By Randy Dillon
2 Timothy 2:15 “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
In last Sunday’s Bible study it was noted that scripture does not read like a novel, or a biography or an historical treatise. Rather, it is more similar to a jigsaw puzzle, but not with the intent to confuse or hide its truth. Instead it is meant to cause believers to seek diligently for its truths. Critics of the Bible often point to seemingly contradictory statements or accounts in scripture. However, their critiques are all too often shallow and actually demonstrate their lack of in-depth study in the Word. In His Word there is ample evidence of all truth necessary to lead to faith. But that evidence is not necessarily “exhaustive.” Instead, it is simply ‘sufficient: to lead a genuine seeker to faith.’
In examining scripture, one of the best ways to study is to begin with a solid, fundamental Study Bible. Generally speaking, a good study Bible contains not only the scripture but also a commentary which is intended to enlighten scripture with additional insights and references to other scripture which have a similar theme. There may also be maps, lists, an index and a basic concordance in a good study Bible.
One example is the John MacArthur Study Bible. It is not exhaustive but it does contain references in most verses to other scripture on the same topic. This is only one example. There are many others.
A second good book to have available is a Concordance. This book provides a second level of study but is still a general reference. It contains either a “general” reference to the most used words or an
“exhaustive” reference to every word in scripture including “a” and “the.” A concordance takes the English word in our translation and gives the word and definition of the original language in which it was written. Thus, most of the Old Testament was written in Hebrew or sometimes Aramaic. The concordance gives an English pronunciation of the original word and provides one or more definitions of the original word. Likewise, in the New Testament which was written mostly in Greek it provides a similar pronunciation and definition guide.
A third group of reference materials are Commentaries on either the whole Bible, such as Matthew Henry’s Commentary or commentaries on specific books or specific issues. These are often useful in understanding how scripture makes sense when it is taken as a whole and not used as a “prooftext” (one scripture pulled from its context) to make a point. These references may seem formidable at first, but the more they are used the more friendly and rewarding they become. Scripture is not the sole domain of theologians. Any reasonably literate Christian will find such guides a remarkable complement which will enhance and deepen a study of the Word.