How to Study the Bible – Tools

How to Study the Bible – Tools I explain how to study the Bible and prepare a Sunday School class lesson or sermon.

Introduction

I used to work in construction at one point in my life, and as a carpenter, the profession revolves around tools. When I worked construction, I had a pickup truck with a shell on it, and my work centered on the stuff I carried around with me. I am embarrassed to say this, but necessity forces a person to do some strange things. I have driven a nail in with a screwdriver handle, and I have used a knife to unscrew a screw. But everything has its perfect tool for fixing, and those things were a split second need-to situation, and my correct tool was often very far away in my truck.

In studying the Bible, the most valuation tool you can use is your own mind. You think. In construction, the carpenter also goes to supply houses and boards are the “bread and butter” of carpentry. So reading and writing (nowadays, on computers) are this bread and butter.


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is a 13 chapter work on how the Christian's relationship with Our Lord Jesus Christ should be. Chapters are... Carnal Christians, The Self Life, Waiting on God, Entrance into Rest, the Kingdom First, Christ our Life, Christ's Humility our Salvation, Complete Surrender, Dead with Christ, Joy in the Holy Ghost, Triumph of Faith, Source of Power in Prayer, That God may be all in all.
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But how you organize yourself and arrange your tools is important.

Using the right tool for the right purpose

My favorite things were tool boxes. I had a bunch of them in which I had electric stuff, plumbing stuff, carpentry stuff, finishing stuff, painting stuff, etc. Note that I was a very poor plumber, and my electrical skills were barely minimum.

When you study the Bible, you need a couple of key things. You need good tools, and you need to have them handy (arranged so that you can get to them quickly), and you need a lot of wisdom sometimes in discerning which tool is the best for job at hand.

So I went to Seminary, have a B.A. degree, and 2 Masters degrees. My take on sermon preparation is the following (I am abbreviating this here).

1. You need to preach the Bible, so that is your source. While that is your source, God has to speak directly to you through His Word, and without a “revelation” from a biblical text, you are not preaching. This revelation is not like the Pentecostals, but it is in your heart.

Consider things as you being a doctor, the congregation is the patient, and the Word of God is the medicine, at times surgery even. A doctor cannot prescribe just anything to a patient, HIS SERVICES ARE ALWAYS DIRECTED TOWARDS WHAT THE PATIENT’S PROBLEM IS. You absolutely have to talk with your people, and what their problems of life are, you need to look into the Word of God for solutions (medical treatments and medicine).

Some people say preachers should never preach too specific “to” a certain people in your congregation. I propose the opposite. You need to preach to the spiritual needs of the people in your congregation.

Focusing: What is the Problem?

We are a being that has a really hard time understanding. We are dull. Things have to be laid out clearly, and we need repetition and explanation to understand things. Left to ourselves, we would probably never arrive at any solution. The only thing we are fantastic at is suffering. When we suffer, we get a focus, we get very motivated to do something. That is probably why God uses our suffering to get us to make a change, do something like listen.

This can be real simple if you will accept it. God is perfect, all wise, and He has a lot of time and experience with life that nobody can compare to Him. His way is the best way. His way is the only way. What God proposes is always what we should do. We cannot get off of this single point. Every sermon, every study, every class, goes back to finding out what God says about something. So God wants us to consult Him, taking what He says as the absolute final word on everything.

All this “translates” or “boils down” to you have to know your Bible very well, and again, humans are dull, don’t learn, and don’t remember very well. This is where Bible software enters, making it a great help.

My Recommendation for Tools

But with carpentry, every tool has a specific benefit, or strength. When you ask how to study the Bible, you need to break things apart, or down, and you need to explore all that is within your ability, time, resources, etc.

theWord Bible Software

I highly recommend theWord program. In addressing, how to study the Bible, this tool has to be in every Bible student’s “tool box”. It is free. It will take a little bit to learn how to use, but this present site, thewordtutorial.com, will help you a lot. But do not think that it is the only tool that you will need.

What is theWord community, really?

The program has the Bible in electronic form. You can use a paper and ink Bible instead of this program, and many a preacher has only used paper and ink, and their physical Bible, and they have made wonderful sermons. But what you cannot do with physical books is seen in searches. You cannot in 30 seconds see every place a word occurs in the Bible.

Moreover, we do not stand alone, but all preachers of our day stand “on the heads” (on the research) of millions of other Christians before us and our contemporaries. If a man named Strong took the time and effort to learn Greek and Hebrew and made a concordance of all the words in these original Scriptures, adding definitions, then why would somebody try to replicate what he has done? Ok. Maybe they can do it better, then go for it. But why would a student of Scripture shy away from some wonderful tool like that when it is freely available to them? With theWord, you can actually set things up so that just moving the mouse over a word in a Bible text, you can see Strong’s definition. The saving in time and effort is tremendous, and this is why you invest in Bible software, to get this “advantage.”

But this is not everything. When we consult dictionaries, Bible Introductions, commentaries, books of sermons, etc., we can find things relatively fast. But the problem here returns to my previous comments. The best and really only good tool is your own brain. You have to recognize a solution, a remedy, a good answer to a problem when you see it.

Focusing: What is the Remedy?

If you can identify what is the problem, if you can break down the problem to where things are not right spiritually, then you know where to look for answers.

The theWord and eSword (a comparable Bible Software program) communities offer a tremendous selection of people’s writings and Bible research that, for the most part, you can tap into for free. The only cost to using these programs and these resources is the time and effort to find and download to your computer these things, and install them. It may take you a little time to get familiar with them, but with use and time, they will become second nature to you.

At this point, I want to get very specific on some resources.

TSK Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Frankly, aside from my Bible, and some original language dictionary like Strong’s Dictionary, TSK comes in third in my ranking of most important resource tools. What is it? If you have every look at a Scofield Bible, you will see Scofield’s notes in the center column. These notes are simply a Bible reference. Scofield is a good reference in itself. I would recommend it.

But a Cross-Reference Bible is a great tool in itself. Back in the day, R.A. Torrey and publisher Samuel Bagster (1772-1851) took I think it was around 100 reference Bibles of their day, and went through them, and they compiled a book, the TSK. The book is simply each book of the Bible, broken down by chapter and verse, and for every verse in the Bible, they added the references from these Cross-Reference Bibles into it.

Okay, I have personally used this resource for years, and my opinion is that some of the verses are hard to see the connection with the actual verse. There are no, or very brief comments, on anything in the Bible. Just Bible references. So you have to sort through the verses sometimes to get to the ones that are useful to you. Maybe somebody sees the references differently, and what you don’t want, they do. Maybe even a study on one topic makes some references very pertinent, and others not, and that situation changes when you are looking at things in a different sermon.

But the key takeaway here is simply, that with theWord, you can open a miniwindow (pane) in the program, load TSK there, and you see these references. Think and work smart, not hard. Moving the cursor over the reference, you can immediately see the verse. (You have the option to see the reference in any Bible version you have loaded, and this is great when you have a Greek and Hebrew Testament loaded, and you know Greek and Hebrew).

But truthly, as a preacher, I find that I have had “sermons come together” almost immediately from just looking at TSK on a verse. And regularly, I get supporting verses on any minor or major point in a sermon by TSK. So with 2-5 minutes and a verse to start with, you can “flesh out a sermon” superbly.

An Alternative to TSK

I am a realist at heart. I use a computer most of my work week. But computers are good at some things, and for things on a smaller scale, there are better options. You need to know why a tool is too much for the job. I have tightened a loose screw with my fingernail before.

You need to know this “trick”. If you open a browser, and type in the search bar, “verse” and any part of a phrase in the Bible, you will get a long list of Google results of pages that talk about that word or phrase.

For example, if you type in “verse love one another”. Google sells the first three entries to ads. Skip them, they are distractions when studying. What I am given in entry 4, is this…

Sample Google Search Results
Biblegateway John love one another

You can find a very specific verse that maybe is rumbling around in your mind, but you don’t remember the reference, and you cannot get a good grip on the exact wording, and this is how you get to it in a hurry.

But on down in the listing of results, you will begin to see 100 verses on love, and such. With time and experience, you will pick and choose careful what you open up. If you are looking for cross-references, this is an alternative to TSK, and I don’t see it as a competition to it, but a compliment to it.

Sometimes I know the exact wording of a verse I am looking for, and I use theWord to find it. Other times I am rumbling with a thought and not exact, precise wording of a verse. I will use Google. Each tool has its strengths and weaknesses. Being a good Bible student means you know what to use and when (in what situation).

Side Note – You do know how to search Google? Type in a word and hit enter. But if you type in a phrase, that is difference. “love your neighbor” is different from love your neighbor. In Boolean search protocol, quotation marks mean the phrase must be exactly as the text in the quotation marks is. This is exactly how theWord words in its searches also. There is a big difference in some cases, and no much in others.

Using Commentaries

While this topic deserves a separate post to treat it well, let me say that theWord has the ability to give you dozens of commentaries to use in your Bible study. You can download some more modern commentaries still under copyright from theWord.net for a small price (look for link “Browse paid modules” in the righthand column, and sign up for their free monthly newsletter for sales on these paid versions), and depending on your particular preferences, that may be best.

But you just cannot limit yourself when stuff is for free. theWord can be set up to show which commentaries have a comment on a verse, and only those commentaries will pop-up in links. It is a super fast and usual way to see Bible commentaries.

My opinion of commentaries (in brief here) is that “you get what you pay for.” So when using a free commentary, you think, they are not worth much. Not so. Some of the free commentaries out there are amazingly useful. But the better rule of thumb, commentarists (the author) are the key to heaven. You need a commentartor and his commentary that agrees with your mindset, doctrinal position, etc. If you are Baptist like me, and you open a Catholic, or Mormon, commentary, don’t think that you will be benefitted. What wastes your time is as bad as wrong information.

Alternative for theWord Commentaries – I am here to help you. I am pushing theWord, but there are alternatives, and sometimes they are just as good, but many times they are not, and they are just different. theWord has the advantage of having everything on your computer without need of the Internet. One day soon that advantage will come to bear on everybody.

If you search in Google “commentary love one another”, you will see results for commentaries. Work smarter, not harder. This is also a “quick fix” when you are doing a study in something else, say using TSK, and you read a verse popup that just doesn’t make sense. The verse is in the Bible, yes, but you want to take a 5 minute break from your study to track down what you didn’t understand, what is that verse talking about. Go to Google real fast. Control click new window, type “commentary …” the verse or phrase, and look at the results. close the entire browser window when through.

You need to dominate the ability to slide from one tool to another quickly. Within theWord, you can open a number of windows (panes) with different tools. Although that is very possible, and probably the only way to study, they can get distracting. After about 4 open windows, what you see in each window gets less and less. That is true for any Bible program. You can maximum a particular window, and you can get around this, but still, if I go off on a rabbit trail, I like to explore until I am satisfied or my conscience kicks in, and then I just delete the entire Internet Browser window and go back to work. Avoiding distractions is key in studying the Bible.

Conclusion

I have been using theWord for a number of years now, and I still do not think I can produce the same quality of sermons without it. It is essential to my Bible study. You need to master the program though. It will be a work horse for you if you master it. It is well worth the effort and energy you expend on it.

How to Study the Bible – Tools

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