Studying the Bible can be a daunting task. Even knowing where to begin in your study can be overwhelming. There is an entire field of academic study devoted to studying the Bible and many people spend their entire lives studying just a single area of Scripture. How then is a person who has a family, a job, and countless responsibilities ever going to grow in his relationship with Jesus Christ or become a better student of God’s Word? You already know that a knowledge of God’s Word is vital to your spiritual growth. The knowledge is a means to an end, God the Holy Spirit transforms you by His Word. God has specially called people who have not just devoted their lives so that you would know more about the Bible, but so that you would know the God of the Bible more. There are countless Bible tools that have been prepared by those who have devoted their lives to help you study the Bible. Here are some of those tools that you may probably didn’t know existed.
Bible Handbook – A Bible Handbook is kind of like a one stop shop in Bible study. A Bible Handbook is designed to give you a broad overview of Scripture in a single volume. In this, you will find introductions to the biblical books, commentaries, charts, maps, and helpful articles presented in a broad and concise way. A Bible Handbook is designed to be the first place that you go to get your feet wet in your study. If you are teaching a lesson from an unfamiliar book or passage, a Bible Handbook will help you understand quickly the context and circumstances of the passage’s writing. This is very valuable for every student of the Bible. Wilmington’s Bible Handbook and the Holman Bible Handbook are both great examples of this helpful tool.
Different Levels of Commentaries – A Bible Commentary is the teaching of an individual on a book, a division of a book, or even a passage of a book from the Bible. Not all Bible Commentaries are created equal and they were never meant to be. Bible Commentaries range from the compilation of notes from a pastor’s sermon to very narrow scholarly works. They can be very broad, common and approachable, to very narrow, precise and extremely technical.
The most technical commentaries are going to be written by people who are experts in their area of study and most often they’re not the most well-known or popular authors. An expert in this field is going to be someone with credentials from trusted institutions that has actually put in the time to learn his craft. Although a Pastor can be extremely helpful, imagine the difference between a General Practitioner and a Specialist. Your General Practitioner is a very educated, skilled professional, but a Specialist has devoted his life to the study of a single area, system or organ of the body. This is much like the difference between a trained pastor and Bible Scholar. These scholarly volumes are going to be very narrow, limited to a single book or a single portion or passage of a book and will utilize language that is unfamiliar except to the most serious of students. These are the types of works that are utilized when doing the most serious of studies and will expose the student to the most minute details. Some examples of these scholarly commentaries are: The New International Commentary on the Old Testament; The New International Commentary on the New Testament; The New American Commentary; The Expositor’s Bible Commentary.
Maybe you desire to more deeply study God’s Word but you are just getting started. You are going to want to look at reliable yet approachable commentaries. I didn’t really start to follow Jesus until I was around 18 years old, and I knew very little about the Bible. Although I knew very little about the Bible, I had a great desire to learn. I happened upon a two-volume set of commentaries, the Liberty Annotated Bible Commentary (Now Published as the King James Bible Commentary). These commentaries were originally published by the Religion faculty of Liberty University and were written with the layman in mind. I devoured those commentaries. I trusted the authors, many of them were my college professors and I could understand what they wrote. I spent five hours a day reading these commentaries and I learned so much and believe that God used these commentaries to grow me immensely. These commentaries are helpful for the beginning Bible student or to give the reader a very basic understanding of the passage. Some examples of these layman commentaries are: The King James Bible Commentary; The Bible Knowledge Commentary; Matthew Henry’s Commentary; Warren Wiersbe’s “Be” series
The final area of commentaries are those pastoral sermons that have been turned into commentaries. These commentaries are usually a bound sermon series. They are helpful for light study and devotional purposes. These commentaries are usually published by well known preachers who are engaging and popular. These popular works, which makeup much or what is read among Christians today, have their place but as believers we must keep growing. Placing such works in this category is not a criticism of their work or skill, it’s a recognition of who they are and their intent. Some of the greatest pastors the world has ever known would fit in this category. Some examples of popular commentaries are going to come from men like: Charles H. Spurgeon; Oliver B. Greene; Charles R. Swindoll; John MacArthur.
Outline Bibles – An outline Bible rarely contains the text of the Bible but rather is an outline of a book or in some cases the entire Bible. These Bibles are helpful in understanding what, in the opinion of the writer, the biblical author was saying. Remember, the biblical author is not writing at random, he has a line of thought. An outline Bible is meant to trace the biblical author’s line of thought. These are helpful in understanding a biblical passage in a flash. A great example of an Outline Bible is Harold Willmington’s Outline Bible.
Bible Guides – There is a name that has appeared in many of the aforementioned examples, Harold L. Willmington. He is a man that many today do not recognize but he was a gift to the average person who wanted to study the Bible more deeply. Dr. Willmington who was known as Mr. Bible, equipped countless men and women with a foundational education in God’s Word be it through his Bible Institute or his Willmington’s Guide to the Bible. His guide is a Bible education in a single volume. It comes in digital or a large green and gold binding that contains multiple reading approaches, outlines and theological teachings that will equip the reader in becoming acquainted with the Bible.
There are so many more tools for Bible study that I could have listed here, but the above are some tools that most don’t realize exist. I would challenge you to purchase some of these tools for your own study. Remember, the goal is not to know more Bible facts, but to become a better student of the Bible, to become better acquainted with its author.