Summary: Pastors often tell you that Bible reading and study are some of the most important tasks of Christians. But how do you do a Bible study? This post has many of the practices you need to perform a helpful Bible study.
In my last post, I described Bible study, how to do it, and the resources you need to study the Bible. But in this post, I want to give you more information on the Bible study methods I mentioned and a practical approach you can choose to study the Bible today.
I thought it might be helpful to talk about Bible study methods so you can apply Bible study to your walk with God now. I’ll let you in on my study process and give you some pro tips I have learned over the years.
Depending on your study method, the resources you use, and the effort you put into it, you can learn from your study right away or take the long-term view of Bible study. No matter how much time you put into your study, you will reap the benefits of mining the golden nuggets God’s Word brings into your life. Let’s died in!
Bible Study Timing
You should practice some spiritual disciplines every day, like prayer and Bible reading. We do other spiritual disciplines less often. So how often should you study the Bible? I study the Bible almost daily, but much of my Bible study is preparation for preaching and teaching.
You should study your Bible every week. Many people break up the Bible study into different segments on different days. I think that’s a great approach to Bible study, so you don’t get burned out. It also depends on which Bible study method you are using.
Whether you study your Bible every week or every other week, or whatever schedule you choose, the quality of time you spend is much more important than the quantity of time. And you should do it regularly. If you do it every other week, don’t skip a week or spend less time than you do when you are studying.
Another key point about Bible study: it’s possible to spend what you consider a large amount of time without receiving immediately applicable information. At times, you may see Bible study as the black hole where your time disappears and your biblical wisdom does not seem comparable.
There have been times I have sunk hours into Bible study and learned a few informational items that don’t seem to be valuable for anyone else. This all depends on why you are studying the passage you are looking at.
For instance, passage and word studies could take you longer time than most other parts of Bible study. You could read about a word for hours. Trust me, I do. But not everybody wants to hear the things you learn about this word. Some Bible study is for your personal gratification. It may not have much sharing benefit attached.
However, I have discovered that even when I study in depth for hours and don’t get much out of it, it’s surprising how much it comes out in my teaching, or when I’m answering people’s questions. God always honors His Word and His Word does not return void.
Don’t give up on Bible study if you don’t feel you’re getting anything useful out of it. You will find no time you spend in Bible study is a waste. God will amaze you as He brings back to your remembrance what you have studied and apply it to your life.
Bible Study Methods
There are different studies you can do. The most common studies are the ones I do. These are book and passage studies. You will spend the most time preparing for a deep book study. This requires learning about the book, it’s time period, occasion and purpose, outline, and a host of other preparatory steps.
The most applicable Bible studies are passage studies. We usually endeavor to study a passage (a couple of paragraphs or a subsection of a chapter) to answer a question we (or someone else) have, or to receive the fastest application to a situation in which we have become involved.
I rely on a good commentary for passages, so I don’t have to do a lot of prep work. But there are other studies available to you. You can get a lot out of a character study where you take a person in the Bible and study everything from what they did, what they thought, and what happened in their life.
You can do it deep study of a topic or theme that is affecting your life at the moment. But you don’t get away with just looking at the verses that have that topic/theme. You still have to look at the context and make sure you are applying what you learn to the same context in your life.
You can do a Bible word study to discover what each word means in its context and what other context and other meanings the word has. You can study how the paragraphs fit together, showing the flow of thought of the biblical author.
Some people consider memorizing the Bible or meditating on it. I think these can be most effective after you have done your deep study of your passage. Then when you memorize or meditate on it, you will have even more information to apply to those disciplines.
You can study how your passage fits into the larger canon of Scripture by looking at the cross-references in your Bible. Many scholars have taken a lifetime to make the connections found in cross-references. You will find some cross-references helpful and others not so much. But this can be a fruitful study method.
Aside from the types of Bible studies you can do, the steps you take to studying the Bible may differ. The steps for studying a Bible word are different from studying a passage or a book. Even with this post on more details of Bible study, I cannot cover all these methods. I will write a post on these different methods and how to do each one.
Approaching Bible Study
No matter what Bible study method you choose, every Bible study begins the same way. Never seek to understand God’s Word without praying and asking Him to give you insight and work with you every step of the way.
Your prayer does not have to be elaborate or immaculate. Just pray and ask Jesus to guide you as you study His Word. There’s a reason we call the Bible God’s Word. He speaks to each of us as we read and study the Scriptures.
Studying God’s Word without praying first and asking for His help and insight is like using a complicated piece of machinery without consulting the owner’s manual first. So, before you approach your Bible study, pray and ask the Lord to guide you and apply the information He has for your life as you go along.
Bible Study Steps
Each Bible study method you perform has different steps. So, I will provide detailed instructions for how to perform each type of Bible study in a later post. Depending on the person you ask, you may get slightly different instructions for each Bible study method.
Some Bible studies can be highly personalized. Most often, you will find that you study a passage or person of the Bible, and your study produces more questions, or questions on a different person or topic of the Bible.
I’ve found that even before completing one study, I have questions that lead me in a different direction based on what I learned in that study. This is perfectly normal, and if you are not gaining entry with your insights in your Bible studies, you need a better Bible study method or approach.
Also, keep in mind the Bible was written over 1400 years by 40 different Bible writers. It covers quite a few different cultures, several empires in human history, and contains detailed backgrounds that aren’t explicitly explained in every passage. Some of your study will require learning about these cultures and empires so you can understand what Bible writers say in your passage.
Much of this historical/language/context has been done by Bible scholars throughout the ages. That’s my one of my favorite study tools are commentaries. Most commentaries give you much of the context you need to understand your passage.
Each Bible study step has tools that work alongside the passage or Bible content well. That much I can outline for you here. But to look deeper at the steps for a specific Bible study method, check out my post on Bible study methods.
Commentaries are best for discussing the literary context (what came before and comes after your passage, and how your passage fits into its book). They are also best for understanding the historical context (what was happening in history),
A good Bible handbook or commentary outlines your passage so you can see its context in relation to the rest of the book. Understanding how your book fits into the canon of Scripture and the narrative of history can be done with a good synopsis or introduction to the Old or New Testament.
What about studying a person in the Bible? Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias are best for this task. They give you a thorough overview of the person’s life, including history, family life, and spiritual life. Don’t mistake a long article for the best information.
I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to word studies. Since I know Greek and Hebrew, many of the resources I recommend for word studies are not easy for someone who does not know the languages to follow. Your best option here is to use a concordance and word study books based on Strong’s numbers.
Bible Study Resources
First, choose your Bible study method. Then, grab note taking tools such as a notebook and pen, so, and Bible study helps in your resources. After prayer, when you are studying, ask questions like who, what, where, when, how, and why. Always write any observations or insights you make.
Start whatever Bible study method you choose by doing as much of your work as possible. Much of what you need to do an effective study is right there in your Bible. When you are reading through your text, notice the transition words the author uses. These help you with literary context.
Chase down all your cross-references and take notes on the relevant ones. If the writer refers to someone else or another Bible event, do your research on that part. Bible dictionaries are very helpful for these references. They may give you more information about a person or event than you can find in Scripture.
Briefly read the passage before and after your passage for a quick overview of what happened before and after your passage. If you are reading an epistle, it gives you an idea of the writers flow of thought.
Make close observations of connections to concepts and ideas, cultural issues and historical references. If you don’t understand why a Bible person does something, it’s probably a cultural issue you will have to discover. You can use Bible resources for the answers to these.
The Bible is the story of God interacting with people. So the Bible fits into human history. The more you study it, the more familiar you will become with the historical events and times referenced by the Bible. You will find this information in Bible introductions and surveys, as well as commentaries.
As long as you have a Bible teacher who does their homework and studies your passage or your study method well, some books written as Bible studies by well-known authors can be excellent and thought-provoking material.
I will cover these resources in more detail in the post on Bible study methods. Before you use these resources, it is always best to do as much of your own work first as possible. You will reap the benefits of your own work, and appreciate your study more, before you will enjoy just reading someone else’s work in your resources. But other times, insights from your resources will unlock your understanding of your study and help you progress even further.
Choose a Bible study method, such as a book, character, or passage. Read my post on Bible study methods to get the procedure for that method and the tools to carry it out. But right now, start by doing as much of your own work in your study as possible.
Now that we have discovered the different Bible study methods and resources available to us, we will spend some time looking at Bible study methods and the resources we use for each one.