A quick and useful way to examine any given subject is to ask the “W”s : who, what, where, when, why, how. So as it relates to the method of Bible study, we should ask the same questions:
Who? You and me. Our children, and anyone we intend to teach.
What? The Bible – respected translations of the Bible (NIV, NJKV, NASB, HCSB, etc) and not paraphrases. Paraphrases can be aids to understanding the Bible and should not be confused with the authoritative Word of God.
Where? In a place of solitude.
When? Whatever works best for God to speak to you. David suggested morning.
Why? There are several foundational answers for why we should study the Bible:
- The Bible is the only book to properly address any “religion” worth following.
- It is the Word of God; describes the only God worthy of worship and shows us His eternal plan for Man.
- The Bible provides a source of daily nourishment and encouragement for all facets of life.
- The Bible was not provided just for historical or entertainment purposes: it was provided to change lives.
- We’re commanded to: Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
Understanding God’s Word should be as straightforward as reading the daily newspaper. However, in working to understand God’s Word, we need to remember there are 5 hurdles that separate us from the words on the page: language, geography, culture & tradition, politics, and history. The more we understand these 5 dimensions as it pertains to a passage in question, the closer we get to a clear and full understanding of God’s Word.
How? As with any pursuit in life, you get out of the Bible what you put into it. It goes without saying that if you read the Bible, you can only get so much. If you study it, however… prepare to have your life changed! There are multiple ways to study the Bible, and this series will focus on just a few. All methods of studying the Bible involve three fundamental disciplines:
- Observation: What do I see? Ask the 5 Ws. Collect as much data, even the data you don’t like. The more you observe, the easier it is to interpret, and the more accurately you can apply.
- Interpretation: What does it mean? Let the text speak for itself and don’t pour your own meaning into the text. In the case of “conflicting passages”, keep in mind that Scripture interprets Scripture: The obscure is subject to the clear; The narrative is subject to the didactic; The partial is subject to the complete.
- Application: How do I apply it? This is critical! Without application, study is nothing more than a trivial pursuit. The book of James spends a great deal of energy hammering home the point that faith without works is dead and useless!
The first and best aid to studying the Bible is the Holy Spirit Himself! Jesus Christ promised that He would send the Comforter. But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance, whatever I have said to you.
Bible study tools should always be used after you’ve exposed yourself to a passage in question and asked the Holy Spirit for guidance. Excellent Bible study tools fall into several categories:
- Devotional: Focus on spiritual and practical application of the meaning of Biblical passages.
- Expositional: Focus on structure, themes and outlines of books. Often includes word meanings.
- Exegetical: Technical references for linguistic and grammatical analysis of original language.
- Homiletical: Designed for preachers. Interpret and illustrate while focusing on practical application.
- Special Purpose: Designed for teaching specific groups: teens, children, new believers, etc.
By keeping this larger view of Bible study methods before us, we can maximize our time studying the Bible.
15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (ESV)
26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (ESV)