One of the most important tools that I use when reading God’s Word is some highlighters and a pen to underline verses and various portions of passages in my Bible. Now highlighting your Bible is not something that you’ll read about in your Bible, nor is it a tool the Jewish Teachers, Catholic Priests or early Protestant Pastors ever thought about. I highlight to help me interact with the Bible. Highlighting helps me remember verses as well as where they are and even helps me remember what it was that stood out to me when I highlighted it.
I highlight something blue when I feel the passage tells me something about who God is. This is a passage that explains the character, person, and attributes of God. If a passage is explaining what God is like or how He feels about something or is sharing something that helps me better understand the mind and heart of God Almighty, then I’ll highlight it blue.
Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen. Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.” (Isaiah 44:6–8)
I highlight something orange when I feel the passage tells me something that is true. Now the whole Bible could be highlighted orange because everything in the Bible is trustworthy and true. However, if a verse or passage stands out as being something that is true that has stood the test of time that I need to know, I’ll highlight it orange. For instance, if a passage is talking about how Scripture is trustworthy or explains a fact about how all men are sinners, I might highlight those things orange.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16–17)
I highlight something yellow when a passage or verse is telling me something that I need to do/emulate/follow. When a passage is giving an example of something that we as Christians are supposed to do or some way in which we are to follow, I will highlight it yellow. The Bible is full of commands and advice so there are lots of passages that are easily yellow.
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Eph 5:15–17)
I highlight something pink when a passage or verse is telling me something that I need to avoid. The Bible is full of passages that indicate warnings or are pointing out an example of someone who did what was wrong. These verses are a warning to us. They remind us to avoid sin, to steer clear of bad company or to be certain not to mock God.
The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. (Luke 18:11)
I highlight a passage green when the verse is exclaiming a promise I can hold on to. The Bible has tons of promises in it. They are something we read to encourage us, to help bolster our faith, and to help us hold on through the dark times. These passages inspire hope, confidence and help us hold God’s hand though the hard times.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. (Isaiah 43:2)
When you begin to highlight your Bible you’ll quickly realize there’s a ton of overlap. You could easily see a passage as true whereas someone else will see how that passage explains some aspect of God’s character. You might read a verse and see it as a command or example you need to follow and someone else will see the promise of God in the passage. I think the clear thing to realize is that ultimately there are no wrong answers. Highlighters are tools to help you read and study the Bible. You could copy the system I’ve laid out or scrap it and come up with your own. The key is that you have a system and you stick to it for that will help you get into God’s Word.