Learning from Jesus through Bible Study

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Summary: As you continue as a disciple of Jesus, studying God’s Word is crucial to obeying Jesus. If we can’t understand and apply God’s Word, we can’t obey Jesus and experience His power in our lives.


In my last post, I talked about the best Bible version for you. Now, we will use your best word-for-word version, and a good study Bible to jump into Bible study to improve your understanding of the Bible’s message.

Like the Christian faith, the Bible is both a simple and complex book. It is simple in most people can understand it at a glance. But for some of the Bible, you will need knowledge of context, cultures, languages, and history.

God intervened in the history, cultures, and nations throughout human existence. And He used them in His plan of salvation. So, you’ll be able to do a lot of study on your own. But you’ll also find study helps and resources necessary. You’ll also want to remember what you learn and what the Bible says. Let’s dive in and explore Bible study and memorization.

What Is Bible Study?

Bible study is the careful analysis and application of the Bible for growing in understanding of God, His interaction with humanity, His plan of salvation and purposes, and what He expects of you. Some people stop at learning information.

But studying facts doesn’t take us as far as we need to go. We must apply what we learn. Knowledge and facts help us do that. However, knowledge without wisdom can change our minds, but it cannot change our hearts or help us in our daily lives.

The Bible is God’s Word to you. But it was written first to cultures and peoples over 2000 years ago. This requires us to learn how to read it in their context and apply it to ours. It has different languages, genres, and a lot of historical and cultural context.

To properly apply the Bible to our lives, we must research and analyze the original context of the Bible. If we don’t, we may confuse something meant for a person to apply to everyone. We may think what God said about one nation to stand for our nation. We can get very confused if we don’t do our due diligence in studying the Bible to apply it today.

How to Study the Bible

Scholars, Bible teachers, and pastors have suggested several approaches to Bible study. Boiling it down to its most basic form, we must understand the original languages, cultures, and contexts of the Bible, cross the bridge of understanding to our culture, and apply biblical principles to our culture.

Of course, how to get from point A to point B is more complex than that. I will give you the basic methodology and tools you need. But you must be able to take this information and do your very best to find out all the information you can and allow the Holy Spirit to help you apply it to your life situations.

So, giving you all the information you need to learn everything you can about every genre and every part of the Bible is not useful in this post alone. I give you the basics of Bible study to get you on your way. But there will be times you need to learn more specific study habits, resources, and principles that aren’t included below.

Begin with prayer. Since you are studying God’s Word, it helps to ask God to help you learn and apply it. When I study the Bible, I ask God to reveal to me the things I need to know, how to understand them, what resources to use, to not get lost in the weeds, and to apply this information to my situation.

I often ask God for wisdom to take information I learn and use it to glorify Him. You will see that study takes much longer than reading, and you must become a lifelong learner. Studying gives you much benefit in that you will learn things you can use to understand other parts of the Bible. You will also learn things that only apply to certain parts of the Bible.

Choose a passage to study. Unlike Bible reading, Bible study focuses on a smaller passage. You may read two or three chapters regularly. But when you study the Bible, you want to drill down to a smaller amount of text.

If you don’t choose a small text, you will end up having to summarize instead of getting a deep understanding of the text. This is why I sent you must become a lifelong learner. What you learn will cause you to want to learn even more.

So choose a certain number of verses, or a couple of paragraphs. Most Bibles today have the basic concept of a passage in paragraph form, which helps you to know what to study based on a chapter or subsection of what you read.

Begin by reading your passage three times. I say three, but that’s a minimum amount of reading. The more you study, the more times you will read your passage. The first time you read, read to get the main idea of the passage.

The second time you read, read for some of the details. This gives you enough information to produce a rough outline of the subject of your passage (what it’s about) and what it says about it. Then you can apply it to your life.

Observe your passage closely. As you are reading, ask questions about what you’re reading. Ask what, who, when, why, and how. You will probably need other resources to answer all these questions, but they will get you started.

Make connections between cause and effect. Always be looking at God’s interaction with the people in your passage. What was said? What was done? These observations help you understand who God is and what He does.

Outline your passage. As you read, the observations you make will allow you to compose an outline that will help you see those connections and the information you learn. An outline is one of the ways you can analyze your passage so you can apply it to your life. There are other ways to outline the passage. You can use a mind map or other ways to visualize your information.

Note concepts and key words. In every passage, concepts are the things the writer is trying to help you understand. We can apply concepts and principles to our lives. One way you see the concepts is through key words.

One way you discover a key word is if it is repeated throughout the passage, or if the word itself is not used, but the idea behind the word is used. For words that are theological, like salvation or justification, for example.

Look up those words as Greek and Hebrew words, not English words. Greek and Hebrew words have a different meaning than English words. I will mention below under resources what to look these words up in. They will help you understand the concept of the passage.

Context is key. More than anything, understanding the context of your passage will direct the rest of your study. Several contexts apply to every passage of the Bible. First, historical context helps to understand the who, how, and what.

Second, literary context helps you know the genre (narrative, poetry, law, etc.). Most study Bibles, and especially commentaries, will tell you this. Third, the context of the passage is how it fits into the flow of thought of the rest of the book. Since you are only looking at a couple of paragraphs, you must know how that fits into the larger context of the chapter and book.

Track down references and key words. After looking up the key words in your passage, you will see how they direct the author’s explanation of the concept of your passage. Their definition will always fit context. Greek and Hebrew words have a range of meaning, but you must choose the one that fits your passage, not the one you like the best or that fits your theological presuppositions.

In front of some words in your passage will be super-scripted letters. Look up those superscripts to discover passages elsewhere in the Bible that will give you insight into the passage. There may be numbers super-scripted at the end of verses or in the middle of them. These give you more information from the translators.

Check your work. You must do your own work of studying your passage first. You will learn the most that way, and you will compare your work to what you read in study Bibles and commentaries to see if what they say doesn’t line up with what you have learned.

Checking your work with the Bible resources you have helps you to see if what you are learning is what they see in the text. If you are learning something brand-new that no one else sees in your passage, you may not be seeing the right things. Remember, Solomon told us that there’s nothing new under the sun.

Commentaries will be very helpful in helping you with the words, phrases, and verses of your text. They help you see connections you may have missed in your work. But you must choose a solid commentary. You know it’s good when it discusses your passage in depth and completely.

Put it all together. All the different studies you do from the words, concepts, subject, and history of your passage will come together to give you a full understanding of what your passage is about. You will understand what the author is talking about, and what he has to say about it.

Your passage fits into the larger context of other sections in that chapter or book. And that book fits into a larger history around it. And So your passage is a small part of a much larger context. Consider all of this as you study your small passage. Once again, this is why I said you must become a lifelong learner of the Bible. The more you learn about the Bible, the more intriguing and applicable your studies will become.

Application. All your study is worth nothing unless you can apply it to your life. Sometimes these applications will be for certain situations in your life. Other times, these lessons you learn from your studies will apply to life in general.

You must study the Bible to discover whether it gives you a command to follow, a principle to apply, or a concept for your worldview. The context will help you discover which one and your study will help you apply it for the most benefit to your life.

Resources for Bible Study

Concordance and wordbook. A concordance lists all the words in the Bible and where they are found. This helps you see if your word is used often and may help you define the word in more detail. A wordbook gives you a theological understanding of your word and may talk about it in your context.

Bible Handbook. A Bible handbook puts your book in context of the rest of Scripture and history. It gives you a general overview of how your book and passage may fit into the larger context of the Bible and history. It gives the basic understanding of your book and its meaning.

Bible Dictionary. A Bible dictionary gives definitions for theological words, basic sketches of Bible characters and books, and descriptions of terms that have to do with Bible study.

Study Bible. A good study Bible helps to answer your questions about what you read in the Scriptures. There are all kinds of specialty study Bibles. Some are based on the notes and thoughts of popular ministers. Others have a certain bent, like the archaeology study Bible.

Study Bibles help you deal with the culture, language, and text of the Bible. They clarify the context of each passage. Some are written by individuals and others by denominations or communities. They contain notes usually placed at the bottom of each page.

But study Bibles only get you so far. They may whet your appetite to study more in depth. For that, you need the other principles I have mentioned. They get you started, but the method I have introduced will get you much farther.

Commentary. Like Bible versions, commentaries can have denominational and theological bents to them. You can look up the author of the commentary to find out what he or she believes. That will have implications for your passage.

Commentaries come in sets (series) and individual volumes. You can also have commentaries that cover the whole Bible and commentaries that cover one book. A commentary can be introductory, intermediate, or advanced. Introductory commentaries give the basic concept and overview of the passage.

Intermediate commentaries mention the individual words and have a good mix of detailed and introductory material. Advanced commentaries contain information about the history and have discussions about the Greek and Hebrew words.

Growth Challenge

Begin studying the Bible in depth. Start with a book of the Bible. Find a passage you don’t understand, or one you think you understand very well. Perhaps choose a passage that deals with a life problem you are going through. Go through this process and see what you learn. Don’t forget to apply what you study to your life.

Up Next

We have shined a searchlight and magnifying glass on the text of the Bible, its cultures, languages, and context. Next, we will talk about forming a Bible study method.

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