Look for Meaning
If you were to travel across the country, what method of transportation would allow you to see the most? Airplane, Train, Car, or Walking? The answer is the slowest method.
It’s the same thing when it comes to the study of the Bible. When we slow down we tend to see more. Our goal should be to think about the meaning of the words we just read. What do they mean? What did the author intend to convey?
As we read we consider the words themselves. Are there any words you aren’t familiar with? If so, look them up in an English dictionary. Even if you are familiar with the words, you might consider looking them up also. In addition, we might look the words up in a Bible dictionary. This is where we use a Bible concordance to look up a word and find where it appears in other places of the Bible. We learn more from the context and how the word is used repeatedly elsewhere in the Bible.
During the Interpret part of an inductive study, we concentrate on the context of the words. How were the words put together? What do the words mean when placed in a certain section of Scripture. You must learn to check the context of this verse before accepting that it applies to the verse you’re studying when instructed to look up a verse from the Bible that may relate to the verses you are studying. This is called cross-referencing. There are a couple techniques to help you figure that out.
The first way to check is by making sure the word being referenced is the same word in the original language. We do this by using a Bible concordance and dictionary.
Let’s try this by looking up the word “love” taken from Ephesians 1:4. We find the word “love” has a Strong’s reference number of G26. When we look up G26 in a Greek dictionary we find the original Greek word is “agape” which means love, affection or benevolence; specifically (plural) a love-feast: charity, feast of charity, charitably, dear, love.
Let’s check a few other verses to see if the word “love” is of the same root word.
Looking at 1 Thessalonians 4:9 we see it has a Strong’s reference number of G5360. When we look up G5360 in the Greek dictionary we find the original Greek word is “philadelphia” meaning fraternal affection, brotherly love (kindness), love of the brethren.
Based on these two definitions above, does 1 Thessalonians 4:9 sound like the same word used in Ephesians 1:4? No. It doesn’t sound the same because it isn’t. We might miss additional meaning if we only look at the English words. This is why we should look up the original language meaning in our cross-reference study.
Now looking at Galatians 5:6 we see it has the same Strong’s reference number G26 which means this verse uses the same original word for “love” as Ephesians 1:4. These two verses may possibly be relating to the same topic, which brings us to the second technique to compare context.
The second technique to determine the context of relating Scriptures involves looking up each verse in the Bible and reading what comes before and after the verse we are investigating. Read enough of the surrounding Scripture to determine the context of the verse being studied.
Start with Ephesians 1:4 to understand its context by reading Ephesians 1:3-6. We see the word “love” is used as Paul describes how God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ blessed us, chose us to be holy and blameless before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ and ultimately made us acceptable in the Beloved.
Next we turn to Galatians and read Galatians 5:1-10. Paul encourages the Galatians to stand fast in the liberty by which Christ has made us free and don’t get entangled again in the yoke of bondage. We fall away from grace when we attempt to be justified by law. For through the Spirit we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails much, but faith working through love does what we need.
In both Ephesians and Galatians verses we see “in love” and “through love” are the corresponding phrases. Both of these phrases come from God alone. We cannot bring these conditions about on our own. We were chosen by Him, we didn’t choose to become part of God’s family. We are made righteous by Him, because we can’t make our self righteous by anything we do or not do. Even our faith comes from Him. Faith is a gift from God, not something we create.
So to recap, we want to look for the meaning of the words. We want to verify the same root word from original language is used in our cross references. We want to read enough of the surrounding verses to understand the context of the cross reference to ensure it is in alignment with the Scripture we are studying.
Does this make sense?