Bible Study – Cross Reference (FACTS of Study)

As you progress in your study of scripture you will want to take passages and drill down further into what else the bible has to say on the subject and relative to the statements made within each verse.  As indicated in the previous article if you are reading through the bible and memorizing scripture as you start to meditate on a particular set of verses, a passage, other statements from the Bible will come to mind setting limits and expanding the concept.  But since most of us don’t have the entire bible memorized we can use some help.  Some helpful tools are a good cross reference and a topical reference which may be used in a cross reference study.

The purpose of a cross reference study is to in a sense put a “face” to what has been written.  To better understand what an author is saying we need to establish the foundation from which the author writes; who they are and how they view the world.  Then as we look at what an author says we want to verify our understanding by looking for other statements made by the author that affirm the understanding we get from a particular statement they make.  Next we look for clarification or further details that might fill in gaps in our understanding of what the author is trying to communicate.  Finally we gather these ideas together, resolve differences in our understanding or expand that understanding to form a better more complete understanding.  Let’s call this the FACTS of Bible Study.

  • Foundation – Gather other biblical references regarding the nature of the author, gather other references and external resource information about the context or setting of the text and the characters or subject being written about. Use Cross Reference tools, Commentaries and Topical Tools such as found on the Bible Hub or Open Bible and insights from your own bible reading.
  • Affirmation – Take the gathered references and resources and categorize restatements in support of statements made in the text being studied as affirmations.
  • Clarification – No scripture contradicts another passage but offers clarification. Clarifications can either be qualifications limiting the scope of meaning or application or an expansion of the meaning or scope.  Take the gathered references and resources and categorize Statements on the same topic or point that add more detail or clarity to a particular situation as either a qualification or expansion.  If the cross references deny anything it will be our flawed understanding of a passage, in which case such a denial is a type of qualification.
  • Thesis – Formulate a basic statement of your understanding of the passage being studied.  Gather the facts; context, cross references, restatements and clarifications.
  • Synthesis – combine these points into a more complete understanding resolving issues and expanding the picture the bible is painting.  Formulate a thesis; dissertation or summary on the text being studied.

A cross reference study endeavors to be fair to the author by avoiding the traps of taking statements out of context or jumping to conclusions about what the author is saying.  One statement does not address all aspects of an issue and it is not fair to an author, in our case God, to assume that it does.  One passage of scripture is generally not enough to form a consistent theology.

Any good study bible will have cross references either in the margin or the center column.  Cross references are also available in the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, TSK, available in desk reference form or on such sites as and  Another option is the open bible website which has a topical and a cross reference database which brings together several different sources providing 340,000 cross references.  The cross references are color coded by the degree to which they are similar to the original reference.

Foundation References

The first thing to show is the nature of the characters the first of which is God and the bible.  The table inserted below gives some key passages establishing the nature of God and the Bible.

Natures Reference
Nature of God 1 John 1:5 ESV – This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
James 1:17 ESV – Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
Psalm 90:2 ESV – Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
John 4:24 ESV – God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Colossians 1:17 ESV – And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
Romans 1:19-20 ESV – 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
Nature of Scripture John 17:17 ESV – Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
2 Timothy 3:16 ESV – All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
Hebrews 4:12 ESV – For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Next gather information on the book of the bible and the passage being addressed.  Then determine who was the author being lead by the Spirit and use a topical reference to search for verses about the author and note them.  Identify the place and who is being written to and what is being written about and look these up in a topical reference and note them in a table similar to the one below.  Gather this information on the date, place of writing,  genre (Gospel, Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy, or Epistle) and any other historical notes.  Gather information on the audience that would have been reading the book written.  Finally gather information on any of the characters mentioned in the passage; including their genealogy or any contemporaries related to them and also gather any other biblical references to the characters.

Cross Reference Context Table

Next break the passage down into sets of verses if possible or address each verse on its own.  Gather cross references from some of the resources listed such as the Open Bible, Bible Hub, Study Light or your own study bibles cross references located in the center column or margins.  Also look at the introductions to the book and commentaries on the passages and gather these other references.  Identify topics or major ideas presented in the text and use a Topical Bible to find additional passages which correspond to the passage you are studying.

Affirmation and Clarification References

Once you’ve gathered the references and verses which correspond to the passage your are studying now you need to categorize them. Remember that other passages of scripture hold greater authority than commentaries, introductions, historical context and other peripheral information.  Determine if the reference is either supporting the understanding of the verse or if it is adding more detail to what the verse is talking about and note these separately.  A four column table having the reference, topic or key words, Type(A/Q/E/D) and a cross reference column can be used to capture these verses.  An example is inserted below.  The types are (A)ffirm, (Q)ualify, (E)xpand, and (D)eny remembering that the denial is not of the passage itself but of our understanding of the passage summarized in the thesis (usually due to lack of understanding of the context).

Cross Reference Synthesis Table

Remember, No scripture contradicts another passage but offers clarification usually on specific situations.  If a contradiction seems apparent then the issue may be that the concept or topic being studied has been reduced to a single whole when it needs to be expanded into constituent parts.  This probably sounds difficult but our minds tend to group things that are related or similar into simpler singular concepts so we can remember them better.  As an example there are many that struggle with the law as presented in the old testament versus the new testament yet in the new testament it states that the law shall not pass away and Jesus said that he didn’t come to abolish the law.  But these two testaments seem so different to many of us.  In this case we are considering the law as a whole but if we consider that the law is made up of two parts it becomes easier to understand.  The law is made up of the imperative or pronouncement and secondly of the prescription or prescribed penalty in the event that the imperative is not followed.  When Jesus stood by the woman caught in adultery and said “he who is without sin cast the first stone” he wasn’t changing the law, he wasn’t saying that adultery really isn’t that big of a deal.  He told the woman go and sin no more so the imperative still stands its just the sentencing may vary based upon the circumstances.  Deuteronomy has been accused of being quite harsh and it does seem so in many verses however one has to understand that Deuteronomy 6 stated that the prescribed penalties were to be enforced on Israel as they entered the promised land as the chosen people through whom the Messiah would come.  They were to be held to a higher enforced standard.  Additionally the climate around them was comprised of nations that burned babies in furnaces as human sacrifices to Molech and who practiced temple prostitution, pedophilia, witch craft and other evil practices.  So Israel was called to be God’s hand of judgement on these preceding nations who had corrupted the land.  This is just one example where we have to look more closely when we think we see a contradiction.

Theses and Synthesis

Read each verse and its related references you have gathered and formulate specific statements about what the verse itself is saying.  Formulate other statements about what else the bible has to say on the same topic your verse or set of verses is addressing based on the cross references.  Look at extra-biblical references such as historical narratives of the times the verses were written in and commentaries and write down statements about the what was going on at the time the passage was written.  Also write statements referencing commentaries.

Finally, read through the cross references you have gathered and your summary statements (Theses). Then reread the passage and consider if what you believe a verse is saying is supported by the cross references gathered or if it is denied.  Also as you read passages the combination of specific meaning or denotations form the explicit meaning of the verse but words and phrases also have connotations which lead to possible implied or implicit meanings.  The implied meanings sometimes have significant implications and affects as connotations tend to hit us at a spiritual level but there is also the greatest danger for seeing a meaning which the Bible does not intend to convey.  It is the cross references which can help validate implicit thoughts from a bible passage and either establish them or exclude them from our mind as we read and try hard to understand God’s word.  Then synthesize the information gathered into a thesis summarizing what the verses you are studying say and what else the bible has to say on the topics addressed in the passage.  Write down what you have learned from the passage and what the implications for your life which come from your new understanding of the bible passage your are studying.

Cross Reference Tools

Printable Cross Reference Template


Word Document Cross Reference Template



The Noise of Our Sin

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Matthew 18:10

10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.”

The face that no one can see and live because of His holiness. The burning ones who serve God before the throne cover themselves with extra wings because even they would be consumed by the holiness of God almighty. The face of the all consuming fire. Before that face each child has angels (more than one) who get an audience. And moment by moment these angels come frustrated, weeping before the Father scores upon scores of angels for scores upon scores of children killed in abortion, abandoned or murdered by selfish parents, and a church barely raising a fuss over all of this. The noise of our sin must be such a din.

“It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God”  Hebrews 10:31

Bible Study Basics – ACTS of Study

Consider with me Daniel who was taken into exile in Babylon, away from his country and his family. Daily he prays to God and then we see this, the angel Gabriel comes to him and says:

Daniel 9:23 At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision.

God shows His love for Daniel by sending an angel, Gabrel, to explain his visions. God is saying “I’m letting you in on my plans” some of which he is allowed to write down and others are just for him to hear, words given to him in confidence from God. I sat there and it floored me. God is sharing his deepest plans with Daniel, why… Because you are greatly loved I have come to tell you… Just as Daniel got to hear God’s heart, his desires and feelings, and his plans 40 authors over 2000 years inspired by God were sent to tell you, to let you in on God’s heart and plans, why? For you are greatly loved… Every statement in the bible is packed with power and meaning. I don’t need courage I’ve got something greater when I have His word in my hand. Studying the Bible is every Christian’s privilege and duty.

Even before we get down to reading and study we must establish the most basic foundation. To study God’s word we need ACTS; Affections, Context, Text and Study.

  • Aims & Affections – John 7:17 tells us that our problem with knowing or figuring out what the Bible is saying is not that what the bible tells us is hard to comprehend, our problem with knowing is that we lack the will to do God’s will. Understanding the Bible starts with having the will to do God’s will; our persistent intent and purpose must be to accept God’s will and to do it.  Then Proverbs calls us to treasure knowledge, the next step is to value knowing what God wants to reveal in His Word and will. You have to want it. You have to value it. Yielded; you have to be willing to accept what it says whether you like what it says or not. Pray to have the right spirit.  We must understand that scripture tells us we have a proclivity to rebellion; we have a sinful nature and therefore this does not come naturally.  Through reading, meditation, prayer, worship and (incremental faith based) submission we must trust that the Holy Spirit will bring about change in our aims and affections.

John 7:17-18  If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself. He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who is seeking the glory of the One who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.

John 8:31-32  “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples,  and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 8:43  Why donʼt you understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot accept my teaching.

  • Context – One of the most powerful statements I ever read which just opened up scripture to me was made by J I Packer in “Knowing God”. Packer Said “We feel that we are, so to speak, on the outside of the Bible world, looking in… The sense of remoteness is an illusion which springs from seeking the link between our situation and that of the various Bible characters in the wrong place… epoch, culture, etc… The link between them and us is not found at that level. The link is God Himself. For the God with whom they had to do is the same God with whom we have to do.” I believe knowledge of the cultures and original languages will add to that understanding but I do not believe it will ever turn the meaning around 180 degrees or even 90 degrees for that matter. It may skew it slightly but for all intents and purposes what God wants us to learn we can get from a good, honest translation. The context of the words in scripture will lead to an essential understanding of scripture. The Bible is written for all; it is more significant that it was written from God’s perspective than that it was textualized to ancient Israel. To understand what we are reading; in order of significance we need to consider our own context and objectively identify our wilfullness and then consider literary genre, immediate context, surrounding context and historical-cultural context.
  • Text – The next thing needed is “a good honest translation”. I believe that where a translator cared about preserving God’s word God Himself protected His word and what we have in such translations captures the essential meaning God wishes to communicate. Where the translator sought to capture the fullest meaning versus convey understanding God participated to the preservation of His word. Translations that are dynamic or paraphrase to varying degrees are the take of the translator on what phrases meant to convey or communicate. These translations such as the NLT, NIrV, and even the NIV are a good place to start but a translation that endeavors to preserve connecting words, verb tense and fullest meaning is needed to get to the fullest understanding of what God is saying and ensure we are not just accepting a translator’s mistaken or incomplete understanding. A good critique of translations may be found at Also the chart below is a comparison of reading level and literal accuracy which should help in selecting a text. The scale going down the left side represents the grade level, 3 being third grade, to which the particular version of the bible was translated and the scale across the top represents how closely it is translated word for word, 14 being the closest. (The chart of bible translation reading levels to literal accuracy was the result of analysis of charts and tables from Zondervan, Bible Gateway [1] and Not Just Another Book [2] as well as personal research and experience with these versions.)
Translation Equivalence and Readability

Translation Equivalence and Readability

  • Study – You have to study the bible.   Studying the bible is comprised of three levels of depth:
    • Read – Use reading plans such as Chronological, Sequential, Life Application, and others as well as devotionals and memorization to develop a picture of what scripture is saying at a high level and to acquire and retain Gods word. Between reading and studying you can fill out a book survey making a cursory note of some key words repeated through out the book and write a theme for each chapter.
    • Inspect – From reading one should proceed to meditation in deeper study of what the Word is saying. This high level understanding coupled with the Words of God hidden in the heart is then brought to bear when you seek to understand scripture’s fullest meaning. As we look deeply at a particular passage other passages from Scripture should come to mind placing limits on what the passage may mean while removing other limits allowing the Spirit of God to bring to light further meaning.  Studying then involves stepping through a book passage by passage, re-reading, and using methods of observation that take note of the immediate context and key words to form a deeper understanding of what the Word says.  Methods of study include Inductive Bible Study and Cross Referencing (the bible is its own best interpreter) and topical study tools.
    • Examine – Having achieved deeper levels of understanding and uncovered other possible implications in scripture  methods of exegesis such as key word study,  and proposition or discourse analysis (arcing) can be employed for the deepest levels of study.  The purpose of examination is to ensure that what you understand about a passage of scripture is the correct interpretation and the fullest possible interpretation.

Acts 17:11 – Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

[1]Cook, David L. A Searchable Online Bible in over 100 Versions and 50 Languages

[2]MacDonald, Brent. “NJAB – Comparison Chart of Bible Translations Showing Style or Type of Translation and Readability or Grade Level.” Not Just Another Book: How We Got and Why We Trust the Bible!

In Danger of Being Non-Contenders

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Have We Really Progressed So Much

We proudly look at our home libraries, computers, ebooks and internet and assume that we have progressed so much. But could there be another possibility? The ancient cultures of the bible had a strong oral tradition. What has amazed anthropologists when they analyze recorded oral records is the accuracy with which the accounts have been passed down over centuries. In many cases it is close to the level of transcription errors by scribes of written works.

By age 12 a Jewish boy would have at least the first five books of the bible memorized and in the next five years many would memorize the entire Old Testament. The problem is you don’t know what you don’t know and unless we can associate things with terms to search for we really can’t search these electronic tools necessarily for concepts or examples of such concepts. When Jude calls us to contend for the faith once handed down to us we are actually in greater danger now. We do not have such an oral tradition where the words of the Bible might come to mind when confronted with new ideas or perspectives. What comes to our mind is a limited set of scriptures that we have personally identified with and that match our view of the world. Most of us do not have the pallet of Biblical verses that a 12 year old Jewish boy would have.

When God created man and called His creation good, was Adam then less developed then we are? Did a primitive prehistoric cave man make a willful, sinful choice that condemned us all? Or did God create man with great capacity to understand? We know that necessity is the mother of invention. Could it be that we have digressed instead of progressed? Could it be that maybe we need more crutches like laptops and the internet because our capacities have diminished?

How Can We Progress

Through out John Jesus says I tell you the truth, over and over. The Bible calls us to seek knowledge and when the bible says I tell you the truth then it implies that we can know it and when the Bible says this is hidden until the end then it implies that we can’t know it. John 7:17 tells us that our problem with knowing is not that what the bible tells us is hard to comprehend, our problem with knowing is that we lack the will to do God’s will. Understanding the Bible starts with having the will to do God’s will. Then Proverbs calls us to treasure knowledge, the next step is to value knowing what God wants to reveal in His will.  Thirdly we have to read and memorize God’s word.

John 7:17 If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.

We cannot know all of God almighty but we can know what He chooses to reveal to us and what the Spirit will make real to us if we are in His will in our current circumstance as we face the world being a Child of God under the Lordship of Christ.

Is All Sin the Same?

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Does the Bible say that all sin is the same?  I can’t think of a specific verse which makes this statement so where does this idea come from?  I believe this idea is drawn from several passages.  The first being the Sermon on the mount where Jesus addresses the ideas of justifying one sin because of a similar yet more heinous sin.  The religious leaders had given them instructions but Jesus was contradicting their teaching.  Jesus would say “You have heard that it was said”.  Jesus was essentially saying that its not about finding a way which is convenient for you, the measure is holiness for God said “Be holy because I am holy”.  In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus compares murder to hating your brother and even being angry with your brother.  Jesus seeks to squash justifying sin but does not mean to infer that sins are equally bad or unacceptable. To do so ends up with the same problem; it minimizes sin and opens doors that shouldn’t be open. For example; If I am attracted then why not flirt and since it’s all the same and we are consenting adults then what’s wrong with the next step of adultery.  The second place is in 1 John.  In this epistle John calls the church to purity and holiness.  The focus here is on the doctrine of regeneration.  It is expected  that if a person is truly born again they will not make a practice of sin but abiding in Christ will be transformed into His likeness.

Matt 5:21-22 21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. ESV
1John 3:15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. ESV
James 2:10-11 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.  11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.   ESV

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Emerging Concerns Part 1 – Introduction

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When some friends of mine started reading some books by leaders in what is now termed the “Emergent Church” several years ago I was curious and started to read some of the books, listened to interviews and read some blogs. Over the past four years I have watched several conferences on the subject and considered what was being said. I have decided that it is time for me to throw my hat into the ring. In a few previous articles I touched on some talking points but I feel that now is the time to address the topic more formally and more thoroughly. The underlying principles of the Emergent movement find their roots in post-modern philosophy. Read more of this post

The World is Coming to an End …

End of the World BillBoardOk, I admit its a sensational headline but if you are reading this then it must have caught your attention. I have heard many comment about the billboards announcing the end of the world on May 21st 2011. If you have been watching the news lately you are aware of this prediction as it has gotten much press. The prediction and billboards have been featured on CNN, FOX and the Washington Post just to name a few. There are many scoffers and some believers who are very worried and some who could care less. With all the recent earth quake activity, severe weather, economic trouble and wars and unrest around the world many are worried. Read more of this post

How Should Christians Respond to Bin Laden’s Death

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I personally will not be going out into the street and celebrate but I am not going to judge those that do either. There are many imprecatory psalms that call for justice against the wicked and celebrate their judgement. The bible doesn’t call for us to be stoic but acknowledges our feelings and at times calls for us to express them while at other times calls for reservation. Read more of this post

What is Faith? One Question to Get Right

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My eight year old son, Nolan, had to complete some optional activities for cub scouts.  One that we picked was Faith and Religion.  The book asked him to name some great people of faith.  Nolan asked me, “What do they mean by faith?”  I paused and thought to myself about the best way to explain it to an eight year old.  Here is the definition I came up with.

Faith is what you believe to be right and true and you are willing to stand up for it

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Bell Fails to Grasp the Weight of Infinity

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The recent release of Rob Bell’s new book “Love Wins” has spawned a maelstrom of reactions in both the Christian community and the news media as well.  I have been studying the emergent church movement for the past four years and so I feel it is time to throw my hat into the ring.  There is much that can be said, so much that can be said but I wanted to focus on a specific statement rather then write a novel.  One day I would like to write a book, but not today and not necessarily on the Emergent Church either.  The title of this article is a bit ironic because no one really grasps infinity.  But that is not to say that we can’t have perspectives on infinity which do it more justice than other perspectives.  One sticking point with hell that Emergent church leaders have grappled with is the eternity and finality of hell.  Lets review some quotes.

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