Read an Excerpt
Knowing God's Word
By Luci Swindoll
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2005 Thomas Nelson, Inc.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWill This Be on the Test?
"From childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise."
2 Timothy 3:15 NKJV
Clearing the Cobwebs
What was your by-far, no-question, totally least favorite class when you were in school?
The student's worst nightmare seems to be finding oneself in a life-and-death situation, only to find out the arcane tidbits we ignored while we were in school are now vital to our survival. It's like the Far Side(r) cartoon that puts some poor soul outside Peter's gate, and the only way to gain entry is by solving a complex algebra equation. Or another cartoon I've seen where a man is held at gunpoint, and asked, "If a train leaves a station in Chicago, and is traveling at 60 m.p.h., and another train leaves at that same time from San Francisco, traveling at 45 m.p.h...." You get the idea.
The reason these comics are so humorous is that they're so far-fetched. Very few of us actually need algebra on a daily basis. And so we laugh at it. It's impractical. Who really cares? Ah. But what if you're involved in one of the many sciences that depends upon suchmathematical equations as regularly as breathing? Would you mock the math then? No! In fact, you'd take it quite seriously. Your grasp of such principles and your accuracy in computing them would affect your very livelihood. So you see, algebra is only impractical if you don't need it. But for those who use it every day, it's absolutely necessary.
We're believers. Our lives are based on the truths of Scripture. For us, they're absolutely necessary. We take them seriously because they aren't arcane tidbits or interesting little factoids. The Scriptures are God's revelation to us-His Word. By them we know God, and by them we were saved.
1. Let's ask a few questions here:
What's absolutely vital for living the Christian life?
Where can we find out about who God is and what He's like?
How can we know what God expects of us?
Where can we find real truth?
What is the only source of true prophecies?
What is our best source of daily comfort, encouragement, and wisdom?
2. What does 2 Timothy 3:15 tell us about the Scriptures and what they are able to do in our lives?
3. So if the Bible is so vital for faith, why don't we spend more time reading it? Can we be honest here-do any of these words describe how you feel about reading the Scriptures?
Over my head Archaic
4. Well then, how about studying? Even if we spend time reading our Bibles, why don't we take more time to study the Scriptures? Do any of these reasons ring a bell?
I'm not smart enough.
I don't know where to start.
I don't have a place to study.
I don't have time.
I might be wrong.
I'll leave that to my pastor.
I wouldn't know how to do it correctly.
I don't have the training.
I don't have any resources.
Bibles. They come in all shapes and sizes these days. There are many translations. There are many styles. There are even many colors. They come with study notes, cross-references, timelines, devotionals, and commentary. They're in hotel lobbies and hospital waiting rooms. Every hotel room in America has one in a bedside table. Most Christians have a handful of them laying around the house somewhere. They're so commonplace, so readily available, that I think we sometimes forget just what we hold in our hands.
5. Let's begin our study with one of the most amazing passages in all of Scripture. John 1:1-5. What does this passage tell us about the relationship between God and the Word?
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.-John 1:1-5 NKJV
6. Okay. It's time to access your very first Bible study tool-cross-references. Just about every Bible has them. And these are a simple way to find verses that "go together." Let's start with John 1:1. My Bible cross-references three verses. Look them up, and write down how they broaden our understanding of John 1:1:
John 17:5 -
1 John 1:1 -
Revelation 19:13 -
7. If we read a bit further in John 1, we come across a very enlightening verse. What does John 1:14 tell us about the Word?
Let's sum up what we've discovered so far:
John refers to Jesus as the Word.
Jesus was with God before time began.
Jesus is God.
Jesus shares in the glory of God. Jesus became a man who could be seen, heard, and touched. Jesus is called the Word of life.
One of Jesus' names is the Word of God.
Jesus is coming again.
All of these truths gleaned from just one verse and its cross-references. Sometimes that's what we do when we study-pull together a list of what we've learned.
8. Now let's look at the cross-reference for John 1:3-Colossians 1:16, 17.
9. When we want to be certain of the meaning of a statement in Scripture, we look for other verses that verify it. It is best to let Scripture define itself. Take a look at each of these verses, which take up the thread we started in John 1:3:
2 Peter 3:5
When you're choosing a Bible for study, there are two basic routes you can take. One is to find a good study Bible. There are many, many study Bibles available to you in your local Christian bookstores, but a good standard, from which we'll be quoting throughout this study is the Nelson Study Bible. Study Bibles give notes and commentary on the Scriptures, helping you to understand what you're reading. The second route to take in Bible study is to find a Bible without many notes, but with plenty of space in which you can make your own notes as you go along. This allows you to jot down questions, make note of cross-references, and even take sermon notes right in your Bible. An excellent Bible for this purpose is Nelson's NKJV Wide-Margin Bible.
Ponder & Pray
This week pray for a heart prepared to learn. Ask the Lord to lead you as you read through the Scriptures. Pray for an inquisitive nature, as you slow down and consider the meaning behind the various words and phrases you know so well. And pray that your studies will not become a mere accumulation of facts. Instead, ask that the Holy Spirit could help you to see how the things you learn can change your heart.
Trinkets to Treasure
At the close of every Women of Faith(r) conference, women are asked to play a little game of pretend. Each conference guest is asked to imagine that a gift has been placed in her hands-one from each of the speakers-to serve as reminders of the different lessons shared. This study guide will carry on this tradition! At the close of each lesson, you will be presented with a small gift. Though imaginary, it will serve to remind you of the things you have learned. Think of it as a souvenir. Souvenirs are little trinkets we pick up on our journeys to remind us of where we have been. They keep us from forgetting the path we have traveled. Hide these little treasures in your heart, for as you ponder them, they will draw you closer to God.
* * *
Trinkets to Treasure
The Bible we hold in our hands is the very Word of God. We read it with joy, we study it with fascination. This week, your trinket will be something absolutely necessary in your study of the Scriptures-a pencil. Never read your Bible without a pencil in your hand! That way, you can make notes, jot down questions, underline key words. We read, not to check off a daily task, but to understand God's revelation of Himself to His people. A sharpened pencil in our hand will help to keep our mind sharp as well!
* Notes & Prayer Requests * ____________________________ ____________________________ ____________________________ ____________________________
Chapter TwoTools of the Trade
"Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh."
Ecclesiastes 12:12 NKJV
Clearing the Cobwebs
Do you have a hobby of some sort? What is the most essential tool of your trade within that favorite pastime?
Some of the most clever ads I've seen are memorable because they're so silly. They picture men and women doing an everyday task, but with an absurdly inappropriate tool. You wouldn't slice bread with a chainsaw. You wouldn't use a leaf-blower to dry your hair. You wouldn't comb through your hair with a rake. You wouldn't trim your toenails with hedge clippers. You need the right tool for the right job.
Now when it comes down to the nitty-gritty of Bible study, you need the proper tools for the job as well. And before you dash out to your local neighborhood Christian bookstore, you need to have some idea just what each of these resources can do for you. Let's give them a quick run-down.
Cross-references-We've already mentioned those handy little notes that appear in our Bibles. Whether you've got a center column reference or your cross-references appear after each verse, they point you to related Scriptures found elsewhere in the Bible.
Study Bible-A study Bible has notes on the bottom of each page. In essence, these are a commentary, placed side-by-side with our Bible text. You can get study Bibles on all kinds of themes these days. The Nelson Study Bible is a good standard, but there are many others.
Devotional Bible-These Bibles have daily readings so that you can combine your scripture readings with a devotional thought. For instance, the Women of Faith(r) Devotional Bible covers twelve different themes over the course of the year, with readings for every day of the month written by the speakers and friends of Women of Faith(r).
Topical Bible-This resource arranges Bible topics in alphabetical order, giving each one a comprehensive list of Bible verses in which the topic is dealt with throughout Scripture. I often use The MacArthur Topical Bible, and it's absolutely invaluable for Bible study!
Biblical Cyclopedic Index-Some Bibles, like The Open Bible, have an abbreviated version of a Topical Bible right in the front. Very handy!
Bible Concordance-This is an alphabetical listing of every use of every word found in Scriptures along with the passage in which it is found. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible is the standard.
Bible Dictionary-We all love Webster's, but there are some words that just don't turn up in an average dictionary. A Bible dictionary defines those terms that we run across as we study, and defines them in the light of the Scriptures.
A to Z(tm) Resources-These are more contemporary reference tools, but they can come in handy while doing Bible research. Where to Find It in the Bible, Find it Fast in the Bible, Who Was Who in the Bible, and So That's What it Means are all available.
Bible Handbook-A Bible handbook gives you an overview of the Bible. It's the condensed version, summarizing the theme of each chapter in the Bible. This helps you get a grasp on the big picture and the themes of Scripture.
Commentary-A Bible commentary can turn what seems like complicated theology into practical understanding. Going phrase by phrase, and sometimes word by word, through the Scriptures, a commentary helps you understand what the Bible means.
Biblical Encyclopedias-Since there is a lot of ground to cover, most Bible Encyclopedias come in multiple volumes. However, they are able to give more exhaustive descriptions of the topics we find in our Bibles, making them excellent for doing background research.
Expository Dictionary-These are also called Word Study Dictionaries. Vine's Expository Dictionary and A. T. Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament are both excellent examples of this type of resource. They help us to understand what a word meant in its original language, with all the connotations and associations that would have been apparent to believers in the time they were written.
Manners & Customs-These are the books that take us back into Bible times and tell us what it was like to live back then. They cover everything from clothes and food to festivals and traditions. Nelson's How People Lived in the Bible is a very readable manners and customs book, though the best one out there is Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Manners & Customs.
Interlinear-When it comes down to roll-up-your-sleeves and dabble in the original languages time, you'll probably want to hunt up an Interlinear. This book lays out the Greek text on the page, then gives you the literal English translation of those words underneath.
Harmony-A harmony puts two or more texts side by side, so that you can compare them as you read. Some harmonies compare two different translations. My personal favorite is a harmony of the Gospels, which puts the four Gospel accounts side by side by side by side in chronological order.
Atlas-We're talking maps here! Most atlases will have ancient maps as well as modern ones. Some will have overlays, satellite imagery, and smaller maps of things like the tabernacle and Solomon's temple.
Bible Software-Computers are amazing, and if you're technologically inclined, you can have all the above resources and more installed on your home computer. The best Bible software out there now is eBible(tm), which allows you to search for specific verses or key words throughout the Bible with just one click. eBible(tm) allows you to read your Bible passage and several commentary entries side by side on the screen.
Now take a moment and consider how these different resources could help you in your Bible study. Let's go back to the verse we ended with last week-2 Timothy 3:16, 17.
"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (NKJV).
1. What can you learn about these four terms used in 2 Timothy 3:16 from the notes you have in a study Bible?
2. Look up "inspiration" in your Bible concordance. Is it used anywhere else in the Bible?
3. Now find a commentary, and research the literal meaning of the word translated "inspiration" in 2 Timothy 3:16. What is it?
4. Let's do a little word study here. Find an expository dictionary, like Vine's Expository Dictionary, and see if you can dig up the meaning of "complete," as it is used in 2 Timothy 3:17.
5. All right, what can you find out about "thoroughly equipped"?
Excerpted from Knowing God's Word by Luci Swindoll Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.. Excerpted by permission.
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