In my last post I wrote about how crucial prayer is to the study of the Word. I also talked about how to understand the meta-narrative of Scripture and shared some resources to help grow your understanding of the big story of Scripture.
I’m really excited to talk about this next part because now we can get into the nitty-gritty of Scripture study.
It can be difficult when studying Scripture to approach it in an appropriate way. Oftentimes our study of Scripture is clouded by our preconceived opinions, our experience-driven feelings, or our false understanding of who God is.
That’s why, for me, I need something to protect me from myself as I’m reading Scripture. I need a method that forces me to slow down and see Scripture for what it is and what it says, not what I want it to say.
Depending on the book you’re studying, there might be a lot of historical and cultural context that is worth diving into in order to gain a perspective for what you’re reading. At the end of this post, I include a long list of resources that might be helpful as you seek to understand context and metanarrative for your study of a passage.
But in order to help with the actual process of studying the Word, I’ve put together a guide that helps me think through the passage of Scripture I’m studying.
There’s not anything new about this method – it’s called the inductive method of Bible study – and really what it does is slow you down as you read, forcing you to interpret what is in the text rather than allowing you to put your assumptions and opinions onto the text.
This guide is also available in a prettier PDF format here: bible study guide
Inductive Bible Study Method
OBSERVE – What does it say?
Slowly read through the text at least twice without trying to figure out what it means yet. Just observe.
Mark repeated or key words, metaphors, comparisons/contrasts, connector words (if, then, so, therefore, but).
Note major themes.
Check different translations.
Explore word studies (some recommended word study resources are below).
Check cross references (places where the same verse or theme appears in another chapter or book – these are often listed in the margins of your bible – or can be found on online bibles).
INTERPRET – What does it mean?
The key here is to discover the context of the passage and discover what it meant to the original audience.
** This interpretation step is the most important part. It is during this step that you are figuring out what the passage is saying. Do this slowly, think critically, and make sure you are remembering what you observed (what it actually says) as well as the truths that you know to be true based on the rest of Scripture. **
Refer to faithful commentaries if needed.
NOTE: be discerning in this. First study the passage yourself and then lightly refer to commentaries for specific questions.
APPLY – How can I change?
In response to what I’ve learned, what am I now called to do?
Some questions to ask yourself during this application step:
Is there a sin I need to repent of?
Is there a relationship that needs to change?
Is there a conversation I need to have?
Sometimes this isn’t necessarily a tangible STEP; sometimes it’s a reorientation of thought, a perspective shift, or the settling in of a truth in your soul.
Sometimes the necessary application is just to believe.
KEY QUESTIONS TO ASK THROUGHOUT YOUR STUDY
What does this passage say about the character of God?
What does this passage say about the sinfulness of man?
What does this passage say about the sufficiency of Christ?
What does this passage say about the necessity of faith?
What does this passage say about the urgency of eternity?
ALSO. Just a reminder. These questions and methods of study are just tools. They are not the “right” way to study the Bible. There is no one right method of studying Scripture.
Depending on your life stage, Bible study for you might look like listening to an audio version of the Bible while you’re playing with your kids, or reading quickly straight through from Genesis to Revelation to gain a bigger understanding of the whole story, or walking through a guided devotional of one topic woven throughout Scripture.
If you approach God’s Word humbly and seeking to know and love God more, then his Word, along with the power of the Holy Spirit, is able to shape, grow, and change you.
God’s Word is his revelation of himself to his people. It is a gracious gift that allows us to know him more. Allow yourself to be awed by the grace it is to have his Word.
Approach the Word seeking to know him more.
And trust the Spirit to apply the Word to your heart and grow you in righteousness.
I’m listing some resources below. Please feel free to share your methods of Bible study in the comments below or by messaging me. I’m always looking to grow in this area!
More details on Inductive Bible study:
- Journeywomen podcast – there are several episodes that address studying the Bible – simply search “bible study” in the search bar (specific episode suggestions are: Episode 75 “The Art of Asking Intentional Questions”, Episode 72 “Studying the Word”, Episode 36 “Biblical Literacy for Women”, Episode 4 “Bible Study”)
- Simple Study binder by Caroline Saunders
- This PDF that explains inductive Bible study
Other Inductive Bible Study Guides:
- https://www.risenmotherhood.com (free worksheets!)
Commentaries, Topical Resources, and Word Studies:
- Blue Letter Bible website or app – if you’re a nerd like me and like digging into the meanings of the original Greek and Hebrew words – this is a great resource! It also provides links to commentaries for the verse or passage you’re reading
- Another resource for the word-nerd: Precept Austin has incredible Greek and Hebrew word studies for when you want to take a deep dive into a particular word.
- Desiring God’s website has articles and sermons on almost every topic imaginable. Often if I’m looking for further insight into a book or chapter of the Bible, I just check out Piper’s sermons on that section of Scripture
- If you’re studying the Psalms, Charles Spurgeon’s chapter-by-chapter commentaries are incredible