You probably can, and no doubt most Bible readers who actually study the Bible don’t use cross references much–but if so, you are missing much, and wasting precious time.
Think a moment about how the Bible itself is written. It is a work of great literature. Arguably, even from a purely secular standpoint, the Bible is the world’s greatest literature. If only for this reason alone, you ought to be reading it. You need to learn how to study it. And if you have been reading your Bible, you will be most interested and eager to learn more about how to study it.
The Bible contains narrative and poetry. It contains history, prophecy, wisdom literature, letters, and biography.
But nowhere in the Bible can you find information given in the form of what we today would call systematic theology.
Yet the Bible has much to say about matters pertaining to doctrine or theology. What it does say is most important, and highly relevant to our lives today.
But if you want to know about a particular subject in the Bible, you won’t find the subject fully discussed all in one place. Instead, all the important bits and pieces must be gathered from throughout the Bible, and carefully studied as a whole.
And just how do you find all the bits and pieces? Most people who know something about Bible study would recommend using a Bible concordance. Just look up the word or words related to the subject you wish to fully study, such as prayer, and locate all the passages that contain that word.
Using a concordance would surely work as a first step. But a concordance alone won’t get you where you need to be, because the subject of prayer is often mentioned in the Bible using other terms, and a concordance won’t directly, or even indirectly, lead you to those passages.
You could use a topical Bible, such as Nave’s Topical Bible, and as a second step, this would get you further in your search.
But what if you want to learn about a very narrowly defined subtopic related to prayer, say, the reasons the Bible gives for why some prayers are not answered?
RIGHT HERE is where Cross Reference Bible study will solve the problem for you.
All you need to do is find just one verse about the subject of unanswered prayer, and a good source of cross references will lead you to the rest of the verses in the Bible that relate to this topic right from that one verse.
If you have been reading your Bible for a while, you will be able to remember one such verse. If you recall some of the words, but don’t remember where they are from, use a Bible concordance to find the verse, and go from there, using the cross references given at that verse.
Right off the top of my head I recall that the best-known passage about unanswered prayer is probably James 4:2, the clause which says “Ye have not because ye ask not.” Now clearly that is not the only reason for unanswered prayer, but it is a clear reason. If you don’t pray specifically, and ask for what you need, you cannot lay claim to getting any answer for a non-request!
Now, if you really want to know “the rest of the story,” then you will turn to a source of good, hopefully extensive, cross references, and those cross references will lead directly to the answer of what the Bible teaches are the reasons for unanswered prayer.
Now just where can you find a source of good cross references?
To keep this “blog” entry from getting too long, I’ll have to answer that question next time.