Bible study is the most fun, profitable, and valuable thing you can do, especially if you know what you are doing!
Every Christain should know how to study the Bible (Rom. 8:28-29). The Bible is unique among all other books because it is the Word of God, not just the words of men (Rom 3:2).
Specifically, the Bible is:
- God’s love letter written to you (Psa. 130:7; 1 John 3:1)
- The Bible is the inspired word of God. This means that the Holy Spirit led the human authors to write down what God wanted them to say (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21)
- Living and active (Hebrews 4:12; 1 Pet. 1:23) and has the power to transform your thinking and actions to help you to become more like Christ (Psa 119:105; 2 Cor. 3:18)
When handled correctly (2 Tim. 2:15), Scripture will teach you:
- About God (Jer. 10:10)
- His Son Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity (John 5:39)
- How to live your life according to His will (John 10:10)
The Bible is a collection of 66 books written by approximately 40 authors over about 1,600 years. The authors come from diverse walks of life, from kings to fishermen. The Bible:
- Was written in three different languages: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek
- Is made up of many different genres containing stories, laws, poetry, songs, and proverbs.
- Tells the story of God’s interaction with humanity
The Bible is divided into two main sections: the Old Testament and New Testament. The 39 books of the Old Testament:
- Begin with creation
- Span the history of God’s chosen people (Israel) and concludes 400 years before Jesus’ birth
- Include stories of great heroes such as Abraham, Moses, and David.
- How God dealt with his chosen people
- Anticipate the coming Messiah, the Christ (Jesus)
The 27 books of the New Testament tell the story of Jesus. God sent his son to Earth to save humanity from their sin (John 3:16). It tells about:
- Jesus’ life, teachings, death (Matt. 27:50), and resurrection (John 2:22) proved he is God (John 20:30-31; Rom. 5:8; 1 Cor. 15:3-8)
- The early church and how it spread throughout the world (Acts 1:8)
- The only way to experience God’s forgiveness is by putting your faith in Jesus (Eph. 2:8-10)
- How to have a personal relationship with Jesus (Eph. 4:24)
So don’t wait any longer—pick up a copy and start reading today!
Your closest family and friends know you best. They know your deepest secrets and your most difficult struggles.
- And closer still is family and friends who not only know you but also love you unconditionally.
- The Bible can be this kind of friend to you.
But you ask, “How is this possible?”
Because when you study the Bible, you are coming face to face with God, who speaks to you through his Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:12-13).
Studying the Bible helps you to:
- Learn about God’s character and his plan of salvation (2 Cor. 4:6)
- Grow closer to him (John 17:3)
- Become a genuine follower of Jesus (Matt. 10:37-39; 16:24-26; 19:27-30)
- Comprehend your Christian beliefs more deeply (2 Thess. 1:3) and grow in your faith (Rom. 10:17)
- Be transformed by the indwelling Holy Spirit
- Becoming more like Jesus in your thoughts, words, and actions (2 Cor. 3:18)
- Become a more confident witness for Jesus (Isa. 52:7; Mark 16:15)
In short, the Bible will teach you how to live a godly life (2 Pet 3:11). By applying its teachings to your life, you can experience a richer and more fulfilling life.
Before you begin your Bible study, there are a few preparations to remember. If you keep these three suggestions in mind, you’ll get the most out of your Bible study.
When you study the Bible, you encounter the living God (Rom. 8:15-16).
Before you begin studying the Bible, start in prayer (John 14:13-14).
Because the human authors of Scripture wrote under the influence of the Holy Spirit, the Bible is God’s book (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21)
- Ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate your reading with understanding (1 Cor. 2:12-16)
- Approach your study of His Word with a teachable spirit, eager to grow in your intimacy with God (Psa. 63:1-11)
- Be open to God revealing Himself to you
2. Secondly, read for “transformation, not information” (Heb. 8:6-8).
The goal of studying the Bible is to know God personally (John 17:17).
- Bible study is like a conversation with God because you never know what He is going to reveal to you (Jer. 29:11)
- Look for principles that can help you live a godly life in today’s world (1 Tim. 4:7)
- Allow its truths to sink deep into your heart so that you will be changed (“transformed”) by what you have read (Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor. 3:18)
3. Thirdly, look for Jesus as you study Scripture.
The entire Bible points to Jesus and tells us about his love for us and his plan of salvation for our lives.
- An adage attributed to St. Augustine is, “The New Testament is in the Old concealed; the Old is by the New revealed.”
- In other words, the Old Testament points to Jesus. While the New Testament reveals Jesus
In a previous blog, I wrote about three different Bible study methods.
- Inductive Bible Study
- Biblical Theology
- Systematic Theology
1. Inductive Bible Study: Exegesis
Inductive Bible study investigates Scripture passages in a focused way. It takes a “deep dive” into texts.
The method used in inductive Bible study involves the science of “exegesis.”
- Exegesis is the foundation for all Scriptural interpretation
- It determines the author’s intended meaning of a passage to his original audience.
- Followed by applying it today
The process of exegesis can be remembered by the “CIA method.“
Context refers to both literary context (language and genre) and historical context.
First, literary context studies language and genre.
- It considers each word’s meaning in its original language
- Then it looks at the grammatical relationships within sentences, paragraphs, and chapters
- The literary genre plays an essential role in correctly interpreting Scripture
- Various Biblical genres include law, poetry, historical narratives, letters, and apocalyptic literature
b. “I” stands for “interpretation.”
After knowing the context, it is easier to interpret the passage. Remember, there is only one meaning of the text when it comes to interpretation!
- And that interpretation is the author’s intended meaning to his original audience
- In other words, you are seeking to put yourself in the original audience’s shoes
- The text’s meaning is the simplest, conventional and obvious literal interpretation
- “The main things are the plain things“
c. “A” is for “application.”
Next is finding the text’s universal truth or “eternal” principle. And once you find that principle, you can apply it to your life. After you determine that, you can ask:
- Firstly, what does this Scripture teach about God and Jesus in particular?
- Secondly, what does this passage teach about people?
- Thirdly, what does this text teach about salvation?
- Finally, you must evaluate the passage to determine how it applies to your life
In summary, the CIA method is a focused way to determine the meaning and application of Scripture.
The second method for Bible study is Biblical theology. This approach examines Scripture as God’s unified unfolding revelation in history.
- Biblical theology tracks a subject chronologically through Biblical history
- Examples include God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Salvation, and prophecy
- Each writer’s message is examined as part of Scripture’s whole message that points to Jesus (Luke 24:27)
3. Systematic Theology: Topical Bible Study
Systematic theology investigates various topics of the Bible like an encyclopedia.
It covers a particular topic in an orderly way.
It organizes Scripture into topics such as Holy Spirit, angels, sin, or the church.
Studying the Bible with a group allows you to share what you’ve learned. And to hear how the Scriptures have challenged others. There are advantages to studying in a group, including:
- Learning from others while creating community with other Christians
- Helping each other grow in faith (Prov. 27:17).
- Keeping each other accountable and focused on studies.
- Hearing different perspectives and gaining insights you hadn’t considered
- Deepening your understanding of God’s word.
If you’re studying with a group, be sure to:
- Take advantage of the collective insight and ask questions if something isn’t clear.
- Ask questions about what you are studying and how you can apply it to your life
- Share your thoughts and ideas.
- Confirm that the group leaders and other members have a high view of Scripture. And apply it to their lives in a God-honoring way
By studying the Bible alone, you can:
- Go at your own pace without feeling pressured to keep up with others
- Dig deep into specific passages
It can also allow you a more intimate opportunity to hear God speak to you without distraction (Psa. 119:18).
When it comes to personal Bible study, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Here are some basic principles that will help you start your journey of discovery.
The Bible is a big book and can seem overwhelming if you try to tackle it all at once.
- Don’t rush through your reading from Genesis to Revelation
- Studying and meditating on God’s word should be done slowly, like enjoying a fine meal.
But you may ask, “How do I figure out a study plan?” Here are some suggestions.
The most common reading plan is to read through one book of the Bible at a time.
- Each day, you study and meditate on small portions of that book until you have finished it
- Typically, it’s best to start with a Gospel like John and then move on to one of Paul’s letters like Ephesians or Philippians
If you want to study more than one book at a time, you can use various one-year study plans or the “One-Year Bible.”
- Each day you read portions of an Old Testament book, Psalm, Proverb, and New Testament book
- And by the end of one year, you have read through the entire Bible
The most important thing is to find a method that works for you. And stick with it to create the habit of daily Scripture study.
Having a regular time and place each day for Bible study is essential. Finding a quiet place early in the morning is best.
This uninterrupted time allows you to think about your reading and apply it to your own life.
- In as little as 15-20 minutes daily, you will have time to study and meditate on your reading.
- The more you read, the better you will understand it.
- Consider journaling. Record your thoughts, insights, questions, prayers requests, and answered prayers
- Developing the habit of Scripture reading as a daily routine is crucial.
- Commit to studying the entire Bible in small daily portions over one to three years.
Before meditating on Scripture, remember you want to have accurately interpreted the text and know the underlying universal principle. Now you are ready to meditate.
Dr. Donald Whitney offers several ways to meditate, including:
- Praying through Scripture submits your mind to the Holy Spirit’s illumination
- Repeat the phrase emphasizing a different word each time
- Paraphrase the passage in writing
The outcome of meditation should be how the text applies to your life
- What does the Scripture mean in light of your own life experiences?
- How can you apply Scripture specifically to your daily life?
- Let the Word of God sink deep into your heart and mind
When you memorize verses from the Bible, they are immediately available:
- For the Holy Spirit to bring to mind in times of trials and temptations (Psa. 119:11; 2 Tim. 3:12)
- To meditate anywhere and any time (Josh. 1:8; Psa. 1:1-3)
- For teaching and counseling others (1 Tim. 3:2; 2 Tim. 4:2)
- In evangelizing others (Mark 16:15)
- Defending the Bible against critics (Titus 1:9; 1 Pet. 3:15)
- Helping you with important decisions
Exegesis (CIA method) will help you understand the passage’s original meaning.
But what do you do when you get stuck with a challenging Bible text?
Don’t worry! You’re not alone.
- The Bible is a deep and complex book, and many parts of the Bible are hard to understand.
- The first place to go when you are struggling with a passage is to God in prayer.
- God wants us to understand His Word (James 1:5)
But sometimes you don’t receive an immediate answer. Then you have several additional resources, including:
- Study Bibles
- Online resources
- Bible Apps
1. Study Bible
Consider buying a good study Bible. They are expensive, but since they are lifetime investments, they are worth the price.
There are several different translations, and each one has its strengths and weaknesses.
A good study Bible will help you understand the meaning of the passages you are studying. A study Bible includes:
- Book introductions
- Footnotes for verses
- Maps that will make it easier to understand the text.
Commentaries. Biblical scholars write these volumes. Typically, each commentary covers one book of the Bible. However, there are some excellent one-volume commentaries of the entire Bible, which, in my opinion, is the perfect place to start for beginners.
- Commentaries provide context and interpretation for every passage in the book
- Reading a commentator’s comments gives valuable insights you hadn’t considered
A concordance alphabetically lists essential Biblical words and their Scriptural reference. Concordances are:
- In the back of study Bibles
- Online for free
A Bible dictionary defines essential Biblical words. Online Bible dictionaries are available.
Several websites have various Bible translations. You can use these resources to compare multiple translations. Some of the most frequently used are:
- Reading plans
- Audio versions of the Bible
- Access to commentaries and other resources.
Be patient as you read, don’t try to understand everything all at once.
- The Bible is complex, and it can take a lifetime to understand it fully. However, it is worth the effort because the rewards are eternal
- Avoid feeling overwhelmed by breaking Bible study into bite-sized chunks. And only focus on one section at a time
- Trust that God is at work in your life, and with his help, you can apply what you learn from the Bible to your life every day
By following these simple tips, you can ensure that you get the most out of your Bible study and that its teachings shape your daily life in meaningful ways.
Growing up in a farming community, I know farmers don’t only sit indoors reading about farming. During most of the year, they are out in their fields working.
They are tilling the ground, planting seeds, tending, and harvesting their crops. In the same way, God’s word is not meant to be just read but to be lived (Luke 8:15).
The Bible is not just a book of “ideas.” It’s a blueprint of instructions for living your faith every day. It takes time. But applying what you learn from your Bible study will transform you. And that transformation is from the inside out (Jas. 1:22-25).
But you may think, “To do all that is impossible on my own.”
You are right! And that is the point. You don’t have to do it all on your own.
- Have the Holy Spirit living inside you to direct and aid you in living out a godly lifestyle (Rom. 8:9, 16).
- You also live in a church community with other Christians who can
- Support and love you (1 Cor. 13:4-8)
- Pray for you (Jas. 5:16)
- Exemplify and explain how to live out God’s word
- Keep you accountable (Gal. 6:1)
The Bible is your guidebook containing everything you need to know about living a godly life (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
To experience the true meaning of life:
- Start applying God’s word to your life
- Live a life that pleases Him (Jas. 1:22-25)
Studying the Bible is not always easy, but it is always worth it.
Daily Bible study is essential for anyone who wants to grow closer to God and live a life that is pleasing to Him. The Bible is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path (Psalm 119:105).
Both new believers (1 Pet. 2:2) and mature Christians (Heb. 5:12-14) need the spiritual nourishment of Scripture.
For example, it:
- Gives you a better understanding of who God is (1 Tim. 1:17)
- Gives you a better understanding of who Jesus is and what He did for you on the cross (Rom. 12:1; cf. Phil. 3:10)
- Feeds your soul and deepens your relationship with God (1 Pet. 1:8)
- Opens you up to God’s wisdom and guidance (Psa. 1:1-2; 143:10; Prov. 3:5-6)
- Deepens your faith to become more like Christ and better resist temptation (Luke 9:23)
- Gives an eternal perspective to this temporary life in light of our eternal home in heaven (Phil. 1:23)
- Reminds you during life’s challenges that this world is not our home and that one day (2 Cor. 4:17; Phil. 1:23), we will be in our new home with Jesus forever (2 Pet. 3:13)
- Is asking Him to speak to you through His word and to show you his will for your life (Phil. 1:6; Jas. 1:5)
- Helps you to understand and follow the path to glorifying God in all that you do (2 Tim. 3:16; 1 John 2:4-5)
For instance, it will:
- Help you to understand God’s plan for your life (Prov. 3:5-6; Phil. 1:6; cf. Jer. 29:11).
- Give you discernment in making big and small decisions (Psa. 119:99).
- Teach you God’s laws (Rom 7:12; 1 Tim. 1:8) and how to make wise choices (Phil. 4:8)
- Provide strength to overcome trials and temptation (1 Tim. 6:9-11)
- Is a source of comfort and hope during difficult circumstances (2 Cor. 1:3-4; 2 Tim. 3:14-15)
- Provide comfort and hope in times of trouble (Col. 1:24; 1 Pet. 3:14)
- Give you direction and purpose in your life, often when you need it most (John 8:12)
Your studies will:
- Help you to understand better yourself and the world around you (Rom. 12:3; 1 John 2:15)
- Leave you less influenced by the world (2 Cor. 6:14-17; Col. 3:2)
- Make you more patient, forgiving, and grounded in your faith.
- Be a great way to connect with other believers (Heb. 10:24-25)
- Teach you how to love and serve others (Heb. 6:10)
- Stimulate evangelism (Matt. 28:19-20)
Bible study is a life-long pursuit. You will continually find new depths to explore and unique ways that God will reveal himself to you.
Now that you know how to study the Bible, what will be your next step in your spiritual journey?
Everyone starts at a different point in their spiritual journey. Why not consider:
- Committing to studying the Bible every day for 10 minutes?
- Applying what you have learned from Scripture to your life today
- Find a church where you can grow in your faith
- Seek to understand Scripture more deeply so you can practically apply it in your life
We encourage you to take the next step in your spiritual journey of Bible study. Find out for yourself just how incredible the Bible truly is.
God has incredible things for those who love Him enough to seek Him with all their heart (Prov. 8:17).
Whatever your next step, you can take it boldly and with faith in God. He will not disappoint you.