Studying the Bible: 3 Methods that Work

By Dr. Bob Martin III
Published 3 years ago

Studying the Bible is critical for an intimate relationship with God. And that is something you want more than anything. However, you may have already found out that studying the Bible takes effort.

It also requires reliance on the Holy Spirit.


3 features of Bible study More intimacy with God. Takes effort Reliance on the Holy Spirit


Have you tried studying the Bible but found it unrewarding? You are in for a treat! This blog will introduce you to three ways to effectively study God’s Word.


I.   What the Illinois River Taught Me About Studying the Bible

Growing up near the Illinois River, I spent many hours traveling up and down the river’s meandering path. Do you know why natural waterways never follow a straight path? Because on their own, they always take the path of least resistance.

What does that have to do with studying the Bible? In this instance, the analogy applies to the fact that intentional Bible study takes effort.

And many people would, after all, prefer less mentally stimulating activities. So they instead choose an aimless path. As a result, they waste large chunks of time. They spend hours on mindless social media, entertainment, gaming, or internet viewing.

On the other hand, others have tried studying the Bible. But found it unfruitful or unproductive and decided it wasn’t worth the effort.

But there is good news! You weren’t studying the Bible as effectively as you could.

There are three ways of studying the Bible. Without a doubt, they will radically change your interest and involvement.

And while these are three distinct forms of Bible study, each builds on the previous one.


3 Forms of Bible Study v2 Inductive or Focused (Exegesis) The Bible’s Big Story (Biblical Theology) Topical (Systematic Theology)




1.   Inductive or Focused (Exegesis) Bible Study

In the first place, studying the Bible begins with the proper interpretation. This exercise is “exegesis.” It determines the author’s intended meaning of a passage to his original audience.

One way to study Scripture is the “CIA method” to “investigate” Scripture.


CIA Method (Exegesis) 1. Context 2. Interpretation 3. Application blog image


a.   “C” stands for “context.”

The literary and historical contexts are the first things to investigate.

First, literary context studies language and genre. It specifically considers the meaning of each word in its original language. Then it considers grammatical relationships within sentences, paragraphs, and chapters.

Finally, the literary genre plays an essential role in proper interpretation. Various Biblical genres exist—for instance, law, poetry, historical narratives, letters, and apocalyptic literature.

The historical context considers the real-life situation in which the book arose. As a result, it includes geographical and historical/political contexts. For example:

  • Who (author)
  • When (date)
  • Where (location)
  • What (purpose)
  • Why (occasion).


But you don’t need to know every detail of the history surrounding a text when studying the Bible. But a general idea of historical context is usually helpful.


b.   “I” stands for “interpretation.”

This step in studying the Bible is easy once you know the context. In short, there is only one meaning of a text. And that is the author’s intended meaning to his original audience.

Furthermore, that meaning should be the simplest, most conventional, and obvious literal interpretation. That is to say; proper understanding requires getting into the original audience’s shoes.


c.   “A” is for “application.”

Although there is only one meaning, several contemporary applications may apply. And that is the key. Find the universal truth or “eternal” principle behind the Scripture. And then use this principle for ourselves and the contemporary world today.

In summary, this three-step process determines the meaning and application of Scripture. And it is particularly beneficial for studying the Bible in an inductive or “focused” way.


2.   Studying the Bible’s Big Story (Biblical Theology)

Studying the Bible in light of history is revealing. As a matter of fact, Scripture is a progression of God’s unfolding revelation in history. Biblical theology examines the big story of the Bible. Hence, it views the Bible as a unified unfolding story of successive stages.

As a result, this “big story” approach allows us to see each writer’s message as part of Scripture’s whole message. And most importantly, that message from Genesis to Revelation points to Jesus.


3.   Studying the Bible by Topics (Systematic Theology)

The third way of studying the Bible involves researching various topics. Basically, systematic theology surveys specific issues. Explicitly, it answers the question, “What does the whole Bible teach about a given topic?”

Systematic theology uses the foundations laid by biblical theology. Therefore this particular way of investigating the Bible is like an encyclopedia.

Systematic theology surveys 1,500 years of Biblical writing on various subjects and organizes them into topics. For instance, topics include the Holy Spirit, angels, sin, and the church.


II.   Which Way Is Best?

Using these three ways of studying the Bible should engage your interest. These methods should make your future journeys into Scripture productive. In summary:

  • Exegesis correctly interprets Scripture.
  • Biblical theology helps us track an idea through the whole history of the Bible.
  • Systematic theology covers a particular topic in an orderly way.


Consider the following program of studying the Bible for greater enjoyment.

First, start with exegesis. That should be a regular habit every time you read the Bible.

Second, as you read through the Old Testament, look for its fulfillment in the New Testament. For example, the book of Hebrews is beneficial in this regard.

Third, realize you are doing systematic theology when you search for a topic on the internet!

To sum up, regardless of your study tool, don’t lose sight of the main thing. You are studying the Bible to draw into a more intimate relationship with God.

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