A gracEmail subscriber writes: “I do not feel I am a good Bible student. I do not know how to conduct a comprehensive study of any subject. My usual study plan is to read a book of the Bible and glean from it what I can using my study Bible, but I am not able to make reference to other related passages. Can you recommend a study guide or provide any personal advice for growing in the knowledge of our Lord?”
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You need a good study Bible with center-column references. The New American Standard, English Standard Version, Revised Standard Version and Jerusalem Bible are excellent translations for word-by-word study. The New International Version is good for devotional reading, although it sacrifices some literalness for readability. A good Bible handbook will give you the setting of a particular book, its time, author, audience and its general purpose. InterVarsity Press, Eerdmans Publishing, Zondervan and Baker all offer good selections. A concordance will tell you all the passages in the Bible containing any particular word.
Most of all, I encourage what you are doing already — reading a book of the Bible at once, asking God to reveal its message to you. Try to follow the author’s logic from one verse and chapter to another. See if you can state the flow of thought in your own words. Look at how the Scripture writer uses the Old Testament, if he quotes or refers to it. Look up those verses (the New Testament sometimes uses Old Testament language in an entirely new way). God promises to give us spiritual wisdom and understanding.
There is no substitute for repeated reading, combined with prayer. Remember always that the focus of the Bible is Jesus himself and what he has accomplished. Remember also that the result of your study should be drawing closer to God, knowing him better, praising and thanking him, living each day in his fellowship and presence with joy and peace. God bless you as you continue on that walk!