HOW TO STUDY THE BIBLE
I. Conditions for Effective Study
A. You must have a hunger for the Word (Job 23:12) (Jer. 15:16).
B. You must be willing to dig into the Word (Prov. 2:1-5).
C. You must have a will and desire to fully surrender and do what the Scripture teaches (John 7:17) (James 1:22).
D. You must have a childlike trust in God (Matt.11:25).
E. You must accept it's teaching as the Word of God (1 Thess. 2:13).
F. You must prayerfully consider what is taught (Psalm 119:18).
G. You must search the Bible daily (Acts 17:11).
II. How to Do an In-depth Study
A systematic study of a book, chapter, or passage requires three things:
A. Observation: Determine what the Bible declares.
B. Interpretation: Determine what does a specific passage mean.
C. Application: Determine what will you personally do.
III. Observation - What Does it Say? Find the Basic Facts Only
A. When you begin to dig into a text you must ask yourself several questions. Asking questions enables you to more fully consider a passage. Here are some good observation questions:
1. Who? Who is doing the talking? Who is the speaker talking to? Who are the other personalities in the passage?
2. What? What is being said? What's happening?
3. When? When did this happen (historical note), or when will it happen (prophecy)?
4. Where? Where are the people going? Where have they been? Where are they now?
B. Depending on the text, there are a few more questions you should ask to help open up a passage. The primary questions deal with surface issues, these questions enable you to look a little deeper into the text. Ask yourself these questions:
1. Are there things in the text that are alike or similar? Look for comparisons. Look for analogies. Example: Look for figures of speech (John 8:34-36). Look for similar concepts. Example: The dominion of the old covenant and the dominion of the marriage covenant (Romans 7:1-2).
2. Are there things that are different in the text? Look for contrasts. Are you told what will happen if you don't do what is being taught (Matt. 16:24-26)? Look for words such as "but", "not", or "however". Contrast Peter and Judas' failures and results.
3. Are there words repeated, (Hebrews 11), "by faith"?
4. What are the implied results from doing what is being said (1 Peter 5:6)? The word "therefore implies" a conclusion.
5. Are there questions that are asked of you (Romans 6:1)?
6. What then are the answers or solutions (Romans 6:1,12)?
7. Are there any commands (Matt. 6:33)?
8. Are there any promises (Matt. 6:33)? Look for conditional promises, "if you will", then the promise is made (John 7:17) (John 12:26).
IV. Interpretation - What does it Mean?
A. When learning to interpret God’s Word, it is important to understand that there is only one interpretation or meaning to a passage. There will always be many applications of a verse to an your life, but the passage itself only has one meaning. If you first determine the meaning of a verse, then you can determine if or how it may apply to your own life Example: (2 Cor. 3:6), "The letter kills but the Spirit gives life." Many have interpreted this to mean too much Bible teaching kills a person spiritually, but experiencing the Holy Spirit is more important. However, when you observe the context of this passage it reveals a contrast between the old and new covenants. This interpretation clearly reveals that the passage has nothing to do with Bible study. Therefore, any interpretation most be built on good observation.
B. Principles to use in interpretation.
1. First, go back over your observations. If you have made detailed observations, the interpretations will be obvious!
2. Look at each observation and ask yourself, why is this important? Why was this taught? Why is this promise, command, comparison, repetitive word, or question important?
3. The plain and simple meaning is usually the right one. Don’t force the text to teach what is not there.
4. Always consider the context of the chapter, book, and the whole Bible.
5. Use your concordance and cross reference system in your Bible to obtain parallel verses.
6. Always consider the historical and cultural setting.
7. Be careful for use of parables, metaphors and other figures of speech. Unless they are clearly being used, take the verse literally (example: "I am the Bread of Life").
8. Obtain the definition of words that are unclear; use a Strong's Concordance, Vines Dictionary, or Webster's Dictionary.
9. Consult a good commentary such as Matthew Henry.
10. Read your interpretation over and over again. Then meditate upon it. Let the Lord open your understanding.
V. Application - What am You Going to do About it?
A. The goal of all Bible study should always be application of God’s truth into your life. One problem in the Christian life is that we get satisfied with the interpretation and never get to the application, or doing something with what we’ve learned. However, Scripture teaches that the lack of application of God’s word will always lead to self-deception and instability in a person's life (Matt. 7:24) (James 1:22). Therefore, you must apply God’s truth. Go back now through your observations and interpretations and ask yourself these questions.
1. How does this passage apply to my life; in my home, at my job, or with my friends?
2. What specific changes should I now make in my life?
3. How will I carry out these changes? What specific action will I take to keep yourself from falling again?
4. Last, pray that God will enable you to take these actions by filling you right now with the power of the Holy Spirit.
VI. How to Study a Topic
This is a method of study often used which can yield great treasures to the person willing to dig. If a person will spend the time they can truly understand God's mind on a subject and keep that subject balanced with other related subjects. But there are dangers here also. If you don't study a subject completely you can distort a truth and ultimately misapply these verses to your life. You must study the Bible systematically along with topical study. This will enable you to get a well rounded knowledge of the Bible.
Principles to use in topical study.
1. Pick a subject that is of great interest to you. This motivates you to dig thoroughly through the Word.
2. Use a Strong's Concordance, Nave's Topical Bible, or What the Bible Teaches by R.A. Torrey, or the cross reference system in your Bible. Go through every passage that you can find on this subject.
3. Study each verse in context to get its exact meaning using the principles of interpretation.
4. Arrange the facts you learn in a logical order on your paper. These truths and their affect in your life will encourage more topical study.
VII. How to Study a Book
Even through this method of study is a more difficult and time consuming one, it is by far the most rewarding. This method of study is the safest way to keep from being sidetracked into peripheral teachings that tend to destabilize a Christian's walk. If you give yourself to this method of study it will yield the largest and the most fruitful and permanent results for your life.
Principles to use when studying a book of the Bible.
A. First, if you have never done a book study before, start by choosing a smaller one, preferably one with few difficult passages. These choices will keep you from giving up in your study. The amount of time it requires to accomplish this method of study, and hard to understand passages, are the two major discouragement’s in this form of study. Therefore begin your book study with books such as: Philippians, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 Thessalonians or Ephesians.
B. Begin by reading through the entire book several times to gain an overall view of its message.
C. Next, read through chapter one and look for the natural subject breaks in the text.
D. Take a notebook and title one page for each chapter in the book. Make a basic outline of the chapter and each subject break.
E. Begin with the first section of the chapter. Use observation, interpretation, and application method for each verse and section. Follow this same method though each chapter. The central truths of each chapter will slowly begin to be seen. Ultimately, you will understand how each chapter is connected to the overall theme of the book.