“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away.” (Matthew 13:24-25) Last post we discussed what happens when you sow the seed of God’s Word....
When it comes to studying the Bible, it’s important to be prepared with the right tools. And by “right,” I mean tools that help a person to cultivate an accurate, in-depth understanding of Scriptural truth. For the more we know God as he truly is, the more we will grow to love him and to adorn his gospel.
But there are so many tools in existence that it can be difficult to know where to start, or what’s best.
Whether you are just beginning or have been reading the Bible for decades, here are eight Bible study tools to help you grow in your knowledge of the Bible and your devotion to Jesus Christ:
1. ESV Study Bible (Crossway, 2001)
The English Standard Version of the Bible is considered to be one of the closest translations to the original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic writings. This version is helpful for studying the Word because it leaves little room for translation error, while encouraging readers to understand the text in its close-to-original form. The study Bible offers additional resources such as maps, book introductions, commentary notes, and articles. You may want to use this version when studying for context, along with the comprehension and interpretation that follows.
2. ESV Reader’s Bible (Crossway, 2014)
Using the same translation as the ESV Study Bible, the ESV Reader’s Bible takes a new approach to reading about God’s salvation plan by presenting the Bible as one seamless story. How so? By removing verse numbers, section titles, and commentary. This version intends to draw the reader into the Big Story of Scripture by offering itself as God’s Word in a “book-book” format. You may want to use this version when reading a whole book of the Bible in one sitting, or before looking at other peoples’ commentaries on the text.
3. The Jesus Storybook Bible (Zonderkidz, 2006)
Whether you’re a parent, grandparent, Sunday School teacher, babysitter, or the like, if you interact with children, you have a unique and wonderful opportunity to point them to Scripture. In The Jesus Storybook Bible, author Sally Lloyd-Jones does a marvelous job of sharing the great stories of the Bible in such a way that “every story whispers [Jesus’] name.” She remains true to the entirety of the Bible, points to the gospel, and does so with the support of beautiful, colorful illustrations. (This Bible makes a great gift for little ones and their parents.)
4. Daily Devotional
It can be helpful to think about biblical devotionals as mini-commentaries on portions of Scripture, seeking to fix a reader’s eyes on Jesus Christ. Two highly recommended devotionals from Pastor Colin Smith include The One Year Unlocking the Bible Devotional or LifeKEYS Daily. Pastor and author Paul David Tripp has a new devotional book entitled New Morning Mercies, which points richly to the gospel in its readings. You may also want to choose a devotional that focuses on one passage of Scripture for its entirety, like Andrew Murray’s The True Vine (unpacks John 15). Whatever you decide, a biblically-centered, Christ-exalting devotional is a rich companion for your study of the Bible.
5. Bible Reading Plan
Some people make it a goal to read through the Bible in one year, and using a Bible reading plan offers great benefits. First, the presence of the plan holds a reader accountable to his or her schedule and goals to read through the entire Bible. Second, the organization of the plan makes it easy to stay on track and remember where the reading last finished. Third, the purpose of the reading plan promotes fellowship around the Word between Christian brothers and sisters. So choose a plan, grab your friends, and study together!
6. Bible Commentaries
While the Bible is clear in that “its teachings are able to be understood by all who will read it seeking God’s help and being willing to follow it,”1 gleaning the comprehension and interpretation of theologians and biblical scholars is a wonderful help to the Christian. The wisdom and knowledge of pastors and writers are gifts of grace to aid us in our grasp of the Big Story of Scripture. If you’re seeking a more in-depth approach, you will appreciate The Message of the Old Testament and The Message of the New Testament by Mark Dever. If you’re looking for a series of shorter commentaries, try Warren Wiersbe’s BE commentary books. Finally, if you’d like a comprehensive commentary, read Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible.
7. Scripture Memorization Resources
In studying the Bible, our hope is that God’s Word will hide away in our hearts. What better way to ensure that happens than to be proactive in memorization! Something as simple and inexpensive as Scripture note cards are an excellent Bible memorization tool; tape them to your bathroom mirror, place them in your purse, or lean them up against your desk at work. There are several good mobile apps and websites nowadays for memorizing the Bible, including YouVersion, Fighter Verses, and Bibleminded. Also, encourage your friends, family members, or small group to memorize an entire Psalm; you’ll be surprised how similar it is to memorizing music, and it’s a great way to hold each other accountable.
8. Paper and Pen
Last, but certainly not least, is the good ‘ole paper and pen. It would be a travesty to study the Bible, read commentaries, engage with devotionals, and memorize Scripture without ever recording your thoughts, convictions, and prayers. Author Tony Reinke once said, “We don’t read to read; we read to think.”2 Writing down what God is teaching us through the revelation of his Word will not only help us to process through and apply truth at present, it will encourage us in the future when we revisit our notes. Use a blank piece of computer paper, use a Moleskin journal, use a collection of napkins, or use a digital notebook like Evernote – but whatever you do, write and remember!