The Word of God is powerful in its affect upon our life (Heb 4:12) and the Word of God is profitable for every aspect of our life! (2 Tim 3:15-17). Something that powerful and profitable is worth the investment of time in learning how to study it in order to glean the benefits for your own life!
Here are a few pointers I’ve picked up from various sources that have proved helpful in my own study of God’s Word.
Remember the three “big-ideas” for Bible Study: Observation, Interpretation, Application.
This answers the question: What does the passage say?
Discover Facts – Ask questions of the text:
- Who? Who is speaking, being spoken to or talked about?
- What? What is happening, what are they talking about?
- When? When did this happen, when will it happen?
- Where? Where was this said, where did it or will it happen?
- Why? Why did this need to be written? Why did they do this, say this etc.
- How? How is it done? How did it happen, How is this truth illustrated?
LET’S PRACTICE: John 7:1
- Who is this about?
- What was He doing?
- Where was He walking?
- Why was He not in Judea?
- When was this taking place?
- How – NA
Identify repeated words or ideas
- List the important repeated words
- List the important repeated ideas
- List everything you have learned about these repeated words or ideas
Repeated words and phrases reveal the subject – the main thing the author is talking about.
The more a word is repeated, the more obvious it becomes that that word is a subject. The more that subject is repeated, the more obvious it becomes that the subject represents a theme.
Once you determine what the author is talking about you can determine his main purpose for writing! This is called the theme.
This answers the question: What does the passage mean?
When seeking to determine the meaning always remember that context rules – what comes before and after the passage you are studying? To take something out of context is when you make it say something that is contrary to the teaching of the passage? ILL: Passage about the Pharisees made to teach of how bad living in sin is. (Lk 15)
Define unfamiliar words
Use a Bible dictionary as well as an English dictionary.
Check out other Scriptures
Is your interpretation consistent with other Scriptures? Are there any other passage that talks about the same subject? (Acts 20:27)(Cross-reference, Online Bible program has an easy cross-reference feature.)
Take the Word of God at face value, in its natural, normal sense.
- What was the author’s intended meaning?
- Are there any cultural or historical considerations?
This answers the question: How does this passage apply to me?
- Is there an example for me to follow?
- Is there a sin for me to avoid?
- Is there a prayer for me to repeat?
- Is there a command for me to obey?
- Is there a condition for me to meet?
- Is there a lesson for me to learn?
- Is there a verse for me to memorize?
- Is there an error for me to avoid?
- Is there a challenge for me to face?
Read with a purpose:
You must ask the 5 W’s and an H: Who, What, When, Where, Why, & How.
Who wrote it? Who said it? Who are the major characters? Who are the people mentioned? To whom is the author speaking? About whom is he speaking?
What are the main events? What are the major ideas? What are the major teachings? What are these people like? What does he talk about the most? What is his purpose in saying that?
When was it all written? When did this event take place? When will it happen? When did he say it? When did he do it?
Where was this done? Where was this said? Where will it happen?
Why was there a need for this to be written? Why was this mentioned? Why was so much or so little space devoted to this event or teaching? Why was this reference mentioned? Why should the do such and such?
How is it done? How did it happen? How is this truth illustrated?
These questions are the building blocks of precise observation which lay a solid foundation for accurate interpretation. If you rush into interpretation without laying the vital foundation of observation, your understanding becomes colored by your own presuppositions – what YOU think, what YOU feel, or what OTHER people have said. If you do this you distort the Scriptures to your own destruction – something we are specifically warned against (II Peter 3:16).
So grab your Bible, a pen and notebook and practice these three simple suggestions! You will be amazed the truths that will be opened to you! (John 16:13).