I am often asked “How do I study the bible?” That’s a great question. There’s no doubt it’s a big book and can seem overwhelming at first. Some people try to read through it from cover to cover winding up feeling defeated by the time they get to the book of Numbers (the fourth book in the Old Testament). But I believe that anyone can study the bible as long as they know how.
Precept Ministries is known for teaching what is known as the inductive method of bible study to learn more about God and his written word. The inductive method of bible study is a three step process that can open a new door of scriptural understanding and will challenge you to apply what you learn. If you have never studied the bible on your own, the inductive method is a great tool to do just that.
I suggest starting in the New Testament with the Gospel of John if you are a rookie. If you have been a Christian you should go for other New Testament books like Romans or 1st and 2nd Corinthians. Just start somewhere and go from there. If you use these three steps the bible will come alive because you will have a new understanding of what’s being communicated through it.
Start by praying for God to give you wisdom and understanding. Read an entire chapter out of the Bible and observe what is happening in the text. The Bible was written for people by people under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. As you read it ask “who”, “what”, “when”, “where”, “why”, and “how” questions. Mark key words and phrases that are essential to the text. For example, in Ephesians chapter one the words “In Christ” are used multiple times. Figure out what they mean or lead to. If you read the word “therefore” you need to find out what it’s there for. You might have to go back and read the previous chapter to do this.
2. Interpretation. This is when you seek to understand the context that the biblical author wrote in. What was going on in history at the time? Is your interpretation consistent with the theme, purpose, and structure of the entire book? Ask what is being communicated? What is the message that is being sent? What does it mean? Keep a notebook or highlighter handy. I like to highlight passages that stand out to me. Circle any key words or phrases you read. Find the meaning of the text you are reading and do more research if you have to.
There are tons of useful websites to help you as well.
3. Application. Discover what the text means to you in a practical sense. Ask God to reveal what he wants you to learn. Have you ever read the Bible and a passage just sticks out to you and feels like it was written just for you at that moment? I have. It’s called “Illumination” and it’s the work of the Holy Spirit through Scripture. The theologian Millard Erickson states, “Illumination by the Holy Spirit helps the Scripture reader or hearer understand the Bible and creates the conviction that it is true and is the Word of God” (Christian Theology).
Now that I have shared with you the skills to study the bible on your own, the next step is for you to make it a priority. I also suggest you get involved in a small group to experience God’s word with others in Christian community and to have an outlet to ask questions and deepen your understanding of scripture.
You might not do a study every time you sit down to read the bible but you should strive to do a few in depth studies at least several times a month. When I was a new Christian I read a Proverb a day because there are 31 Proverbs and I always knew what chapter to read. I would also read other Scripture, but Proverbs is so full of practical wisdom that it’s easy to see where I can apply it. I still read Proverbs several times a year. I hope this helps you dig deeper into God’s word so you can take the next step in your faith. Blessings.