Module 5 – How to correlate a passage

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How to correlate a passage

This is the script to lesson 5 – How to Correlate a Passage. Please feel free to download this script if required from our downloads page to help with your studies

Module Info

On this tape we are going to look at how to correlate the Bible.  If you do not know what to correlate means, the very way that the word is spelt should tell you.  You ‘co-relate’ the text.  You take all the parts of the Bible and you relate them one to another.  You will see what I mean as we go through.  You see, the Bible is one Book.  It has sixty-six books within it.  Every book and every part of every book relate to all the other books.  And the whole makes one Book, the Bible.  The ultimate art of Bible Study is to be able to take one part of the Scripture and be totally aware of how it relates to every other part of the Bible.  I do not believe that that will happen for you in a year or two years.  I do not think that I have it at my fingertips even now, although I am very aware of where each part of the Bible fits in.  That took me some twenty years to achieve, with some of that period in very intense study.  And so I do not wish you to be discouraged, but I do wish you to be aware.

If someone had told me this when I began to study, it would have saved me years.  It was by one of God’s beautiful accidents that I found out.  As I was reading in the New Testament one day I sensed that I had read the same piece somewhere else.  And after a while, I found that I had read it in the Old Testament.  That was something new to me.  There was a bit of the Old Testament in the New Testament. Then, when I began to tie the two together, I realized that there were many other parts.  Gradually, laboriously, I found that each part of the Bible did relate to another.  But I had to discover it.  And you too must find out which part of that whole Plan the piece that you are reading fits into.

As I read from our model book Ephesians, I need to know how it fits into the whole Plan of the Bible.  Ephesians must be either at the end of something or at the beginning of something.  It may be in the middle of something, but it certainly does not stand alone.  Do you follow what I mean?  Paul did not write Ephesians in the middle of Time and unrelated to it.  No, Ephesians is in the unfolding purpose of God.  For numbers and numbers of years God has been unfolding something, and now here it is.  Or of course Ephesians could be one of those books where God is beginning something.  It is the root, and if I follow this through I shall in due course find its flower.  Especially in the Old Testament a book will be the root of what will be the flower much later on.  I must be aware of that.  Am I studying the flower or am I studying the root?  Maybe I am half way up the stem.  I may not understand it all but I must at least be aware that I am on a time line.  The book came from somewhere, it is going somewhere, it is part of something.  Then I shall be able to co-relate that to the root and co-relate that to the flower.  And so I shall get a sense of the bigness and expanse of the Bible.

There is a purpose and a plan to the entire Bible.  It begins in Genesis with that seed when God said, after the Fall of Man, that He was going to send One, the seed of the woman, who would crush the head of the serpent.  Genesis Chapter 3 Verse 15 is in fact the key to the rest of the Bible.  You have the period of the Patriarchs, when the whole community of God’s people existed as one family with one man at the head.  That was the time of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and in that period you see the unfolding of the promise that God made.  God was doing something in Genesis.  Exodus is the story of how those little families became a great nation of three million people, and how God expanded His promise to them and told them how it would be fulfilled.  He gave them the Law and told them about feasts and offerings, which would be their way to salvation.  In Joshua and Judges and the first part of Samuel you have the story of how that great nation entered into the land that God had set aside for them.  That land would be the theatre on which the whole drama would be enacted until Messiah came.

At the end of First Samuel you have the anointing of David to be king.  And in Chapter 7 of Second Samuel you have the great promise to David that he shall have a Seed, and that that one particular Descendant will be King for ever and ever and will build a house for God.  And so there is a new element.  You have had the promise of the One who shall smash the head of the serpent; you have had the promise that through this nation this One shall come.  Now you have a new idea, that that One is King and He shall have an everlasting kingdom.

At this point the prophets begin to come in.  You need to know that the prophets did not come in the order that they are given in the Bible.  Isaiah does not chronologically follow the Song of Solomon.  You have all the history books of the Old Testament, and you must know where each prophet fits into that history.  You can find that out from the beginning of the prophets’ own books.  But if you get one of those Bible handbooks that I talked of on tape 2, that will tell you where each prophet fits into the flow of history.  Then you will be able to see that this prophet was saying this, and that that prophet was saying that, and that this is what was going on at that time.  And you begin to see how they are expanding on the idea of a coming kingdom and the King who is coming and the nature of that King.

So all the prophets unfold in the history of the Old Testament until you get to Malachi.  The last words of Malachi, Chapter 4 Verse 2 referring to Jesus Christ, were that a Son of Righteousness would come with healing in His rays, and that those who would receive Him would dance and skip about like young calves in the stall.  Then there is a long silence of four hundred years between Malachi and Matthew.  And at the end of those four hundred years the Word of the Lord came to John the Baptist.  John said something that no other prophet had ever said.  He said, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’  The kingdom of heaven had been the subject of all the prophets, but they had always said ‘it is coming’.  John changed the tune.  He said ‘it is at hand’.  And then when Jesus came he said, ‘This is He of whom I spoke to you.’  You will remember that Jesus’ first disciples said excitedly, ‘We have found Him of whom Moses and the prophets spoke, the King, the descendant of Abraham, the descendant of David, the One of whom all the prophets spoke.’

Jesus Christ is the focal point of the Old Testament.  Jesus Himself said as He took the cup of wine at the Last Supper that He had come to bring a new Covenant in his blood.  That was not a new idea. The prophet Jeremiah, in Chapter 31 Verses 31-34, had spoken of how a new covenant and a new order of things would happen.  Jesus said that this was now going to take place in the shedding of his blood.  And by his resurrection, he inaugurated a New Day, a New Testament, a New Covenant. Then you have the story of the Acts of the Apostles: how they went everywhere telling everybody that it had happened.  What had happened?  The Old Testament had.  Everything the Old Testament had ever said had come to pass.  Paul said over and over again that he was in jail only because he was teaching that the Old Testament had been fulfilled.  Now into the Acts of the Apostles you have to fit the Epistles.  They were letters written by Paul and others, often from within the story of the Acts of the Apostles.  (There are some Epistles that were written chronologically after Acts.)  When you see where those Epistles were written, you get a tremendous insight into many of the questions that I have been teaching you to ask.

And there you have the whole spectrum of God’s unfolding purpose.  One is coming: He will be like this, He will do this.  God said, ‘He is almost here.’  Jesus said, ‘I am here.’  He rose again and said, ‘It is done, it is finished.’  And then the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles said, ‘Look, this is how it worked out. This is what happened. See?’  That is the whole spectrum from promise to fulfilment.  It is important, because if you take any part of the New Testament and act as if there was no Old Testament, then you are in trouble.  You will inevitably interpret very incorrectly.  Also, if you take a part of the Old Testament and interpret it as if there is no New Testament, then you will come out with some sad results.  There is so much obsession with the nation of Israel today because people interpret the Old Testament as if the New Testament had never been written.  You have to co-relate and realize that each one links to the other.  The best commentary on the Old Testament is the New Testament, and the best commentary on the New Testament is the Old Testament.

Let me give you an example of what I mean.  In First Peter Chapter 2 Verses 4 to 10 we find this (and incidentally it links with our study in Ephesians):-

  • [Come] to Him as to a living stone, rejected by men, but choice and precious in the sight of God. You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

That is Peter’s statement.  He says, ‘Jesus has been rejected by men, but He is the One in whom you have been built. And you are living stones, made into a holy temple.’  That is just what we have been seeing in Ephesians.  Peter now tells us that this idea is contained in Scripture.  ‘This is not my idea’, he says, ‘This is exactly what the Scripture said would happen.’  And he quotes from the Old Testament, ‘Behold I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious cornerstone, and he who believes in Him shall not be disappointed.’  That is a quotation from Isaiah Chapter 28 Verse 16.  Peter continues, ‘This precious value, then, is for you who believe. But for those who disbelieve’, and he gives another quote from Psalm 118 Verse 22, ‘the stone which the builders rejected, this became the very cornerstone.’  Again he quotes from Isaiah Chapter 8 Verse 14: ‘A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.’  So here are three quotations from the Old Testament that Peter rapidly applies to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now what do I do?  I do not just say, ‘Oh, how nice.’  Now I can put everything in context.  I can go back to those Scriptures in the Old Testament knowing what they mean.  I have got the key because the New Testament has just told me.  Reading through Isaiah I would never have thought that the stone that God laid in Mount Zion for the building of a new temple would be Jesus.  I would have immediately assumed that the Jews were going to build a temple in Jerusalem.  After all, that is what the verse in Isaiah says.   But does it?  ‘No’, says the Holy Spirit, ‘Open your ears. I shall explain it in First Peter. I shall tell you what that new temple is. It is Jesus Christ.’  You see?  That is what I mean by co-relate.

Peter continues, ‘But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession.’  That comes from Exodus Chapter 19 Verses 5 and 6, where God gave the Israelite nation their Bill of Rights: they were to be a chosen race and a holy people.  What does Peter say?  He says, ‘Hey Church. You are that. Israel never made it. Israel went off into apostasy. But, Church, you have become what God said to those Israelites.’  That gives me a new understanding of the Church of God.  Peter relates it right back to the beginning of the unfolding of God’s purposes.  He says, ‘That was the root, right back there. Church, you are the flower. You are this people.’

He goes on: ‘For you were once “not a people”, but now you are “the people of God”. You had “not received mercy” but now you “have received mercy”.’  The phrases in double quotation marks can be traced back to when the prophet Hosea told the people of Israel that they had broken their covenant with God.  In Chapter 1of his book Hosea told them that God had rejected them.  They who once had received all the mercies of God now received no mercy.  They who once had been God’s covenant people were now not a people.  And in order to enforce God’s words in the minds of the people Hosea named his little children – poor little kids – “not receive mercy” and “not a people”.  But the prophecy was that the day would come when everything would be reversed, and the nation of Israel would again be called God’s people and once again receive mercy.

Now if I was reading only the Old Testament I would assume that there is a day coming when the nation of Israel itself will once again be God’s covenant people.  Says the New Testament, ‘No, the Church is the fulfilment of that prophecy.’  Through Peter the Holy Spirit says, ‘The Church is what Hosea was talking about. You are those who once were “not a people”. Now you are “the people of God”. You are those who once had “not received mercy”. Now you “have received mercy”.’

In that example from First Peter we have a key to the Old Testament.  You see, we co-relate it, we bring it together.  Also, you should become aware of echoes.  An echo – that’s my expression – is when there is something in the New Testament that is not a quotation from the Old Testament but relates back to it. There is no doubt that it is an echo of the Old.  People who first heard the New Testament (we are back to that question ‘what did this mean to those who first heard it’) were saturated in the Old Testament.  Young boys had to memorize the first five books of the Bible.  Many of the Pharisees had memorized a lot more than that.  They were saturated in Old Testament ideas, and therefore when a New Testament writer would speak of the Old Testament he often would not even bother to quote.  The idea was so established in the minds of the people that they only had to refer to it in passing.  You, too, need to become aware of the Old Testament, and as you hear the echoes it will begin to become alive to you.

For example, John the Baptist said, ‘Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.’  The word ‘lamb’ and the phrase ‘Lamb of God’ meant so much to John’s audience.  Throughout the Old Testament there are references to the sacrificing of lambs: sacrificing of the Passover Lamb; sacrificing of lambs in burnt offerings; sacrificing of lambs for the putting away of sin.  The idea was so established in the minds of the Jewish people that they immediately understood what John was talking about.  That phrase related back to the whole of the Book of Leviticus.  John the Baptist was saying that in this Person all these offerings are finding their fulfilment.  That is what I call an echo.  There may not be an exact quotation, but if you have read the Old Testament at all you will know that you have heard that somewhere before.  Many Bibles will give marginal references to help you.

There are other examples of echoes.  In John’s Gospel Chapter 6 Jesus says, ‘I am the bread of life.’  He is referring to the story of the manna in the wilderness in Exodus Chapter 16.  But the expression ‘the bread of life’ is not a direct quotation from the Old Testament.  It is an echo from that manna story, and what Jesus is actually saying is that He is everything the manna was talking about.  And so He becomes the ultimate manna from heaven.

Again Jesus said, ‘I am the good shepherd.’  Now most of us, I am sure, just think that that is a nice illustration of a sweet Jesus who carries lambs about all over the place.  But it is much, much more than that.  Throughout the Old Testament you will find references to shepherds.  The classic example of course is Psalm 23, ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’, and that links the idea of shepherd to the eternal God.  Then, look at the books of the prophets.  They continually speak of One who was to come who would be the final Shepherd of the flock.  The prophets told their listeners that they had many shepherds, who were the priests and the Pharisees.  But they were wicked shepherds because they were fleecing the people for wool.  They were taking all the offerings but were not feeding the people.  And the prophets said that God would judge them, but that the day would come when God’s servant David would sit upon the throne and shepherd the people. [The reference is to Ezekiel Chapter 34 Verses 23 & 24]  That gave the Jewish people the idea that Jehovah was the ultimate Shepherd who would come among them in his perfect Servant, who would be of the lineage of David.  So when Jesus said ‘I am the good shepherd’ he set off a hundred explosions in the minds of his hearers.  They all knew that the prophets spoke of a Shepherd who was not wicked like the others but would be the Good Shepherd, the Messiah, the Promised One. In that statement Jesus was the final flower of a root that had been developing for centuries.

Again Jesus said, ‘I am the true vine.’  I wrestled with that for months.  I studied John Chapter 15 in the way that I have shown you on these tapes, and all I kept coming back to was the word ‘true’.  What did ‘true’ mean?  Why did Jesus say ‘I am the true vine’, and not just ‘I am the vine’?  I wrestled with it.  Then as I was reading in the Old Testament it dawned on me that the one consistent picture of Israel was that of a vine.  I saw that the last word that God ever said about Israel as a vine, was that it had turned sour. [See Isaiah Chapter 5]  Then Jesus came along and declared that He was the true vine.  And I realized that in that statement He was saying that He was the beginning of a new Israel. The people were the sour vine, the false vine, but He was the true one.  And all those who would be joined to Him as branches in the vine would bear good fruit.  And God the Father would be the vine-dresser.

When I realized that these were echoes, windows were opened to me.  I saw that the passages did not just stand alone; they were related to others and developed from them.  Some people may say that I am very unspiritual because in effect I am following hunches.  God does not always give us great flashes of inspiration, but He has given us minds.  In studying the Bible and hearing His Word He stretches our minds to their fullest.

A detective following clues may think that he knows the answer, and he puts forward a theory.  And then he begins to test that theory to see if it stands up.  Similarly, a doctor makes certain examinations and then proposes a theory with a diagnosis.  He is not sure yet, but he is going to test that diagnosis again and again.  In the same way, as I look at a Scripture I believe that God is saying something.  And I dare to put that forward as a working theory, and then begin to test it with every other piece of Scripture that I know.  If I know some people who really know the Bible, I will bounce my theory off their heads and see what they say and if they agree.  And gradually that theory becomes solid fact.  I challenge you to do just that.  But I must warn you that in so doing you must be prepared to be shot down.  You are not infallible, and therefore you must be open to receive anything that anyone can advise. You know what the Scripture says.  Stick to your theory until it can be honestly shot down and proved otherwise.

Every passage has a series of relationships.  Imagine the passage that you are studying to be like a bull’s-eye.  That passage is related to another, so you draw another circle around it linking it to the second passage.  That circle will also show the section of the book that the passage is in.  We have seen that each book is divided into certain sections.  Each passage has a relationship to its section as well as to the whole book.  If I wrote you a letter, one sentence of that letter would have (a) a relationship to the paragraph in which it was, and (b) a relationship to the whole letter.  In the case of the passage from Ephesians that we our studying, that one paragraph has a relationship to the whole of the book, to all the other books in the New Testament, and also to all the books of the Old Testament.  Some of these relationships may be minor, but they are still there.  So on your chart you have ever increasing circles.  And that will show the unveiling of the Bible as a whole.  At times you may get very confused and wonder what you are doing.  But remember this — the one story of the Bible is about Jesus.  If ever you get hung up as to what a verse means you can be sure that, if you get Jesus in His right place, all the rest will fall in together.

So let us take, very briefly, the passage of Scripture that we have been using as our model, Ephesians Chapter 2 Verses 19 to 22.  And let us draw circles around it to understand its whole context and seek to correlate it to the rest of the Bible.  Now we know that Paul is speaking of his imprisonment, and that he is insisting that the Gentiles are fellow heirs with the Jewish people.  And he tells them that they are now the Church, the Israel of God.  He had this in mind when he started his letter.  His whole theme is that they are no longer strangers and aliens but they are now fellow citizens.  He did not stumble on that theme half way through his letter.  He thought of it before he started.  If I write you a letter and I am trying to say something, it might take me until paragraph 5 to say it.  But I open my letter trying to say it, and everything I say from the first paragraph on is anticipating that.  In the same way, when we read Chapter 1 of Ephesians we shall be reading it with Chapter 2 Verse 19 in mind.   Now we can understand a lot more.  In Chapter 1 Verses 3, 4 and 5, Paul is talking about what God has done since before the foundation of the world.  The fantastic thing that God has been doing since before the foundation of the world has been the bringing together of a people that were supra-race.  In His plan Jesus Christ has broken down the barriers and has brought about the one new man that is neither Jew nor Gentile.

So now you recognize that you are part of the Israel of God.  You have been brought in.  You make up part of the Holy of Holies on earth.  At this point you may not know that Galatians Chapter 3 deals with that completely.  There Paul says that everyone who has faith in Christ is a true Israelite and a child of Abraham.  When you come to read Galatians Chapter 3 you will realize that you have read its message before.  And so your correlation begins.

Look at First Peter Chapter 2, which we were reading earlier.  There the Church is called the fulfilment of Israel, the holy nation, those who have now become the people of God.  Peter talks of living stones being built together, with Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone.  You should be able to relate this chapter to Galatians Chapter 3 and to Ephesians Chapter 2.  You are correlating, bringing it together.

The songs in the Book of Revelation will become much more meaningful to you because now you will realize what it meant to those first readers when they read about the Heavenly song that praised God for redeeming Christians out of every tongue and every tribe and every nation. [Revelation Chapter 5 Verse 9.]  Everyone is included in the Church of Jesus Christ — not just the Jewish people.  And you would remember again Ephesians Chapter 2: that from all the Gentile peoples, along with the Jewish peoples, there is one new man, the Church, the new Israel.  You may be reminded that the very first promise was not made to Israel alone, but to the whole human race.  In Genesis Chapter 3 Verse 20 Eve is called ‘the mother of all living’.  In Genesis Chapter 22 Verse 18 Abraham was given the promise, ‘Through your seed shall all nations of the earth be blessed.’  And so from the beginning the Gentiles were included.

In First Peter Chapter 2 you will find a quotation from Psalm 118 Verse 22: ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone.’   To find out how the temple was built you could look at First Kings Chapter 6 Verse 7.  There you will find information about how the bricks of the temple were carved outside the city, and then in total silence were brought into the temple and fitted together.  That is a reminder of how the Holy Spirit builds us together: it is done so quietly that we hardly notice it.  The cornerstone, that all the builders said would fit nowhere, became the stone that has held the whole building together.  You may wish to pursue the idea that the Holy of Holies was the dwelling of God.  Then you will learn about all that had happened on Mount Zion when the Holy of Holies was transferred there.  And you will discover that we, the Church of Jesus Christ, are the Mount Zion of the Old Testament, the dwelling place of God.  Suddenly all the Psalms of David that were written from Mount Zion come into focus.

We saw earlier how in Second Samuel Chapter 7 the descendant of David was to build a house of God. You will realize that that house is the spiritual temple made up of those who are born again.  You can now see how those verses of Ephesians that we are studying reach out to the ends of the Bible.  They have roots everywhere and flowers everywhere.  They are not just floating in space; they are solidly set in the whole of Scripture.

Now I say again, do not be discouraged if you do not discover all this at once.  Just be aware and let the Holy Spirit lead your mind in ferreting out the Scriptures.  Seek for it as treasures, search for it as silver.  And use your Bible’s margin for references.  Everything I have said to you in the last twenty minutes, I got from the margin of a Bible.  I followed those marginal references backwards and forwards.  And what I have been sharing with you, you can do too.  With a working knowledge of the Bible you can correlate.  And so, take the whole Book and let God speak His Word to you in it and through it.


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