Value of New Testament Lists

When I first started living as one of Jesus’ disciples I knew I had begun a completely new kind of life. I didn’t know much about it, so when a close friend encouraged me to read the Bible every day I followed his advice. Now almost forty years later I am incredibly thankful I followed his suggestion, and continue to do so.

As a new Christian I was fascinated when I noticed that the authors of scripture repeated certain themes. And then my teachers talked about the significance of many of the same topics. Whenever one of these grabbed my attention I would read the entire New Testament searching for information. For example, if someone said prayer was important I’d read through the New Testament making note of all the passages that taught about and modeled prayer. Yes, it was definitely a time consuming exercise, but the treasure I uncovered for both my understanding and practice was definitely worth the time I spent digging.

Another friend learned what I was doing and introduced me to a concordance. Remember, I was a new Christian who didn’t know resources like this existed. I immediately purchased one for myself. I soon realized, to my chagrin, that there was not a one to one correlation between the English and Greek or Hebrew words in my concordance. You see, most concordances and online resources are based on a specific English translation, and as a result you will only find the instances where that translation uses the English word. I upgraded my concordance to one that listed all the English words used to translate each Greek or Hebrew word. I was then able to cross reference and make the lists I wanted, even though the task was not easy. Online tools make the task easier today, but at times I still use the same concordance at times.

Over the years I’ve made many such lists as part of my own study, and to use in teaching and encouraging others. I imagine you already realize the value of these lists, but I want to take a moment and share a few of the reasons why I find lists so important.

New Meaning
The words we use to describe the Lord and his work among us are often the same words we use every day in the world. Unfortunately, these words are stained by our brokenness, which minimizes our ability to understand the Lord. The lists help us see how the Lord uses these words which then enables us more clearly understand our new life in Christ.

New Language
I’d go so far as to say we are learning a new language as we enter our life as one of Jesus’ disciples. When we learn a new language we listen to conversations in the language, learn words and phrases, and begin speaking with someone more experienced than we. The same is true for us with regard to the language of the Lord’s kingdom. The first conversations to which we should listen are those we find in scripture, and the lists are an excellent tool to help us in this process. We can then practice our new language in our communities of faith, and begin conducting our affairs in this new language.

Panoramic view
A panoramic view gives us a more complete picture of the landscape than looking in a single direction from one location. The same is true with words, because words have a range of meaning. No one passage where a word is used is adequate to define that word for us. The lists enable you to see the vast landscape of each word that describes the new character God is forming in us by his Spirit. You can then do the same for the entire fruit of the Spirit by combining all of the lists.

Balanced diet
A balanced diet of healthy foods is important. In the same way a complete and balanced diet of scripture keeps us healthy. The apostle Paul told the Colossians to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” Reading through the lists is an excellent way to fill ourselves with the Lord’s word.

New perspective
Reading through the lists provides a deeper understanding of the words. You are then able to notice other passages in scripture where they expressed even if the words are not used. This is important as it helps us live with our eyes open so we are able to recognize the words when we experience them in real life. For example, the New Testament is packed with references to the fruit of the Spirit, even in passages where the words aren’t used. Also, once we gain a deeper understanding of the fruit of the Spirit, we will be able to recognize it in our daily lives.

The format of the lists
Each list includes the primary words scripture uses for each word. I then list all the times the occurrences for any other word formed from the same root. If other Greek words are translated using this English word I include them as well, if appropriate. I decided to include this last group because doing so helps avoid confusion when you encounter a passage where the English word is used but the passage is not in my first or second list. If the word appears more than once in a verse I include the number of times it is used.

I have intentionally avoided including much commentary or devotional encouragement with the lists in this resource. My goal is to enable you to expose yourself to all the New Testament passages relating to each topic. In this way I know you are hearing the entire conversation without my thoughts diluting the message. Please use this resource to inform your understanding. As you do so your own understanding will grow, you will more clearly grasp the Lord’s will and way, your prayers and actions will be informed, and you will be more knowledgeable as you teach others.

Caution
I want to warn you of a couple traps into which I have seen individuals fall while studying scripture lists.

  • I’ve met some who fall into the trap of thinking the exercise of reading scripture is an end in itself. Some of the Pharisees of Jesus’ day did this, and he told them that if they were honestly studying scripture that they would have accepted him since scripture points to him. We protect ourselves by keeping our eyes focused on Jesus and his purposes.
  • I know some who have used this style of study in a cold and clinical way. I had a friend who followed this practice and became arrogant because he felt he knew more of the Bible than other people. Please don’t fall into this trap. Using the lists should fill us with the fruit of the Spirit and not the works of the flesh. As we go through these lists we should see that the depth of God’s presence and promises is beyond our understanding or practice. Don’t read these in a lifeless way. There is nothing clinical or cold about God’s word as recorded in scripture. This is not still life. For example, just because we know the words used in scripture to describe kindness does not mean that we are kind.

Using these lists
Even though the lists are more of a study resource more than a devotional resource, I am positive that as we encounter the Lord’s word our lives are impacted according to his purpose. Consider the following recommendations as you use this study.

  • Begin in prayer.
    • Ask the Lord to give you insight and understanding, and to mold your life by the effort of his Holy Spirit as you plant his word in your life.
    • Pray through the passages that impact you.
  • Read the passages with your ears, eyes and mind open. We come to scripture to hear from the Lord, and we need to listen intentionally or the noise of the world will drown out the Lord’s voice.
  • Select a few passages from each list to memorize and on which to regularly reflect.
  • Read the verse and then the context.
  • Expect the Lord to produce any promises you encounter in your life. As you expect it, exercise through practice.
  • Be patient with yourself. You will experience some changes quickly, but the most significant character changes come as a result of continually submitting to the Lord over time.
  • Use a journal to take notes and capture what you learn and experience during the process.
  • As you grow, lead others in what you’re learning.
  • Read through the passages slowly enough to absorb what is modeled and taught, but also fast enough to see the relationships between the references.

 

Visit our New Testament Lists page to access and download lists.