One of the first tools I remember using and still use to study the Bible is the cross-reference, sometimes called the chain reference. These are the tiny little letters that you see in the verses you are reading (this is where a magnifying glass can come in handy) that lead you to a key either in the center or the outside margin of your Bible. The key gives the book, chapter, and verse of another place in the Bible where you can find the same wording or something similar.
Using this cross-reference method for study can help you better understand a word, topic, or passage. When a New Testament scripture is quoting an Old Testament verse, the cross-reference will tell you where the passage is in the Old Testament. Also, when a prophecy is fulfilled in the New Testament, the original prophecy will be referenced. For example, after the birth of Jesus, Matthew 1:23 says, “dBehold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.” In my Bible, there is a “d” cross-reference at the beginning of that verse. It sends you to Isaiah 7:14 which says, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
When you want to know what the Bible says about a subject, it’s good to see what the whole Bible says about it. In this way, you’re allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture. I like to make a list of the passages in a notebook, leaving lines between each one so that I can take notes and summarize what I have read. Also, write down any questions you might have for further research. When you go to the passage that the cross-reference has referred you to, you can then search that passage for cross-references. This is why it is also called a chain reference. It is like a chain running through the Bible, connecting one passage with another. Keep following the cross-references as you have time or until you are satisfied with your understanding of where you began.
Go ahead. Try it!. Oh, the places you will go in God’s Word using your cross-reference! As Paul says in 2 Timothy, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the Word of Truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).