E. A Basic Approach to any Passage
1. “What does it say?”
A) Summarize in your own words or
B) Outline the passage
A summary should be no longer than 5 to 8 words per verse.
2. “What does it say that I don’t understand?”
State the problem briefly and clearly.
To clarify the meaning of the passage in order to gain an understanding of what it means, read the text in other translations; read more of the context; consult cross references, especially those given in sources devoted to cross reference Bible study such as The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (which is considerably more accurate and complete), or Nelson’s Cross Reference Guide to the Bible. If these sources do not clarify the text and answer your question, then consult the notes in any of several available study Bibles for help, or a commentary on that book of Scripture.
3. “What does it say to me?”
A) State in your own words the truth of the verse or verses from which you draw your application.
B) Indicate how this applies to you–what needs this brings out in your life, where you fall short, or what new appreciation or understanding it gives.
C) Write what you intend to do about it. Use the personal singular pronouns “I” and “me.” It should be stated clearly enough to be understood by anyone you might ask to read it.
4. “What does it say in other places?”
Discover for yourself what the Bible says about subjects and themes in the passage you are studying by looking at the other verses which are on the same subject or are related to the verses you have read. To do this, take the time to carefully look up the cross references given in your reference Bible, in a study Bible, or best of all and far more complete, in The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge or Nelson’s Cross Reference Guide to the Bible.
Often, there simply is not time enough available to look up everything. Select just one verse that most strikes you from your current study, and look up the cross references for just that verse.
It amazes me how few Bible reading, Bible-believing Christians actually make use of cross references in their study. Even pastors! Pastors and Sunday school teachers need to take the time to teach those under their spiritual care how to study the Bible, and that includes making good use of cross references. If you don’t do cross-reference Bible study, you cannot imagine what you are missing when it comes to studying the treasures in God’s Word.