There are some well-known addresses around the world, from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to 10 Downing Street. But do you know what’s beside the White House, or who lives next door to England’s Prime Minister? Probably not. And to tell the truth, there’s not much of a reason to investigate.
The Bible also has some famous “addresses,” also known as references: John 3:16, Joshua 1:9, Philippians 4:13. Do you know what the verse next door says? Does it matter?
Unlike the “almost famous” residents next door to the well-known figures of our time, there’s no such thing as a second-place Scripture.
2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that all of the Bible comes from God and is useful to our lives. Could the verse next door to your favorite verse be saying something just as powerful — could it reveal a truth you’ve been missing?
Since the 1970s — when a rainbow-wig-wearing end-zone fan held up a sign with the reference — John 3:16 has gone from Christian favorite to pop culture icon.
There’s a reason for its popularity. Jesus summed up the Good News in one understandable and powerful statement: “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (NLT).
But it’s easy to forget that it’s not the only verse on the block.
Right next door is the often overlooked John 3:17: “God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him” (NLT).
Why is this verse next door so important? Let’s take a look at the context for it: Jesus was talking to Nicodemus, a prominent religious leader called a Pharisee. As a Pharisee, Nicodemus interpreted the Law of Moses and religiously observed its rituals. And as a member of the Sanhedrin (which was basically the Jewish court system), he sat in judgment over those who were under the Law.
Do you see what Jesus did in John 3:16 and 17? He totally challenged Nicodemus’ ideas of faith. Jesus explained that salvation is based on God’s love for people and he sent Jesus to save them from future condemnation.
Reading John 3:1-21, we see an amazing picture of God’s plan to save us. Nicodemus understood Jesus’ message and responded — in John 19:39 he is recognized as a fellow believer.
John 3:16-17 is not only an invitation to salvation but also a reminder to live every day in relationship with God and view people as he does. It’s the very heart of God’s Word.
You’ve probably heard this verse a lot: “For I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13, NLT). It’s often used as a motivator for all kinds of situations: “Yes, I can get that promotion!” “Yes, I can win that game!” “Yes, I can climb that mountain!”
Sure, God gives you the strength to do those things, but that’s not the takeaway here.
The key is in the verse right before it: “I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little” (Philippians 4:12, NLT).
Back up to Philippians 4:6 and the context comes into focus. Life is full of ups and downs. It’s easy to rejoice over the great stuff, but the hard stuff? Not so much. Worry sets in and soon we’re sidetracked.
What Paul wants the Philippian believers to understand in this passage is God’s peace that comes from a thankful heart. It keeps our hearts from despair and worry, and focuses us on Jesus. That peace enables us to do everything — go through any situation — with the strength that comes from Christ.
In fact, the whole book of Philippians shows how we can overcome problems — doctrinal, personal, relational, etc. — through the power of Jesus Christ. This is the power of the gospel to transform our daily lives.
In 2017 the most-searched verse on the YouVersion Bible app was Joshua 1:9: “This is my command — be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (NLT).
That’s definitely a motivating verse and it stands alone quite well. But the verse next door, Joshua 1:8, is the key to being able to succeed: “Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.”
At the beginning of the Book of Joshua, Moses has died and Joshua — his longtime assistant — is charged to lead the people. Those are some pretty big shoes to fill. After all Moses is the guy who saw the burning bush, led Israel out of Egypt, received the Law straight from God and visibly radiated with glory.
Joshua not only had to take over in Moses’ place but he had to lead a fickle nation into battle to conquer an enemy-filled promised land. Leading up to 1:9, God builds Joshua’s confidence by reminding him of what was important and that he wasn’t alone. Joshua then passes God’s message on to the Israelites (Joshua 1:10-14). The chapter ends with the people positively receiving the message.
Joshua 1:8 focuses on the importance of knowing and applying God’s Word. Combined with the presence and power of God in our lives, it makes Joshua 1:9 complete.
And all of Joshua 1 shows us that reaching — and possibly leading — others starts with a relationship with God based on a solid understanding of his Word.
What could you discover from your favorite verse? Read it, then read the verses next door.
For more context, back up to the beginning of the passage. Then zoom out to the chapter and book to reveal how the verse relates to the overall theme. Want more? These six popular verses have some enlightening next-door neighbors:
In a world of sound bites and snack foods, it’s easy to confuse a “verse of the day” with a solid diet of Scripture.
The complete Bible is a feast that God has prepared as a banquet of truth to satisfy your soul. Put into practice, it’s the life-transforming nourishment that goes beyond your life to impact your family, friends, colleagues, community and, possibly, the world.
As you continue to discover and appreciate the richness of God’s Word, think about the people of the world — the people he loves — who are waiting for a complete Bible in their first language.
In Ghana, the Nyagbo have fallen in love with the portions of Scripture they have. But they know to be fully fed and satisfied, they need all of God’s Word. You can help by partnering with the Nyalota Cluster (three languages in Ghana, which include Nyagbo) project.
You can change lives for eternity by helping the languages of Ghana feast on the Word of God.