"We see, in many a land, the proudest dynasties and tyrannies still crushing, with their mountain weight, every free motion of the Consciences and hearts of men. We see, on the other hand, the truest heroism for the right and the greatest devotion to the Truth in hearts that God has touched. We have a work to do, as great as our forefathers and, perhaps, far greater. The enemies of Truth are more numerous and subtle than ever and the needs of the Church are greater than at any preceding time. If we are not debtors to the present, then men were never debtors to their age and their time. Brethren, we are debtors to the hour in which we live. Oh, that we might stamp it with Truth and that God might help us to impress upon its wings some proof that it has not flown by neglected and unheeded." -- C.H. Spurgeon . . . "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31, 32 . . . . . Our Website is UNDER CONSTRUCTION, please be patient!



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Understanding the meaning of observations requires interpretation. Think of Sherlock Holmes who points out the various clues to Dr. Watson and police from Scotland Yard – they see the same clues that Sherlock does, but they don’t know what it means, and the great detective must interpret the meaning of these clues to them. The ultimate goal of interpretation is to understand the meaning of something, and we want to discover what the authors, influenced by the Holy Spirit, of the books of the Bible meant when they wrote the Scripture.

2 PET 1:20-21
20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost

2 TIM 3:16-17
16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works

While there may be many different aspects to any portion of Scripture, and a lot of content to interpret, there really aren’t many different interpretations of Scripture; according to the verse above in PETER, there is only one interpretation – that’s the one that God intended by what He inspired men to write down for Him. The Word of God is provided for us to equip and prepare us, straighten us out when we need it, teaches us truth, shows us right from wrong – would any of this be possible if there was no way to know for sure what the truth found in the Bible really is (as so many liberal pastors and Emergent leaders want us to believe – they teach that there is no way to really know truth in any absolute sense)?
Since God’s Word is definite, then there is a definite interpretation to the truth that it reveals to us!


The purpose of interpretation is to find out what the Bible means objectively, to find the truth it conveys so we can accept it humbly and apply it. The Bible is not hard to understand: you don’t need a seminary degree, or know Hebrew or Greek (although, with concordances, we can learn key words in original languages and this is very helpful at times), or attend a Bible college. What we need is the Holy Spirit to teach and guide us, the Scriptures themselves and some useful tutoring as we are receiving in this course.
With interpretation, there must be an understanding of language and how it is used as well as the context of history in which the Scripture was originally written:

The Bible employs certain usage of words just as any other book, and one of these types of word usage involves metaphor. Not everything in the Bible is true in a literal sense: Jesus said, “I am the door” – does that mean He has hinges and a door knob, and can swing back and forth? He is using a metaphor – a comparison between the thing referred to (a door) and a literal truth that the speaker (Jesus) is trying to teach. He is teaching that just as you use a door to get from one place to another through that single opening, likewise anyone who wants to get through to the Father, has to go through Jesus (JOHN 14:6); He also said that He is “the bread of life” – does that mean that He is a loaf of ground grain mixed with yeast and backed? No, he is saying metaphorically that He provides sustenance for our spiritual life the same way that bread does for our physical life.

We must pay attention to grammar because it often becomes a favor in accurate interpretation; grammar involves verbs tenses, questions, commands, subjects and objects. These elements determine the structure of language and are important in determining what is being said, exactly.

JOHN 8:56-58
56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad. 57 Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? 58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am

The way we use grammar correctly, if Jesus wanted to say He lived before Abraham’s time, He should have said, “I was before Abraham” but He didn’t. He said “Before Abraham was, I am” – what does His use of grammar tell us?
Not only that Jesus is the eternal Son of God (because He said “I am” not “I was” or “I will be” – but I am: existing beyond the past, the present and the future. This also tells us that He is claiming to be the voice from the burning bush; the God of Israel Who spoke to Moses! Later on when Jesus said the same kind of thing “I and the Father are one”, the religious leaders wanted to stone Him because He claimed to be God. And we get all of this from the one word, “am” instead of “was” or “is” or “will be”.

The Bible was written in specific historical time periods; attitudes, setting, lifestyle and political structure of a certain time will affect the meaning of a passage.
For example, we talked about Jesus being the bread of life. During the time period of the Roman occupation of Israel, bread was not a side dish, but the main source of sustenance! So Jesus in referring to Himself as THE Bread of life, would have been understood by His hearers to mean that He isn’t something to add to your life to make it better, that you needed Him in order to have and sustain life!
Consider the historical and religious perspective found in this passage:

JOHN 19:4-9
Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him.
Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man! When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him. The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God. When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid; And went again into the judgment hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer

Pilate was confused about Jesus – why were the religious leaders so intent on having Him executed, when He was obviously, according to his own findings, innocent (vs.4). But when the Jews said that Jesus made Himself out to be the Son of God, Pilate became very fearful (vs.7-8).

Pilate wasn’t a Jew but a pagan Roman – why would he be afraid if Jesus claimed to be the Son of God?
In Roman culture, as well as most ancient cultures, their religion held the belief of the pantheon of the gods, and as well as these, the demi-gods, who were half god/half man beings that the gods conceived with human females. They referred to them as ‘sons of gods’.

And when Pilate became fearful, he went back to Jesus and asked in verse 9, “Where did you come from?” He suspected that Jesus was one of these demi-gods, according to his own religious views – and he wouldn’t want Him killed and possibly angering one of the gods!
So, because we understand a bit about the Roman culture and religion, we know why Pilate was very afraid!


So far, we have learned how to set up questions, use them to probe certain passages and make observations. Now we will determine what these observations mean; this is where the interpretive step begins!

Even though the Observation chart, and a list in an Interpretation Sheet which we will get into next are separate and distinct from each other as steps, and forms for you to fill out, in actual practice however, the steps will tend to blend, in time you may not even be conscious of them as separate steps – observation will begin to flow easily into interpretation. 

Much of our observation has interpretation built into it: for example, when we were making observations about Nicodemus and asked, “What is a Pharisee?” – that is actually an interpretive question because it’s going to cause you to seek out answers that will help us interpret who Nicodemus was. We won’t find a lot of information in the Bible itself about what a Pharisee is, which means we will have to look elsewhere – a Bible dictionary or encyclopedia, or even a web-search online. Many of the observations that had to do with history will also require getting answers outside of the Bible.

It’s often better, during the observation process, when you encounter such questions that will require interpretive answers, that you get those answers then before you go on to make other observations of the text.

Interpretation builds on the foundation of observation. If you observe what the Bible says and bring all these observations together, you can interpret more accurately – the greater the quality of your observation, the more accurate the interpretation.

Recording your interpretations will not require a chart, because you will only have “Interpretation” written at the top, record the verse you are interpreting, and then write down all of your interpretation based on the Observation chart. You can use simple stationary paper for this Interpretation Sheet. Later you will refer to this sheet for your interpretations of passages and words when you make your Final Outline.

LET THE BIBLE INTERPRET FOR YOU – Using the Bible as a Resource:

I have said it so many times before: when engaged in studying any of the 66 books of the Bible, the best commentaries you can use are the other 65 books of the Bible! In other words, let the Bible interpret itself. You do this by looking for passages and references elsewhere in Scripture that you are studying in any given location in the Bible.
You don’t find a single chapter in the Bible where we learn everything we need to know about grace, or holiness, or salvation – or about the history of Israel – or the teachings of Jesus; you find multiple chapters throughout different locations in Bible that addresses all the subjects that the Word of God teaches us.

This is where cross references come in: any verse you are reading, will have cross references in the margin that direct you to other passages in the Bible that deals with the subject in that verse. Each reference that you look up will allow you to look deeper into the truth of Scripture and add information to the passage you are studying. The more references you look up, the clearer will be your understanding, and the interpretation you will form will be more accurate. 

In astronomy, scientists talk about the resolving power of their telescopes. If you have a less powerful telescope, it will have a low resolving power; a more powerful telescope will have a high resolving power. If you have a less powerful telescope, you may look at a star and think that it’s all by itself. A more powerful telescope will reveal that it’s actually two stars. A more powerful telescope still will allow you to see that it’s actually a star and an orbiting planet.

The power of cross-referencing is in its authority. Since you are allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture, you can depend on the correctness of your findings. By this method, you will begin to see the meaning of the Bible begin to unfold.

The usual method of cross-referencing is to begin with the big picture and narrow it down to specifics. You begin by looking at the questions you raised from your observations and record your interpretations on yet another chart! This is your Cross-Referencing Chart.
There are many resources you can use to acquire cross-references; most Bibles will have at least some in the margin or center column of the page. Study Bibles such as a Thompson Chain, a Life Application or a Scofield are all excellent choices. Some online source you could use are www.biblehub.com or www.blueletterbible.org or www.e-sword.net/. You can also use an incredible resource called Treasury of Scripture Knowledge both in book form and more recently, online (www.tsk-online.com/). This is literally a book full of cross-references! It covers the entire Bible, and as you turn to the first page, you see

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth

Then you will see a list of cross-references that have to do with the beginning, starting with PROV 8:22-24; 16:4; MARK 13:19; JOHN 1:1-3 and more, all having to do with the beginning of creation.

Then you will see a list of cross-references that have to do with God such as EXOD 20:11; 31:18; 1 CHRON 16:26 and so on. The entire Bible is laid out in this book like this. Each verse is listed with key words following, then with cross-references that deal with those key words! Amazing!

Another powerful resource is a concordance (many are available online) – I like to use STRONG’s Concordance (see a quick video at this link on how to use this tool) because it’s the most well-known, and many other resource books are keyed to it. I have said it many times, that if I could take with me just two books on a deserted island with me, they would be my Bible and my STRONG’s Concordance! The following is a link where you can read through the process of how this is used.

With a concordance you can locate any verse in the Bible if you know just a couple of words in the verse (locating them is especially easy with the online concordances). Once located, the concordance will tell you what the word used for it in the original language, what the original word means, and elsewhere in Scripture where that word appears.

Let’s say you want to do a word study on “grace” or “atonement” – or a study on a geographical place in the Bible, like “Jerusalem” or “Galilee” or “Hebron” – or you want to a biographical study on “Noah” or “Abraham” or “David” or “Peter” or “Paul” – using a concordance will track down every reference in the entire Bible where these words or names are used.

By the time you complete your listing of all the verses that mention these, and read through those Scriptures – you will have a complete view of everything that the Bible has to say about these things! 

A good companion tool that works well with STRONG’s is a VINE’S EXPOSITORY Dictionary which will give you the definition of specific words used in Scripture and provides information, insight, history that deals with those words. There are some STRONG’s that combine its information with the ‘best of Vines’ incorporated right into the book.

Bible Encyclopedias (such as ZONDERVAN’s PICTORAL ENCYCLOPEDIA – available as an e-book, as are most of these other resources) can also be a tremendous help in unlocking important information about the Bible and all of its subject matter. The nice thing about these reference materials is that you can use as many – or as few – as you want, depending on how much time you have, and how much you want to learn about the Bible, whether in all of its details or a simple and practical application on how to live life as a disciple of Christ.

Another resource you might like to use is comparing how verses are expressed in different translations, comparing them with each other (KJV, NKJV, NASB, ESV, etc.) – be advised however that not all translations are equally accurate in their translation.

We’ll use JOHN 3 for this exercise. In this verse we have the word “Pharisee” that we’ve already spent a little time with, so let’s start here. Where else are Pharisees discussed in Scripture? There are times when you may not find any cross-references to “Pharisee” (depending on which study Bible you’re using. You will see a chain cross-reference in Thompson Chain). 
If you don’t find any cross-references to any word in a particular verse, there is always the concordance. What is recommended is that you list all cross-references, and a listing of verses in the concordance that deals with (in our case here) “Pharisees” within the book you are studying first. 

Since we are looking in JOHN 3, list all references and verses about Pharisees in the Gospel of JOHN first, then if you have the time, all of the other books by the same author (1, 2, 3 JOHN and REVELATION and then if you still have more time yet, the other Gospels, and then the remainder of the New Testament.

As you review all of the verses from your cross-references and lists of verses gleaned from your concordance, you will learn quite a lot about Pharisees: they were members of the high council – or the Sanhedrin as it was called (JOHN 11:47); they were strict interpreters of the Law (JOHN 8:3); they didn’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah (JOHN 9:16); many verses show that they were opposed to Jesus and were determined to kill him. 

Every verse that you find about the subject you are cross-referencing will be another piece in the jig-saw puzzle – the more you put into place on your chart, the more complete a picture you will have.

More often than not, if you refer to anywhere from 3 to 6 cross-references from any given verse you’re looking at, this will usually yield sufficient information for your needs in understanding the subject in the verse you are researching. Occasionally you may need to ‘dig deeper’ and look up more verses in your cross-references.

~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~

Below is an example what our cross-reference chart on JOHN 3:1:


“Ruler (of the Jews)”

LUKE 23:13

LUKE 23:35

JOHN 7:26

JOHN 7:48

JOHN 12:42

ACTS 3:17

ACTS 4:5,8

ACTS 13:27

 Relationship with Pilate – two different categories: chief priests and rulers.

Sneered at Jesus

Rulers don’t believe in Jesus

Nicodemus afraid to speak of his relationship with Jesus

Many rulers believe in Jesus – never said so out of fear of the Pharisees who could put them out of the synagogue.

Peter points out that the people acted in ignorance concerning Christ as did their “rulers”.

Two more categories: “elders” and “scribes”. After 500 believed, the rulers and others gathered with the high priest and asked Peter questions.

Paul exhorted the Jewish elders in the synagogue. He states neither the people nor their rulers recognized Christ or His teachings.


Context is another way of allowing the Bible to interpret itself. Rather than following a word or an idea though the Bible (as done with cross-referencing), we stay ‘closer to home’ and consider the word or verse within the passage of Scripture we are studying, considering the verses preceding and following it.
Context can be critically important. Many Bible study errors can be traced to the failure to keeping the context. Choosing verses selectively and ignoring context is a way to make the Bible say anything you want.

Many misunderstandings and misinterpretations can be resolved by considering context. A classic example of this is the subject of faith and works as discussed by both Paul and James. By reading them, some assume that they are in conflict with each other.

In JAMES 2:17 we read that “faith by itself isn’t enough” or “faith without works is dead”. But in GALATIANS 2:16 we read that “faith, not works is the only way to salvation”. So, is this a contradiction in Scripture? It only appears this way because by focusing on just these two verses, outside of their context in JAMES 2 and GALATIANS 2, we are not getting the full picture of what these two authors are saying.

When Paul speaks of faith in GALATIANS, he relates it to justification. Faith in Christ is our means of showing dependence on Him and thus our means of accepting salvation. James on the other hand, is not speaking of justification but rather sanctification – of growing up in the faith, of living the life of a Christian. True faith is not just a declaration of belief but also an attitude of trust which involves not only what we say but also what we do – “talk is cheap. You say you have faith; prove it by what you do.”

So, we understand that Paul and James don’t in fact contradict each other, but that each is dealing with a separate part of our salvation experience.
Here is another example of context – and what is important in context is what is said, and also sometimes what is not said:

JOHN 7:40-53
40 Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet. 41 Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee? 42 Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was? 43 So there was a division among the people because of him. 44 And some of them would have taken him; but no man laid hands on him. 45 Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him? 46 The officers answered, Never man spake like this man. 47 Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived? 48 Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him? 49 But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed. 50 Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,) 51 Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth? 52 They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet. 53 And every man went unto his own house

Note vs. 48: “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him?”

Then notice how Nicodemus responds to that question in vs. 50-51:

50 Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,) 51 Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?

Notice what Nicodemus didn’t say however: he doesn’t mention that he had a private meeting with Jesus at night, listened to what He had to say, and concluded that what He said was true (we know this is the case because of what is said of him and Joseph or Arimathea in JOHN 19:38-40). He and Joseph believed “but secretly because of their fear of the Jews” – but they overcame their fear and boldly asked for the body of Jesus from Pilate, to bury Him. So we can see context is important and reveals things that we might not otherwise see.

1) Choose a word from JOHN Chapter 1 and make a Cross-Reference Chart on it.
2) Select a passage and read the related verses before and after it. Then enter your findings on the Interpretation Sheet.

SEARCHING OUTSIDE of the BIBLE: Using Extra-biblical Resources

The BIBLE will interpret itself. Remember that you can use other sources outside of the Bible to gain even more insight into the Scriptures. We talked already about these: dictionaries, encyclopedias, reference books and concordances. Don’t forget about using atlases (an excellent resource for maps, as well as charts and diagrams is NELSON’s COMPLETE BOOK Of BIBLE MAPSand CHARTS), topical books whose entire subject material will deal with something specific in the passage you are studying.
For example, you may be looking at this passage:

Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man. For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer

You come across verse 2 and it discusses the tabernacle (of Moses) and perhaps you want to get some detailed information about the Tabernacle and its counterpart the Temple (of Solomon) – an excellent book for this is The HOLIEST of ALL – by Andrew Murray, a commentary on the book of HEBREWS and examines all of the parts and aspects of both the Tabernacle and the Temple.


There are many different online sources you can use for your research and finding Scripture for cross-references or examine various biblical topics.

One such online resource is Biblegateway.com and another is blueletterbible.org. I prefer Blue Letter because Bible Gateway has recently endorsed contemplative prayer and certain authors like the late Dallas Willard who promoted it. 

Both sites have virtually every Bible translation in print at your fingertips. Both are word-searchable, meaning that if you can recall two or more words in a single verse, type those in the search engine and you can zero in on all the verses that contain those words. It is also useful as an online concordance – and other research tools, particularly on Blue Letter Bible.

If you are doing your study online, using MS WORD, it’s an easy task to copy and paste scriptures from these sites directly into your document.

For Bible software there are many different programs available; the top six available are as follows (from the following site). Price ranges from as low as $20 to as much as over $10,000 depending on your needs (and the size of your bank account!).

            video presentation
            video presentation
6) iLUMINA GOLD (as mentioned in GUIDE TO UNDERSTANDING YOUR BIBLE) is no longer available directly from Tyndale, but may be purchased by resellers such as this one: 

Each of these has anywhere from 2 or 3 to over a dozen different Bible translations you can utilize, commentaries, encyclopedias, reference materials and more, ranging from the simple to the scholastic. Go shopping and see which one(s) you like best. I can offer no recommendations personally only because I do my studies (for the most part) the old-fashioned way via books – as well as some free online sites (www.blueletterbible.org; have a look at this site and check out all the awesome resources available – FOR FREE!).


From page 63 of chapter Five in the text book (pg. 27 of this manual, SESSION 4) we constructed a chart from JOHN Chapter Four that contrasted Jesus and the Samaritan woman. We made quite a few observations by contrasting these two people, and from those observations we will build our interpretations, which is one step further along in our process of Bible study. We will ask such questions as, “What do these differences mean? How do they affect relationship and communication? Do they create barriers, or are they insignificant?”

In first century Palestine, all of these differences were significant, and each would create a barrier between them, even to the point of making communication at all highly unlikely. Using the ‘surfacer’ of “what?” we can uncover some answers that will aid us in interpretation: “What barrier would this difference create between Jesus and the Samaritan woman?”

To get answers, we can use encyclopedias, study Bible notes, computer software and, or online sites that deal with these specific issues – in this case, an online site that dealt with “Palestinian culture during the days of Jesus” (doing a search on your web browser with these words will yield valuable information).

Here are some answers that Josh McDowell gleaned from various sources mentioned:

1) The fact that the woman was a blatant sinner and Jesus was sinless created a moral barrier. Jews in those days would never stoop to socialize with an adulterer or a prostitute.

2) The fact that she was a woman and He was a man created a social barrier. In Jewish culture men and women did not mix socially even in public, much less in private. That is why the disciples were “astounded” when they returned and found Jesus talking with her.

3) The fact that the woman was a Samaritan and Jesus was a Jew created a racial barrier. The Jews held the Samaritans in low esteem, regarding them as an impure race of Jewish blood mixed with Assyrian and other exiled races and would have nothing to do with them.

4) Being a Samaritan meant that this woman was of the Samaritan religion, which the Jews saw as a corruption of their own Judaism. The Samaritans used only the first give books of the Old Testament as their Bible. They did not worship at Jerusalem as all Jews did, but rather at Mount Gerazim in their own country. This tampering with Scripture and changes to worship caused the Jews to hate the Samaritans obsessively. Thus, there was a religious barrier.

5) The woman lived in Samaria, a country that the Jews disdained since its decimation and resettlement by the Assyrians seven centuries before. So, with their separate nationalities, the woman and Jesus also faced a political barrier.

Son of God, rabbi
Samaritan religion
From Samaria
From Judea


The ultimate purpose in using all of these resources is to gain a greater understanding of the meaning of the Bible. Again: Observation: See it – what does the Scripture SAY. Interpretation: Know/Understand it - what does the Scripture MEAN. 3) Application: Obey/practice it - what does the Scripture APPLY (to my life?).

So the process is, start with the Bible first: let the book of the Bible that you are studying (GENESIS, RUTH, DANIEL, MATTHEW, ACTS, REVELATION) interpret itself. Get all the meaning you can by asking the questions – surfacers – of the verse under consideration. 

Then start linking cross-references (first from the book itself, then from other books by the same author, then the Bible in general). Also remember to look at each verse in context. 

But then you will come to a point where the passage will raise more questions than mere observation can answer. It is at that point you will need to go outside of the Bible and look at other resources to provide, along with what you have gathered so far, an interpretation that will bring understanding.

For example:

11 O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king's cupbearer

There is nothing in this passage that indicates whether a ‘cup-bearer’ was an important position or just a lowly servant. The context will give you some hints but to get into the details, you will need to do a little research into what a cupbearer was in those ancient cultures. A simple web search will offer innumerable links to choose from. Even Wikipedia will provide some excellent information on this! 

Start first with the Bible, glean from outside sources any information you can find that is useful, then return to the Bible with that information. In developing your own outlines and charts with information you are learning, you will discover that in many resources (online and in books) you will find such charts and outlines already made. One might ask the question, Why make my own when I can borrow others that have already done the work?

Two reasons:

First, you want your material to be your own. If you depend only on the work of others without doing your own digging, the knowledge doesn’t sink in as deeply. It’s when you do the work, the research, ask the questions, that the information becomes your own property that the knowledge sticks. Plus by winning the information for yourself, you will be far more able to answer questions of those you are teaching, than if you just echo the words from another.

Second, if you do the work yourself, all of your exposition (information that you will teach) will be uniquely yours. With the aid of the Spirit you will likely have insights that no one else has. Your teaching will be fresh and never dull or dry – having just read it in a book and then cough it up for others to hear.

I learned a long time ago, that when it comes from resources outside of the Bible, where your own study is concerned, “glean, don’t lean”. In other words, pick up jewels from this source and that, but don’t carry everything from those sources and make that the study you will present.


1) Find a key word in JOHN 1 and define it. Place that definition on your Interpretation Sheet.
2) Read a selected section of JOHN 1 in two different translations and a paraphrase. Record any interpretive insights you glean on your Interpretation Sheet.
3) Using an encyclopedia (online or not) and look up the word you defined above and record anything significant on your Interpretation Sheet.

SESSION SIX: YOUR FINAL PRODUCT: Outlining Your Bible Study Findings

Once you have all your preliminary charts and completed assignments, you will have several pages of material. But it’s still is not in any useful order. It’s like preparing a dinner for guests. You’ve been to the grocery store, bought all the items you will need to complete the menu.

But it’s all just flour and eggs, meat, vegetables, canned goods, and spices, along with everything else. You’re not going to set these things down on the dining table and tell your guests to eat up! The dinner engagement cannot happen until you take these items, prepare and cook them, set everything in order so that they will not only be nutritious and appetizing, but ready to eat!

The ‘grocery items’ that you have ‘bought’ in your examination of the Scriptures are now in need of setting in order, prepared so that your hearers will be able to ‘spiritually dine’ on the meal you have prepared for them.

To set things in order, you will need an outline: you can either create one of your own OR you can use one that’s already established – find any study Bible and look at the portion of Scripture that your own study is based on. There you will find (either in the introduction of the book) or in the Chapter heading, an outline. Either way will work: it’s just that if you borrow an outline, you want to fill in all the material from YOUR OWN research.


To outline a chapter, you will need to determine how many subjects or themes are covered in that chapter. Some chapters have only one subject, while others have several. The process of points made in outlining a passage will be determined by the passage itself. Those points should develop along the natural progressing of the passage. Two principles in helping to outline a passage is as follows:

1) Never try to force a topic into an outline that you don’t find within the passage – a topic you might have discovered in cross-references or in research from sources other than the Bible itself.

2) As you construct your outline, you may use the chapter or section titles from your charts as the titles in your outline.

Here is an illustration (follow along with the chart found on page 118 in the book, and here below [on page 45]):

JOHN 1:1-18
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.

That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. 11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not. 12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. 15 John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. 16 And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. 18 No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

In the observation charts, Josh McDowell listed four major points that came from his study of this passage, using his Observation chart:

Point One: JOHN 1:1-5 – The Word is Christ, Who is God. God Who is from the beginning Who created the world. So, on the outline, the first heading could be “The Word – The Uncreated Creator.”

Point Two: JOHN 1:6-8 – The next heading, using his Observation chart, he refers to John the Baptist; so, on the outline, the second heading could be “Forerunner of the Word”.

Point Three: JOHN 1:9-13 – Here the heading, based on the Observation chart, the third heading could be “Results of the Word Made Flesh”.

Point Four: JOHN 1:14-18 – The last heading could be “Characteristics of the Word Made Flesh”.

Using these four major points, you can then go back to your Observation and Interpretation Sheet for subjects to ‘fill in the blanks’ under these headings: The Word – the Uncreated Creator, Forerunner of the Word, Results of the Word Made Flesh and Characteristics of the Word Made Flesh.

From Josh’s Observation and Interpretation on JOHN 1, he observed the following information in vs. 1-5 and used these to fill in the blanks under Point One as subdivisions under each point.
God as A) Eternally Existing, B) Eternal Source (of all things) and C) Eternal manifestation and he placed all of these three observations under “The Word – the Uncreated Creator” 
(JOHN 1:1-5).

Then he looks for logical topics from all the charts that should be placed under these three subdivisions (A-C). He finds all the material from his Observation and Interpretation notes and places them under A, B and C accordingly. For any subdivision, if there are no notes (Josh didn’t have any for “Eternal manifestation (C)” so he just leaves that blank.

He then looks to the next point, Point Two: “Forerunner of the Word” and again consults his charts and finds a basic question prompts the answer that he needs “Who was the Forerunner of the Word?” From vs. 6 in his notes he sees “John the Baptist – a man sent by God” so he places this as a sub-topic under Point Two (A: John the Baptist – a man sent by God).

The question then arises – Why: Why was John sent by God as a forerunner? So as another subdivision would be B: Purpose and finds the answers in vs. 7-8 from his notes: 1) “He came to tell about the Light” and also 2) “so that everyone might believe”.

The important thing to remember is to begin with the big idea found in the section of Scripture, then divide it up into sub-divisions and sub-topics until you find a useful place for all the important information found in your Observation and Interpretation notes.

Two cautions: First, when you create a heading based on a certain set of verses, all the subdivided information you place under that heading must be information derived from those verse.
For example, for the first point “The Word – the Uncreated Creator” which covers vs. 1-5, all the subdivisions break down things about “The Word” – “Eternally Existing”, “Eternal Source” and “Eternal Manifestation” – none of these describe anything except for what deals with the first point: The WORD.

Second, if you only have one subtopic to go under a heading, you can just list this under the heading without numbering it. The numbers/letters are useful if you have two or more subtopics that fit under the heading.

WITNESS of the WORD Made FLESH  (JOHN 1:1-18)
I. The WORD – The Uncreated Creator (vs. 1-5)
            A. ETERNAL EXISTENCE (vs. 1-2)
1. Divine nature (vs. 1)
2. Since the Beginning (vs. 2)
            B. ETERNAL SOURCE Of CRATION (vs. 2-4)
1. Material World (vs. 3)
2. Life (vs. 4)
            C. ETERNAL MANIFESTATION (light; vs. 5)
II. FORERUNNER Of The WORD (vs. 6-8)
            A. WHO? A MAN SENT BY GOD (vs. 6)
            B. PURPOSE? (vs. 7-8)
1. Bear Witness of the Light (7a,8)
2. For all the world to believe (7b)
            A. NEGATIVE (9-11)
1. Enlightens Every Man (vs. 9) BUT –
2. Rejected by men (vs. 10-11)
      a. by the world (vs. 1)
      b. by His own (vs. 11)
B. POSITIVE (vs. 12-13)
1. Children of God by believing (vs. 12)
2. Of God, not of men (vs. 13)
            A. ONLY BEGOTTEN OF THE FATHER (vs. 14)
            B. GREATER RANK THAN FOREFUNNER (vs. 15)
            C. CHANNEL OF GRACE AND TRUTH (vs. 16-17)

A Key Word Study – Depending on how much time you want to allocate to your study, you might consider doing a study on any key words found in the passage or chapter of Scripture you are analyzing. The word Josh used as an example is “water” as found in JOHN 3:3,5.

He consulted his cross-reference chart and examined what he recorded on “water” and found that there were four basic headings:
INTERPRETATION Outline of “Water” JOHN 3:3,5
Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God

I. Water
     A. Symbolic – not always literal
            1. Word (EPH 5:26)
            2. Eternal Life (JOHN 4:14; 7:36-39)
            3. Holy Spirit (JOHN 7:39)
     B. Use of water: Washing (EPH 5:26; HEB 10:22)
II. Word
     A. Symbolic
            1. Seed (1 JOHN 3:9)
            2. Sword of the Spirit (EPH 6:17)
     B. Use
            1. Cleansing (EPH 5:26; JOHN 15:3; PSALM 119:9-10)
            2. Sanctify (JOHN 17:17; 1 PET 1:2; 1 COR 6:11)
            3. Quickens (“brings to life”; PSALM 119:50; HEB 4:12)
            4. Works in the believer (1 THESS 2:13)
III. Spirit
      A. Quickens (JOHN 6:26)
      B. Sanctifies (1 PET 1:2)
          - via the Word (JOHN 17:17; 1 COR 6:11)
     C. Gives life (JOHN 6:63)
IV. Born Again
     A. Water (JOHN 3:5)
     B. Spirit (JOHN 3:5)
     C. Word (JOHN 1:13; 1 COR 4:15; JAMES 1:15,18; 1 PET 1:23)
     D. Seed (1 PET 1:23; 1 JOHN 3:9)

Word study outlines can be very crucial to understanding the interpretation of any passage, and especially in examining their meaning in the original Hebrew (Old Testament) or Greek (New Testament), the languages that the inspired Scriptures were written in (You can do this research by using a STRONG’s Concordance – or other concordance that has Hebrew and Greek lexicons). For example, consider the following:

JOHN 21:14-17
14 This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.
15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.
16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep

Reading this conversation between the LORD and Peter in the English, it would seem the reason Peter was grieved, is because the LORD kept asking him if he loved Him, even though he already stated that this was the case. By the third time, Peter was grieved and insisted that he loved the LORD.

It isn’t until you consider the Greek words used here for “love” that we understand what was really happening here.

The LORD asks Peter in vs. 15: “Simon do you love Me more than these?” The Greek word used here for “love” is agapeo and it is a high moral, unconditional love that is the characteristic of God’s love for us. Essentially, the LORD was asking Peter if he loved Him just as our LORD loved him.

Peter’s response in vs. 15: “Yes, LORD, You know that I love You…” But the word in the Greek that Peter uses here is phileo, which means “a fondness for a friend; this word while speaking of genuine love is not as deep, passionate and committed as is agapeo. Peter was admitting that his love for His LORD was not the same quality as the LORD’s love for him.

It was then that the LORD asked Peter the second time, “Do you agapeo me?”
Peter replies, “I phileo You.”

By the third time, the LORD asks Peter, “Do you phileo Me, Peter?”

Peter was grieved because the LORD stepped down from the loftier form of love, agapeo, to the mere friendship love in asking him, if he loved Him. Peter said, “You know that I phileo You, LORD.”

Unless you examined the Greek words used in this passage, you wouldn’t have known what was really going on here.

Word studies are also very helpful for topical studies you might want to conduct in the Scriptures; this is where your concordance is a very powerful tool to use. Suppose you want to do a character study on a particular person in the Bible; like Abraham or Jacob or Joseph – or Moses, or perhaps the prophet Samuel or King David; or Peter or Paul.

You could turn pages in the Bible and look for those names, but that would take a very long time. But by looking those names up in an exhaustive concordance (not a concise version), it will list for you every place in Scripture where those names appear. More often than not, the concordance will also provide you with the meaning of those names, which is often significant.

What about a geographic study in the Scriptures? Suppose you want to do a study on Jerusalem, or Bethlehem or Damascus – or Babylon, Ur or Hebron? Again, you can track down every place in Scripture where these locations are mentioned, and by the time you’re done, you will have a complete history lesson from the Bible on that particular place! And the meaning of the place name as well.

Suppose you want to do a doctrinal study on some word that is essential to the Christian faith: such doctrinal words like grace, faith, atonement, love, propitiation, baptism, impute, etc. Once again, all you need to do is look up those words in your concordance, track down every where those words appear in Scripture, examining how they are used in context, and you will have a complete and comprehensive understanding of what God’s Word says about those essential doctrinal words!

You could then use a Bible Encyclopedia for additional information on any character, geographic and doctrinal word study of your choice to fill in even more details.


The process of Bible study is completed for the purpose of seeing and knowing content (Observation) and what it means (Interpretation). Before proceeding, let’s get a quick overview, and as we do, note how we go from the general to the specific; going deeper and becoming more detailed with every step. This method keeps what you learn in context, helping you to group and organize material for greater clarity and focus.

Chapter Titles: These are the ‘big handles’ to help us grasp and recall the content of each chapter. We capture chapter titles at the top of each column of our Title Chart.

Paragraph Titles: We titled the paragraphs within each chapter as smaller handles to help us grasp the content of each section of the chapter. We capture paragraph titles in the column below the appropriate chapter title of our Title Chart.

Observation: Next, we engage in the process of simple observation to learn how to see the content of a passage. As aids to observation, we applied the six basic or surfacer questions: Who, What, When, Where, How and Why? Then we asked the twelve relationship questions to further aid in our observation. We recorded our observations on an Observation Chart. In observation we were little concerned with what a passage means; at this point, we were primarily interested in seeing what is actually there.

Interpretation: In this step we looked at the basic principles of interpretation before beginning to seek the meanings of the observations we recorded in our observation step. The process of interpretation led us into the next two major steps involved in finding these answers – cross-referencing Bible passages and researching outside sources.

Cross-Referencing: This was our first step into interpretation – seeking the meaning behind our observations. We looked for answers from the Bible, learning to follow references until we found what the Bible had to say in other places about the subject in question. We also considered context as a means of determining what the Bible itself had to say on a given subject. We recorded our answers on a Cross-Reference Chart.

Extra-biblical Research: The next step in interpretation was to go outside of the Bible and find answers to our interpretation questions by researching other resources like general dictionaries, Bible dictionaries, Bible encyclopedias, commentaries, topical books, atlases, word studies, online resources and computer software. We entered all our findings on an Interpretation Sheet.

Outlining: The culmination of all our Bible study and chart making was our outline. The outline organized the material we gleaned into a logical form we can use as a teaching or study resource.

The entire Bible study process introduced here is designed to help you understand the content and meaning of the Bible. The resulting outline is a fine tool for further study, memory and teaching. This process that produced this outline – all the reading, digging, referencing, thinking, charting, researching and outlining – has value in itself. The whole process puts you deeply into the Word, and as you work, you begin to see things, have insights, the progression of through, how things fit together, relationships between books of the Bible, doctrines, Bible people and histories that you never saw before. Even if you never touch your outline again, you have lodged in your mind a new and greater understanding and appreciation for God’s message to you.

1. Find a key word in JOHN 4 (or other Chapter) and from your charts, make a word outline.
2. Look at your charts and find the chapter or section of a chapter on which you made the most complete notes. Do a passage outline of this section.

This is the end of Sessions 5 and 6; Sessions 7 and 8 will be added as soon as I can complete them as of 12.12.17
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