I am two and a half months into my three year plan to study the New Testament and I have rearranged the book order and have realized the Bible I picked is not conducive for study. While I am all about a plan and sticking to my set schedule I realize I do need to have some flexibility if this process is going to serve me well. At the end of each month and ultimately at the end of three years my goal is to have a good command of each book, knowing what it teaches and having become closer to Jesus during the process.
In order to achieve that I have worked out some issues with my original process and wanted to share some things with you that will hopefully help you study better whether you’re studying through the entire New Testament or just one book.
BASIC THINGS NEEDED FOR SERIOUS STUDY
Use a study Bible and a text Bible. A Study Bible is good to help you know where to go and the notes can help you go into deeper study. A text Bible will help you focus as you do your daily reading of the text before you get into study.
I like using multiple study Bibles but recommend that one be your primary. I recommend the MacArthur Study Bible for a deeper understanding of the text and the Life Application Study Bible, for, you guessed it, practical application. It’s important to note that doctrinal understanding must come before personal application.
I started this process with the CSB He Reads Truth Bible. While I think this would be perfect for devotional use, in studying two books it has proven unhelpful for deeper study. I’m still using it but I’m looking at different study Bibles now. You’ll know if you like a study Bible after studying one or two books. Don’t be afraid to change it early on in your study, it’s important to have one you really enjoy using. I’ve also been going back and forth between CSB, ESV and NKJV. My advice is settle on your primary translation before you start studying and use one other for comparative purposes, while consulting other translations infrequently. During your three year study stay focused with minimal distraction. Consulting more than two English translations will not be as beneficial as looking up terms in the Greek.
Which leads me to my next point, get language tools. While you don’t need to get everything up front, I do recommend having a Vine’s Expository Dictionary when you begin. This enables you to look up the words in your English translation and find the Greek word and it’s meaning. While many language tools and commentaries are available online I do recommend a physical Bible so you can make notes in your physical Bible and get to know the text better by knowing its location on the page. Using a physical Bible, Dictionary, journal and commentaries will help keep you focused and centered on the text. That being said I’m not against apps and websites, I use them, I just make sure I have physical copies of things I use the most.
As I just mentioned, have a physical journal that you can write down questions, thoughts and observations as you study. Don’t fall into the I’ll remember it trap, write it down. At the end of three years you will be glad you have a record of your thoughts, questions and what you learned to look back on a decade from now.
Commentaries are a big help. A one volume commentary will be beneficial for general study and as you go deeper you can start buying one individual book at a time and end up with a complete set in three years. More on commentaries a little later. One volume commentaries: The MacArthur Bible Commentary, New Bible Commentary, and Holman Illustrated Bible Commentary.
BE FLEXIBLE WITH YOUR BOOK ORDER
It’s important to set up a book order so you know where you are going next. This is important so you can buy resources ahead of time so they are waiting for you when you get to that book. I made the mistake of waiting to get resources for my James study and they showed up halfway through. That being said, be willing to change your order if the study of one book causes you to want to dive into another book. I also recommend staggering the Gospels throughout the plan.
READ THROUGH THE BOOK AND START WITH A STUDY GUIDE
Before starting the study of a book, read it through in one sitting to help you get the overall direction and concepts of the book. It’s also a good idea after reading the book to read through a book introduction. Study Bibles, commentaries and study guides will all have book introductions.
A study guide is very helpful for an overview and for your overall understanding of the book. Before you dive into word studies and commentaries go through a study guide that focuses on the actual text of Scripture and asks you text related questions that will cause you to think deeply and ask your own questions. Write your questions in your notebook to come to as you study. John MacArthur has a study guide for each New Testament Book. Warren Wiersbe also has some New Testament study guides available. I only recommend book based commentaries for this type of study as you are not studying topically.
COMMENTARIES AND MORE COMMENTARIES
I’ve already mentioned one volume commentaries but as you get into deeper study you’ll want to get individual book commentaries. Now, there’s no need in buying a set, just buy the volume(s) of the book you are about to study and at the end of three years you’ll have a complete set.
Don’t be concerned with acquiring full sets. Some sets are done by multiple people and you may only be interested in one or two volumes in a set. I really enjoy Dr. John MacArthur so I’m using his study guides and getting his individual commentaries, by the end of three years I will have acquired the entire New Testament set.
Don’t stick with one commentary though, the more commentaries you get the more you will learn. I’m also getting commentaries from The Crossway Classic Commentary Series, as well as R. C. Sproul. Because Charles Spurgeon is my theological mentor I am also looking to see if he has written on each book before I start studying it. I’m also looking at different commentary sets on my favorite books of the New Testament.
I get all my stuff from christianbook.com they are always running sales on academic stuff, so you will be able to find language tools and commentaries at great prices. A yearly membership is just $5 which gives you even better discounts on the already low prices. I am not an affiliate and don’t make money from them, each link is directly to them. I’m just very happy with the products, prices and customer service and highly recommend them. You can also check discount bookstores for used commentaries.
With your structure now in place and being focused on each individual book, prepare yourself for days when it will seem like you’re not “getting anything” from your study. You are still feeding your spirit even if it doesn’t seem like you’re getting anything.
That being said, I am going through longer books in sections. So when doing John I broke the workbook up into sections. If I get stuck for more than a week, I may go ahead and do the lesson in my study guide that deals with later chapters. You could also do your study guide all at once. The important thing is if you feel a lull for longer than a week, it may be a good idea to jump into next months chapters for a day or two just to get momentum going again.
As you get further into the books, say a year down the road, take a day and revisit a book from the beginning, refresh yourself in what you learned in that book and come back to your current book with fresh eyes.
Remember daily reading of your book (or the section of your bigger book). The biggest part of this three year plan is to read the book or chapters of the month every day, that’s how you’re going to retain the information. Memorizing is not the point with this process, repetition is the central point, so that you can get the message of each book deep in your heart.
As you are studying the New Testament you may find it helpful to read books on certain New Testament topics like parables, redemption, spiritual gifts and other topics. Reading books can help give you direction in your study, bring up things you haven’t considered and just be an overall asset to your study.
I pray that this post has been a help and encouragement for you as you endeavor to study through the New Testament. If you’re on social media, share what you’re learning so you can be an encouragement to others.
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