Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Power of Cross Referencing

Hebrews 3:1-2 Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession; 2He was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was in all His house.

The Most effective tool for studying the Bible
In many Bibles today you will notice verse references either running down the center column of a given page of scripture or along the edges.  Normally these Bible verses are tagged, lettered or numbered to a word or phrase in the main biblical text.  We call these little verse references - "cross references". 

The practice of following a word or theme through the cross references is what we call - "cross referencing".  Such a practice yields untold treasures and often proves to be the most effective tool for studying God's Word.  Today I want to look at Hebrews 3 and note how the author uses cross referencing and other forms of referencing scripture to bring out the intention of the Spirit of God for the reader.  The aim of today's blog is to give the reader a practical step by step method for cross-referencing God's Word.

1. Consider the Context Hebrews 3:1
Before the author moves into referencing other passages to support his argument, he firsts of all casts his statements in light of the larger context.  Context is king when it comes to Bible study - and one word is crucial - the word "therefore".  The Greek word translated "therefore" specifically refers to "from which fact" or "for which reason".  When we see the word "therefore", we must ask the question: "wherefore is the word 'therefore therefore"? That is - the word "therefore" is connecting us to previous remarks and preparing us for what is up and coming.  In this case, Hebrews 3:1 connects us back to the writer's remarks on Jesus Christ coming into this world to partake and assume a human nature so as to be the believer's empathetic high priest. (Hebrews 2:9-18). 

With the fact established that Jesus is "able to come to the aid to those who are tempted" (2:18), the author has leverage to press his readers to consider the claims Christ has on their lives as Christians (3:1).  Without establishing the context of your passage, your cross referencing attempts will not be very fruitful.

2. Consider repeated words, phrases, or ideas to define the main point or points of the passage
As we begin to look at Hebrews 3, we notice the author reinforcing his argument with the repeated idea or throught of "consider, take heed, take care".  In other words, the writer is driving home the point of exhorting you and I to pay attention.  Notice how this idea is developed:

a. Consider, or pay heed to Jesus Christ  Hebrews 3:1-6
By identifying his readers as those who are "partakers of the heavenly calling" (i.e Christians), we see the first main exhortation: "Consider Jesus".  Now what is it that we're to consider? First that Jesus is the "Apostle" or quite literally "the sent one" as it would be translated from the Greek.  Then secondly, this Jesus, this "Sent One" (Apostle) is the "High Priest of our confession".  He represents God to us, and us to God.  He is fully God and fully man.  All of this is demonstrated in what He went through in His incarnation (God assuming human flesh) as spelled out in Hebrews 2.

b. Consider or pay heed to the Word of God Heb 3:7-11
In this second major section of Hebrews 3 we see the writer switching from "considering" Jesus Christ to "considering" the scriptures.  In quoting Psalm 95, the writer attributes that Psalm to the authorship of the Holy Spirit. 

c. Consider or "take care" or pay heed to your heart Heb 3:12-19
This third main section is headed up by this same idea as in the previous two sections, only this time the focus is upon the heart of the reader.   Whenever I'm outlining any portion of scripture, I look for several details in the text: is there a command to obey? a promise to claim? an example to consider or avoid? a warning to be heeded? a blessing to be encouraged by?  In Hebrews 3, we see three chief commands that bid us and warn us to take heed: Consider Jesus (3:1); Consider God's words (3:7) and consider your heart (3:12). 

3. Consider the other scriptures being referenced by the author
Having looked at the writer's appeal to the wider context and his intentional repetition of key ideas, we can now consider the other scriptures or "cross-references".  In Hebrews 3 we see several key Old Testament texts:

a. Numbers 11-12 is used in Hebrews 3:1-6
If you were to read the context of Numbers 11-12, the overarching issue was the complaining of the people against Moses and the Lord.  In Numbers 12:6-8 we see the specific text from whence the author of Hebrews is drawing his emphasis of how you and I need to consider Jesus Christ. 

b. Psalm 95:8-11 is used in Hebrews 3:7-11 and portions of Hebrews 3:12-19
Psalm 95 is all about "singing for joy to the Lord".  Seven reasons and seven commands are given in that Psalm as to why we should worship, bow down and enjoy our God.  The last half of the Psalm is issuing a warning from Israel's past with regards to the peril that befalls those who refuse to worship, bow down and enjoy their God.  Bitterness, hardness of heart and misery! 

c. The combination of Psalm 95 and the Book of Numbers is used to reinforce the final section of Hebrews 3:12-19
When you find cross references in a given text, trace those cross-references individually, but also notice the relationship they have to one another.  The writer of Hebrews connects his cross references, since Psalm 95, for example, references the passages of the Book of Numbers! 

In just this brief excercise of observing the power of cross referencing, we have noted how the Holy Spirit put together a section of scripture that warns us to pay heed to the Lord, His word and our hearts.  My prayer is that these principles will aid you as you utilize cross referencing in your own Bible study.  As a final note, try out the passage below and explore the power of cross referencing!

-Observe how John 3:14-15 is related to Numbers 21:4-9.  Write down how this connection helps you understand John 3:16.  Use the principles above to aid you in finding other connections.  I guarantee you will find John 3:16 to be richer than you ever realized. 

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