Category: Methodologies of Bible Study

A Beginner’s Guide to Marking in Your Bible/In-Depth Study

A Beginner’s Guide to Marking in Your Bible/In-Depth Study


As a pastor, I am asked, quite often, for advice on how to mark in a Bible. Finally, after answering more than 2 dozen times, I decided to share this advice with all of you, my beloved readers.

You will need:

  • A new, unmarked Bible (As it happens, the writing of this article coincides with my beginning to mark in a new ESV Large Print Bible in top grain leather.) There are a number of excellent choices available, but I recommend avoiding the ones with artwork already in the margins; you want your markings to be your own.
  • A set of marking tools (For highlighting, I recommend Bible Hi-Glider from GT Luscombe, for underlining, I recommend Prang colored pencils, and for your annotations, I recommend Pilot Brand Better Retractable Ball Point Pen in fine point). You can use any or all of the three.
  • A plan for how you will study (Chapter and Verse, Topical, Systematic Theology)
  • A journal (Moleskine is nice as is Picadilly Essential Notebook)
  • A Bible Dictionary. a Concordance, and a single volume commentary (I recommend either the MacArthur Bible Commentary (Single Volume) or the Wycliff Bible Commentary. (Warren Wiersbe has an excellent 2-volume set if you like)


Before you begin, Pray. You want to be sure that you are being guided by the Holy Spirit. Ensure that you have decided on if/how you will color code before your first session. Will you simply highlight verses you want to commit to memory (ideal for 1st time students of the Bible) or will you have a more detailed approach.


Here is my approach for this new Bible:

I will be using the GT Luscombe Hi-Gliders. There are 6 colors and I will be highlighting Six Essentials of Christianity


  • Orange = Sin
  • Yellow = Grace
  • Pink = Salvation
  • Green = Fruit of the Spirit
  • Purple = the Kingdom
  • Blue = New Heaven and New Earth


Here are the steps I recommend following:

  1. Choose your topic. For our example we will choose sin.
  2. Look up your topic in your concordance and turn to the first passage.
  3. Read the passage the 1st time without making any marks
  4. Read the passage again with your journal handy. Write down any words you are not familiar with and leave room to note definitions. Also make note of any questions that you may have as you are reading.
  5. Read the passage for a third time, this time underlining or highlighting as you go.
  6. Make any marginal notes that will help jog your memory about what you have learned so far.
  7. Consult your commentary for further insight. Read any cross-references you find and mark the passage address (John 1:1) in your journal
  8. Pray for the 2nd time, ensuring that you thank the Holy Spirit for His word and to ask him to illuminate His truth to your mind.


Repeat the process as often as you have planned for your study. Some people stretch this process out for a week and others repeat daily. There is no correct or incorrect option; follow the pace best suited to how you learn. A quality study is what we are after, not a quantity of verses studied.

Using NLT in Bible Study

Using NLT in Bible Study

Since we have decided to make the NLT a main translation, I wanted to share some helpful tips on using NLT in Bible study and getting the most from your time…


  1. Always read in a word for word translation first. I admit this may pose a challenge but when you get to step 2 and beyond it will make sense. If you do not have a 2nd Bible, you will find Bible Gateway or Bible Hub to be very helpful. I like to use either ESV or NASB 1st.
  2. Read your selected text a 2nd time in NLT and note any differences you find. Don’t be surprised if your NLT sounds different; it should. It should also feel easier to understand.
  3. Read any footnotes (not study Bible commentary). Footnotes will help you understand why your NLT says what it does. There will be alternate translations and perhaps some context provided.
  4. Look for any references that may have been provided. Scripture always helps you understand Scripture so you will want to look for cross-references.
  5. Consult your resources. Here are a few of the resources I use to understand and interpret Scripture: IVP Bible Background Commentary, MacArthur New Testament Commentary and Study Bible, Guzik’s Commentary (, Matthew Henry’s Commentary.


Lastly, put your notes together to form your interpretation of Scripture. Pay special attention to anything the text directly or indirectly requires you to do.


More will come, Beloved, but for now this is a good start.

The Expository Three

The Expository Three

First up in our series on Methodologies of Bible Study are what I call the Expository Three. These are the three questions at the heart of Inductive Study and indeed, are foundational to expository teaching. They are:

  • What does it say?
  • What does it mean?
  • What do I need to do about it (Sometimes phrased as how does it apply to my life)?

Each of these questions provides critical information for understanding the Bible and growing in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus.

Let’s look at some ways to dig into the Bible using each of the three questions…


What does it say?

  • Read the selected portion of Scripture twice. On the second time through, make note of any words or phrases you do not understand.
  • Identify what is happening in the text.
  • Attempt to paraphrase the text.
  • Mark key words and phrases: A key word is one that is essential to the text. Key words and phrases are repeated in order to convey the author’s point or purpose for writing.
  • Make lists: Making lists can be one of the most enlightening things you do as you study. Lists reveal truths and highlight important concepts.
  • Watch for contrasts and comparisons: Contrasts and comparisons paint word pictures to make it easier to remember what you’ve
  • Mark terms of conclusion: Words such as therefore, thus and for this reason indicate that a conclusion or summary is being made.


What does it mean?

  • Remember that context rules: The word “context” means that which goes with the text. If you lay the solid foundation of observation, you will be prepared to consider each verse in light of the surrounding verses, the book in which it is found, and the entire Word of God. Ask yourself: Is my interpretation of this passage of Scripture consistent with the theme, purpose, and structure of the book in which it is found? Is it consistent with other Scripture about the same subject? Am I considering the historic and cultural context? Never take a Scripture out of its context to make it say what you want it to say. Discover what the author is saying; don’t add to his meaning.
  • Always seek the full counsel of the Word of God: When you know God’s Word thoroughly, you will not accept a teaching simply because someone has used one or two isolated verses to support it. As you read the Bible more extensively, you will be able to discern whether a teaching is biblical or not. Saturate yourself in the Word of God; it is your safeguard against wrong doctrine.
  • Remember that Scripture will never contradict Scripture: The best interpretation of Scripture is Scripture. Remember, all Scripture is inspired by God. It is God breathed; therefore, Scripture will never contradict itself.
  • Don’t base your convictions on an obscure passage of scripture: An obscure passage is one in which the meaning is not easily understood. Because they are difficult to understand they should not be used as a basis for establishing doctrine.
  • Interpret Scripture literally: God spoke to us that we might know truth. Therefore, take away the Word of God at face value – in it’s natural, normal sense. Look for the clear teaching of Scripture, not a hidden meaning.
  • Look for the single meaning of the passage: Always try to understand what the author had in mind when you interpret a portion of the Bible. Don’t twist verses to support a meaning that is not clearly taught. Unless the author indicates that there is another meaning to what he says, let the passage speak for itself.


What do I do about what the text says?

  • Look for whether or not the text demands a specific answer.
  • Ask yourself, “If the author was speaking face to face with me, what would he expect my response to be?”
  • Take any action the Scripture requires
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into what He expects from you in response to His revealed truth.