Sitting down on my bed, I pick up my Bible. I open it up and begin to search the Scriptures. I have questions and I need answers.
For the past 15 years I have been studying the same way. As a teenager I went to a camp where I learned how to study the Word of God. The tools I learned I began putting into practice as a college student. In college I began teaching the Bible for the first time. Now as an adult I continue to use the tools I learned as a 9th grader as I teach others how to study the same way.
When I began working with students 11 years ago I quickly realized how little they knew about the Bible. It appalled me that no one seemed to be doing anything about it. During this time the Lord grew in me a passion to teach the next generation how to study the Bible.
We don't Know God
Knowing the Bible is vital to any believers growth. You cannot know love God without knowing Him. You cannot follow God without knowing Him. To not know God is very dangerous, we see what happens in Judges when a generation rises up that does not know God. Unfortunately I see many in the next generation that are doing what is right in their own eyes.
We Too Easily Trust Man
There is another problem I see arising. That is the problem of trusting man's words over the Bible. The Internet and YouTube have given us countless preachers and pastors we can listen to and learn from. The problem lies when we only listen to these pastors and preachers and do not study the Word for ourselves.
So how do we then learn how to study the Bible for ourselves? I would like to introduce you to the way I study. It's not something I made up, so I cannot take any credit for any of these tools!
The Inductive Study Method
The way I study is called the Inductive Study Method. I first learned this attending a summer camp at Precept Ministries International. The premise of the this way of studying is that you learn directly from the Bible, not from reading books or commentaries and not from listening to a pastor talk about it on YouTube.
The Inductive Study Method is comprised of three easy steps: Observation, Interpretation, & Application.
Observation is the first step I use when studying. Observation is simply focusing on what does the Bible say. There are several tools we use when observing. The first is called reading with a purpose. Reading with a purpose is simply reading through a passage of scripture with intention and focus. It means as I read I am asking myself questions and looking for the answers. I ask things like who is writing, who are they writing to, why are the writing, etc.
The next thing I do is I mark key words. Key words are repeated words or phrases that unlock the meaning of the text. Some easy key words I always mark: author or main character, recipient (who the author is writing to), God, Jesus, Holy Spirit.
Next, I make lists. Almost all of my lists are focused on my key words. I write down everything that I learn about that word.
There are other steps that help me observe scripture. I look for contrasts & comparisons, I look for terms of conclusion (word like therefore), and I mark time & geography. Once I have done all of these I start looking for themes. I might be looking for the theme of the entire book, a chapter, or a paragraph. Sometimes the writer will tell me why the book the written, but other times I use what I have observed to determine the theme. Most often this is determined by the key words I marked & listed.
Interpretation is the next step I use when studying the Bible. Please note, proper interpretation can only happen when we properly observe scripture. Interpretation is focusing on what the Bible says. There are two phrases I want you to remember with interpretation: context is King & scripture best interprets scripture.
Context is King because it rules in interpretation. I develop context when I intentionally observe the text and take the entire book and it's theme into consideration as I study.
Scripture interprets scripture is something called a cross reference. A cross reference is when I look at another place in scripture that talks about the same idea or key word in the book I am studying.
Along with context and cross references, word studies are important when determining what the Bible means. Word studies are one of my favorite parts of Bible study. A word study is when I look up the Greek or Hebrew definition of a word. You see we don't realize it, but we often come to scripture with a modern day perspective or connotation of a word. Word studies help us understand what the words means instead of thinking we already know what it means. The easiest way to do a word study is with Blue Letter Bible. They have great tutorials that will show you how to do a word study!
After I have learned what the Bible says and what it means, then I must turn inward and consider how it applies to me. Application happens when I allow what I learn in the Bible to change the way I believe or how I live my life. Ultimately, application is the purpose of Bible study. I always want to finish my time studying with asking "What does this mean for me?" "How should this truth change the way I live my life?"
So there you have it. This is how I have been studying the Bible for the last 15 years. I pray that it encourages you to pick up your Bible and study it for yourself. I encourage you to check out what Precept is doing and pick up one of their Bible study books.