Here are 5 ways to study the Bible that you may never have considered. Maybe you could add your own suggestion. In what ways could you increase your understanding of the Word of God?
The Command to Study; Just Do It
The Bible tells us to “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15) in order to “be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim 4:2). This is not a helpful hint or a suggestion but an imperative command. We are told to search the Scriptures, like those in Berea did, to see if what things are true or not since “they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). Discipline yourself to study the Word of God every day or you will never grow in the grace or knowledge of God.
Pray for Enlightenment
Most people overlook one of the most important aspects of studying the Bible and it is to their detriment. We need to begin every day with prayer but also every Bible study. When we fail to pray, we are bypassing the important work of the Holy Spirit in imparting to us the meaning of the Word of God. The Holy Spirit is our Teacher and Aid in helping us to understand the Bible but He also gives us ways to apply it to our daily lives. When we pray for the Holy Spirit to open our minds to understand the Word then we are inviting God Himself into our study, in the Person of the Holy Spirit, to be our Teacher. Every student of the Bible needs help and Who better to help than God? Even those who teach the Word need to depend upon the Holy Spirit to show them the meaning of the Scriptures and how to interpret them in their proper context. Second Corinthians 2:10 says “these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God” and that “the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26) and “ When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” (John 16:13).
Read a Specific Book
One way to understand the Word of God is to pick one book. Sounds simple enough but we can begin with 1 John and read the entire book in one sitting. Don’t stop and take notes and don’t wait to get a full understanding of all that is being said at first. Just read the book at one sitting. Then, after you have read the book, go back over it and write an outline of the book. Make certain headings in your notes about particular sections of the book. There is usually a general theme to the book. What is it? Writing out an outline can show you what the author’s specific purpose was.
The Who, What, Why, and How
When you read a passage or section of Scriptures, ask yourself these questions: Who was this written too? Was it only for the audience at the time? Does it apply to us today? What are timeless principles about the passage or passages?
Next, what is the author saying? Does it have meaning to us today in the cultural context? Is what is written prescriptive or descriptive? That is, is it describing something unique at the time and simply describing events that have no connection to us specifically? Or is it prescriptive and that is does it apply directly to us and to all believers for all time?
Why was this book written? Was it due to apostasy in the church like 1 John was? Did the writer address a particular problem within the church? Does it apply to Christians today or was this something that was written only to those living at the time. The “why” gives us the author’s intent and the reasons that it was written to the recipients almost always has some practical application to us today.
How is this important to us? How was this important to the readers at the time? How do I use this in my life? For example, there are many believers who are burdened with unnecessary guilt over sin, even confessed sin, so the passage in 1 John 1:9 gives this person reassurance that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” but for the person who says that they are not sinners, 1 John 1:8, 10 is useful because it states that “ If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us [and] If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
Choose Study Aides
One thing that I love are my two Study Bibles. These are helpful because they contain commentaries for difficult passages. I have learned from experience to interpret difficult passages of Scripture with other similar or cross-referenced Scriptures. That is, I let Scripture interpret Scripture. The margins of my Bible have notations of the original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic words that help me determine meaning, interpret them correctly, and give a better application to them. It helps to have Bible commentaries, Bible atlases, Bible concordances, Bible dictionaries, Greek and Hebrew lexicons, and online resources such as Blue Letter Bible which have extremely helpful guides to discern what is being said in specific Bible passages or verses. These all help the Bible come alive. To know more about the historical setting of the book, these tools can tell us more about the setting of the time and place and what the recipients were going through. These will all help immensely in our getting a better grasp of what the book is about.
Maybe you have a better list of 5 than I do. What would you consider an important study aid when reading the Bible? Is there something you could add to this list? What is it? Whatever it is, before you study the Word of God I strongly urge you to; pray, then just read it, next ask questions about the specific book, pick one book at a time, and then use any Bible study tools you can find. This will enrich your understand of the Word of God and make you hunger and thirst for more. May God richly bless your study and that your study will show you more about God and ways that you can most glorify Him, for that is our purpose; to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.
Another Reading on Patheos to Check Out: What Did Jesus Really Look Like: A Look at the Bible Facts
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want to Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon.