Experiencing the Power of God's WordExperiencing the Power of God's Word
Kathy Dice
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Just as a carpenter needs the right tools to do accurate work, you need certain tools to do fruitful Bible study. This guide will help you learn how to use concordances, dictionaries and other resources. You will practice key study methods....word study, character study and so on... that will reveal the truths of God's Word. With these tools and methods at hand, you will handle God's Word with confidence and anticipation.

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Session 1 - Gathering the Tools
Using basic study tools to understand the meaning of a Bible passage.
Establishing Base Camp

My dad was a self-taught fix-it man. He was forever buying new tools, hammers, multiple kinds of nails, screwdrivers and various screws, wrenches and drills, paint brushes and sandpapers. I would often ask, “Why do you need another tool? Isn’t a hammer a hammer? Why do you need a big one and a little one, a metal one and a rubber one? You spend so much money on tools and they just take up space.”

After my dad’s death several years ago, I inherited his tools. For the past nine years, I have not had to buy any new tools. Whenever there is a need for a home repair or improvement project, I have the necessary tools to complete the work. What a gift to have the tools I need to help me! I just wish I could say thanks to Dad now.

>Think of a time when you needed some kind of tool – hammer, paint brush, paper, pencil, computer and so on. Describe your experiences of having the tool or not having the tool you needed. How could the tool have helped when you didn’t have it, and how did it help when you did have it?

Mapping the Trail

If someone asked you what tools are available for studying the Bible, what would you say?

What tools have you used in your own personal Bible study?

What Bible study tools would you like to know how to use?

Beginning the Ascent

Discuss these descriptions of three basic tools for studying the Bible.

Study Bible: A good Bible will be essential for the purpose of learning the original meaning of the biblical text. You will want a Bible that is a direct and clear translation of the original languages (Hebrew and Aramaic were the languages of the Old Testament; Greek was the language of the New Testament) rather than a paraphrase. Good translations are available in the following versions:
_ New American Standard Bible (NASB)
_ New International Version (NIV)
_ New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
_ New King James Version (NKJV)
_ New Living Translation (NLT)

Paraphrases of the Bible are helpful for easy reading but are not translations from the original texts, and therefore not the best for study purposes. These include:

_ Living Bible
_ J.B. Phillips Modern English Version
_ Today’s English Version
_ New English Bible
_ The Message

A study Bible contains notes from Bible teachers and commentators about the meaning and interpretations of the texts. Usually they have also included applications of the texts to contemporary life. A good study Bible will include cross-reference to various words or thoughts in the verses (on the side of the page or in the center). The notes and comments given in a study Bible are helpful to read – but remember they are not the inspired text; they are the opinions of the teachers and commentators. It will be most helpful for you to make your own discoveries and then read these notes for additional thoughts.

Concordance: A concordance is an alphabetical listing of words used in the Bible along with the verses where those words can be found throughout the Bible. To give you some context, the list of verses usually includes part of the sentence where the word is used.

Many Bibles have a condensed concordance at the back of the Bible. However, for study purposes it may be helpful for you to purchase an “exhaustive concordance,” where you will find every word of the Bible listed and every reference in which that word is found. Exhaustive concordances are published by the same companies that publish the Bibles. Each concordance corresponds to the English translation of the Bible published by that company (such as NASB or NIV).

A good concordance will have in its main section all the English words used in the Bible. It will also have a corresponding Greek and Hebrew section where you will find the original language word, its various meanings and how it was used in the original writing. There will be a numbering system for ease in finding these original language words. Whenever one language is translated into another, some of the original meaning can be lost. Looking at the original language words will enhance your understanding of Scripture.

Look up the word plans in the concordance at the back of your Bible and in an exhaustive concordance. Are the same verses listed in both places?

Read two or three of the verses in their Bible location. Read a few verses before and after your chosen verses to understand the context in which the word plans is found. What do you think each author was trying to say by using the word plans? (Notice some uses are positive and some are negative.)

In the exhaustive concordance notice the number code before or after the reference. Find this number in the language dictionary at the back of the concordance. You will find the original language word and its full meaning. How does this meaning enhance your understanding of the verses in which you find the word plans?

Dictionaries: It is always helpful to have a good English dictionary at hand when you are studying the Bible. When you come across a word you are not familiar with, look it up in the dictionary. Or when you want to know the full meaning of a word and how it fits in a particular passage, look it up in the dictionary for all the meanings of that word.

An expository dictionary of biblical words is another essential tool which will give you more extended definitions of the original word and its means at the time of the writing of the biblical passage. You will also find helpful explanations of various Bible subjects, places and doctrines.

Good dictionaries include the New Bible Dictionary, Eerdman’s Bible Dictionary and New Unger’s Bible Handbook.

Other tools: The previous three tools are the basics for thorough Bible study and understanding. Additional helps will be found in Bible encyclopedias, handbooks and commentaries. It will be most beneficial for you to do your own study before consulting commentaries. They reveal interesting facts, but from the perspective of the author. Your own personal study will let you discover God’s truths rather than relying on someone else’s work. Use commentaries as a final resource to see how your work coincides with theirs.

Gaining a Foothold

Remember every passage in the Bible is surrounded by a context of other verses which give the passage its full meaning. Read the surrounding context of the passage to be studied to fully understand its meaning and purpose. Ask yourself the following questions to get the full picture of the context: Who is involved in this setting – the speaker, the listener, the writer? Who is the passage addressed to? What is being said? Why is it being said? What is the occasion for this passage? Where is this taking place? How does it apply to my life? These questions will lead you to words and thoughts you will want to research with the study tools.


Read 2 Timothy 2:14-15; Romans 15:4; 2 Peter 1:20-21.

What do these passages say to you about studying the Scriptures?

Why is this important to your understanding of Scripture and how it applies to your life?


Choose one or two key words in the above verses that you would like to understand better (such as approved, word of truth, instruction, interpretation). Using a study Bible, concordance and a dictionary, write what you discover about that word.

Reaching the Summit

Briefly review the benefits of using these tools in your study of the Bible. Note how you think each tool will be helpful to you personally.

Study Bible:

Exhaustive concordance:

Expository dictionary:

Other tools:

Next Session

Often reading the how-to instructions of a book, project or game seems tedious, and we would rather like to just dive into the task. Congratulations! You have taken the time to read the instructions. These will be a tremendous help as you proceed through this study guide. The next sessions will concentrate on specific types of Bible study methods in which you will be using these tools. In future sessions we will use various methods for studying the Gospel of John.

In preparation for the next session, read John 1.

Close in Prayer

Pray for one specific need for each member of the group.

Pray for each person in the group by name. Ask God’s help this week as you read John 1 and hear what God might be saying to each one individually.

Study Methods - Experiencing the Power of God's Word by Kathy Dice and Bill Donahue. InterVarsity Press, 2000. Willow Creek Resources. All rights reserved.