse references and other definitions of the word. Find today’s verse, Colossians 3:16. What is listed directly before the verse reference?
In Colossians 3:16, Paul instructs the people of Colossae to allow the word of Christ dwell (enoikeō) in them. This definition says, “in your assembly, of Christian truth.” Paul’s instruction for the Colossians is for them to allow God’s Word to dwell in their assembly. As they meet together, it was hugely important that God’s Word dwell in their assembly; their gatherings and meetings together needed to be centered around God’s Word and His truth.
The rest of the verse talks more about the ways that the believers at Colossae should practically allow the word of Christ to dwell, enoikeō, in them as they met together. Do you see any other practical applications about this passage after using the lexicon?
Lexicons are also handy if you want to do a word study. For example, the New Testament uses a number of different Greek words for our word “joy”.
Definition: exultation, exuberant joy
Usage: wild joy, ecstatic delight, exultation, exhilaration.
Definition: joy, delight
Usage: joy, gladness, a source of joy.
If you look at the use both chara and agalliasis throughout the New Testament, you can get a fuller picture of what joy means. To do this using Blue Letter Bible, type “joy” into the search bar. What results will be a list of all the uses of joy in English in both the Old and New Testament. You can see what Hebrew words we translate as joy and how they are used in the Old Testament and what Greek words we translate as joy and how they are used in the New Testament.
Give a word study a try sometime, it could be a fun little project.
Here is a sad truth: Christians today have access to more Bible study helps and tool then at any other time in history and yet, Christians today are also the most biblically illiterate Christians in history.
Let’s change that by being women who are not afraid of the hard work of studying the Bible so we can know God and make Him known to the next generation.
Looking to Jesus,
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I wonder why Jen’s blog said that the Bereans only had their Bibles to search to find the truth when there were no Bibles in the first century. In fact, Scripture consisted of the Torah and Haftarah scrolls that were mostly available in the synagogues. It may be a small point, but shouldn’t we teach the best historical truth along with Biblical truth?
You are right, I should have been more precise in my wording. I did mean the Torah since that is all they had available, though, eventually, Paul’s letter’s (as well as though of the other NT writers) were circulated among the churches. Thanks for catching that.
ugh, wrote too quickly.
letters, not letter’s and those not though 🙂