I had it all: the bright pink and green study Bible, the latest new daily devo book, a flowery journal prompt, the denominational magazine, and several Christian books. That’s what stayed on my nightstand throughout my teenage years. I’ve always been a studious one, loving to read all the resources (hence this series), especially when it came to the Bible. But up until my college years, my time study God’s Word lacked one crucial element—actually reading God’s Word.
Of course I completed my yearly reading plan, but I never spent much time actually studying God’s Word. I would study what my study Bible said about the passage, or I would read what an author thought about Scripture. I spent plenty of time reading devotionals and magazine articles, but never much time reading and studying the Bible itself.
Then my mentor in college told me to put away all that extra stuff and just sit down with my Bible, a notebook, and a pen, and study God’s Word as it is. You see, I always had believed God’s Word to be true and perfect, but if you looked at my Bible study practices, I didn’t really believe that it was enough. I needed the latest 30-day devo or a thick commentary to help me understand what God was saying. But on my dorm bed with my Bible opened to the book of James and my Sharpie pen poised, I began to study God’s Word for myself for the first time.
Now I still love a good Bible study resource (and I promise I’m getting to my list), but before I give any of my favorite tools, I want to make sure that you know the only thing you need is God’s Word. Chinese Christians in prison who somehow miraculously have a Bible have everything they need. Christians in the Bush of Africa don’t need a podcast or an app if they have the Word of God. And you, wherever you sit with your wealth of extra resources, can trust that God has given you everything you need for life and godliness in His Word that is in front of you and His Spirit that is inside of you (2 Peter 1:3).
So, with that very long caveat, here are a few of my favorite sources that support instead of supplant my study of God’s Word.
Crossway’s ESV Scripture Journal
When we moved last summer, I counted three boxes full of my Bible study and prayer notebooks. I learn and process by writing, so most of my spiritual journey has been recorded in a notebook. Yet, sometimes it’s hard to find the notebook where God taught me something about a particular passage—that’s where these beautiful journals come in hand.
These Scripture Journals split each book of the Bible into a notebook with the Scripture on the left (with lots of margin) and a lined notebook page on the right. These have been so helpful for me to organize what God is teaching me into one notebook. I can circle, highlight, annotate, journal—all in one place!
To me, these are a must have for any inductive Bible study. I have the New Testament set and the book of Joshua. They’re a bit pricy, so you can either buy the full set or a single book. Crossway also recently released an “Illuminated” version with beautiful colors and illustrations.
Blue Letter Bible
I’ll own up to it: I’m a bit of a word nerd. I first learned about studying the Greek and Hebrew definitions behind a word when I was in high school, and I was thrilled when my youth pastor gifted me the humungous Strong’s Concordance for graduation. Problem was, it’s a bit difficult to take around with you. Enter technology to solve that problem!
BlueLetterBible.org is an amazing online resource with easy access to cross references, Greek and Hebrew concordances, translation comparisons, commentaries, and more. Even better, they now have an app that makes studying the Bible even easier. While I don’t love having my phone out on the table with me as I study the Word (and often times I wait until I know I’m focused before I pick up the phone), it’s so much easier than flipping the pages of a giant book with tiny newspaper print.
I use this resource to look up the meaning of words that I don’t understand, find other Scriptures that relate to what I’m studying, and quickly compare different translations of a verse. This is an excellent and FREE resource you should definitely download today.
Ligonier Ministries Commentary Recommendations
Now I know that I said above you don’t need a commentary or a study Bible to read God’s Word, but after you have studied and prayed and searched out other Scripture, sometimes hearing what Christian theologians have thought about a passage can be really helpful. I make it a practice to wait a day after studying a passage before turning to a commentary. That way, I leave room for the Spirit to open my mind and my heart to what God is saying.
But that begs a great question: what commentaries are best? I remember once buying a Martin Luther commentary on Romans; that lasted for about five minutes before I realized the writing style and content was way over my head. But I’ve also bought commentaries that seemed to “dumb down” the content into mere personal application. How do I know which commentaries to choose?
The college mentor I mentioned above sent me this great blog post from Ligonier Ministries written in 2014 with commentary recommendations for every book of the Bible. What’s great is that in their listing, they tell you which one is good for a beginner or which might be suited for a seminary doctoral student. I have never been disappointed with a commentary I chose off of their list.
These are a few of the resources I uses alongside my favorite ESV Study Bible. I hope that these can encourage you in your study of God’s Word, and I would love to hear about your favorite Bible study tools!