Four Ways to Know Your Bible Better
Since we believe Paul when he said, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3.16), then we all want to know our bibles better. Obviously, the starting point for this is to read the bible. But there are some things that can help us to do that. Here are four ways to know your bible better:
1. Become a Cross-Referencer
With warm weather you may be on a fitness kick, which is good if done in moderation since Paul said that bodily training is of ‘some value’, but remember, “godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Tim 4.8). So cross training might be good, but what about cross-referencing? Get your bible (that pleather bound collection of printed pages) and see if you have a centre-column with tiny little cross-references. If your bible doesn’t have it, get one that does. The centre-column references are like footnotes in the text. Reading these comparison passages assists us in understanding the text we are reading. Sometimes there are direct quotations. Other times there is merely an allusion or a connected theme. Getting in the discipline of cross-referencing will prove more beneficial to your well being than any fitness boot camp could.
2. Memorize the Order of the Bible
For a lot of people, the bible is like downtown. You don’t want to go there because you don't know where to go. It’s the same with the bible. Christians will fail to turn to it more often simply because they don’t know where to turn. Even their bible reading tends to be limited to one of the gospels and a letter or two from Paul. If you memorize the books of the bible using some mnemonic device or other memory aid, you will at least know where the different books are without having to turn to the table of contents each time (this helps the cross-referencing in point 1). I still remember being told General Electric Power Company for Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians. It’s fairly simple, but I still recall it every time I turn to those letters.
3. Get to know the Genres of the Bible
It is one thing to know a street address, and another thing to understand what the neighbourhood is like. Same goes with the Bible. We need to know what we will find in the different areas of Scripture. These neighbourhoods are called genres, and are like the difference between a newspaper article, a computer manual, and a poem. All of them are written, but they are very different genres. The bible has genres too. In the Old Testament the genres are: The Law, History, Wisdom Literature, and the Prophets (Major & Minor). In the New Testament, the genres are: Gospels, History (Acts), Paul’s Letters, General (Circular) Letters and Prophecy (Revelation). Understanding the genres helps us to see how different bible books fit together. So, for example, the Prophets have the History books as their background. Isaiah 6 tells us about the death of Uzziah, but we get background on him from 2 Chronicles 26. Knowing the genres and the purpose they serve will help you to know how the bible fits together.
4. Make the Bible Your Prayer Book
Don Carson wrote a helpful book on prayer, A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and his Prayers. He states his intention that we “think through some of Paul’s prayers, so that we may align our prayer habits with his.” The bible provides an alignment for our prayers. Like using a ruler to draw a straight line, the prayers of the bible are effective in helping us to say what needs to be said and ignore what needs to be ignored in our talking with God. The prayers of Paul in his letters are helpful for this alignment, but so are the prayers of Moses, David or Jeremiah. This will also assist in your efforts at meditation on the Word. As Gavin Peacock said, you will be, ‘digging for gold, not raking leaves’. Let the bible be your prayer book. It will help both your praying and your believing. Isn’t that what being a bible believing Christian is all about?