Last month, I wrote about “Knowing God,” and specifically how He’s not as elusive as some make Him out to be. The best way to know Him, without question, is through Scripture. “Verse Mapping” is a fantastic way to make Scripture come to life and help you gain a better understanding of God’s word, as well as make it personally applicable.
Verse Mapping starts with a verse. We’re going to use my blog’s signature verses for this exercise: Ephesians 2:8-9. Write it out on a piece of paper, then personalize your verse. Wherever Scripture refers to “you,” “your,” “we,” “him,” “her,” change it to your name. Then, go through the verse and highlight what is especially meaningful for you—words or phrases that pop out and seem to carry great value in the overall message.
Verse Mapping doesn’t begin and end with these verses. You have to go back to the chapter from which the verse came and read the verses around it. Understand the context in which it’s written. Who was talking? Who were they talking to? What was the context of the conversation? Is there a cultural reference you need to understand better to truly embrace the verse itself?
In this case, Ephesians 2 is part of a letter the Apostle Paul wrote to the people of Ephesus. It’s important to note that Paul was a Jew and the people of Ephesus (Turkey) were Gentiles. In those days, what Paul was doing was revolutionary. Jews didn’t socialize with Gentiles. But Paul embraced the mission Jesus gave him and in his words, became a part of them. We know from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians in chapter 9, verses 20-22, that he made it a point in his mission work to become like those he ministered to. That’s not to say he compromised his beliefs, but it means that he was probably the first person to embrace the “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” school of thought. He made himself relatable to those whom he served, and in that day and time, such an act was unheard-of.
But getting back to Ephesians 2, when we read it, we understand the chapter is a celebration of Jesus’ gift of salvation. Paul begins by describing how we were dead in Christ. In this case, “dead in Christ” means “separated from Christ.” Our sinful nature and love for our flesh and worldly pleasures had created a chasm between God and us. But even though we were sinners, Jesus loved us enough to die for us anyway. He didn’t expect us to “fix” ourselves. He knew we couldn’t, because “The wages of sin is death,” (Romans 6:23). Jesus paid our sin debt before we even began to understand the need to say, “I’m sorry,” and “Thank you.”
And as a Jewish man, Paul was compassionate to his Gentile brothers- and sisters-in-Christ and identified with them, sharing that no one, regardless of nationality, gender, socio-economic status, can “earn” a place in heaven. It’s a gift, directly from the hands of God. And we accept that gift of mercy and grace through the acceptance of Jesus Christ. God does not allow us to “earn” our place in heaven, because He wants us to be dependent on His son. We can never brag about being good enough, because none of us are (or ever will be) good enough.
When you have an understanding of the context of the verses, then it’s helpful to read a few other translations. I have started this verse-mapping exercise in the English Standard Version (ESV), but frequently refer to the New Living Translation (NLT), and the King James Version (KJV), as well.
The next step in Verse Mapping is to cross-reference Scripture. I use several tools, including Logos Bible Software, but I also like BibleGateway.com. I just recently starting using Logos and it’s quickly becoming my personal favorite, because of the extensive library of commentaries and concordances, as well as multiple translations of Scripture.
For our verses, I found cross-references to 1 Peter 1:5; Romans 4:16a; 2 Corinthians 3:5; and Judges 7:2. Ephesians 2:8-9 can be further cross-referenced, but I chose to limit it to these four.
I also defined some of the key words I’d highlighted earlier. The Logos Bible Software I referenced earlier will allow you to go deeper into individual word studies, even going to original Greek and Hebrew words and meanings.
And that, my friends, is how Verse Mapping works. I hope you’ll try this for yourself and discover the way God can use the Bible in such a powerful, personal way.