Spiritual Practices – “How to Study Your Bible”
There are an innumerable ways to study your Bible, and some ways work better for some than others; however it is important for us to have a basic understanding of how to study our Bibles so that we might have a greater grasp of knowledge when it comes to applying scripture.
I highly recommend Rick Warren’s book – “Personal Bible Study Methods”, for 12 applicable ways to study the Bible on Your own. Such methods include chapter, character, thematic, biographical, topical, word, book background, book survey, chapter analysis, and verse-by-verse studies.
I will be presenting a basic Bible study that can be applied by even the newest Christian. It is a compilation of methods over the years that have really worked for me, and I am confident that they will work for you. This method is a Book Study that encompasses verse-by-verse and chapter by chapter.
Before we get started with “How to Study your Bible” it is important that you have a basic understanding of the overview of the Bible.
Overview of the Bible
The Bible is divided into two major categories consisting of the Old and New Testament.
- The Old Testament books are written prior to Christ
- The New Testament books are written during and after Christ
- 39 books in the Old Testament
- 27 books in the New Testament
- 66 books in the whole Bible
The Old Testament consist of the three types of books
- Historical, Poetical, and Prophetical
- The first seventeen books are historical
- The next five books are poetical, and
- The next seventeen books are prophetical
The New Testament consist of the three types of books
- Historical, Pauline Epistles, and General Epistles
- The first five books are Historical books
- The next thirteen books are Pauline Epistles, and
- The next nine books are General Epistles.
Application of the Bible
1. Getting Started – There are many ways to study your Bible, however this is a simple method that will help you get started. This particular method is great for beginners; however, it can be geared toward any level of study. As you become more comfortable with Bible study, you will begin to develop your own techniques and discover favorite resources that will make your Bible study very personal and meaningful. The first step to accomplishing anything is to first acknowledge that you are going to begin this journey called Bible Study.
- You need to determine in your heart that you will accomplish the task at hand.
- Consider telling others what you are about to study, and challenge them to ask questions along the way.
- You need to find a prayer partner that will help hold you accountable to your studies.
- You might consider doing a Bible Study with a partner in order to build confidence and your ability to Study the Bible with diligence.
2. Determine which Bible – Find a Bible that is Biblically accurate and user friendly. Use a Bible with easy to read print, large margins, and preferably one with footnotes and references. The English Standard Version, New American Standard Version, and the New King James Version are all good translations. Use the same Bible throughout each book study. This will consolidate any and all notes and thoughts you will have obtained throughout your study. If you decided to switch Bibles in the middle of a study, be sure to transfer all of your notes to guarantee the preservation of your research. This does not mean you can’t read from other Bibles to compare translations; however it simply means to designate one as your primary Bible for studying.
3. Choose a Book to Study – In this method you will study an entire book of the Bible. If you’ve never done this before, start with a small book, preferably from the New Testament. The book of James, Titus, 1 Peter, or 1 John are all good choices for first-timers. Plan to spend 3-4 weeks studying the book you have chosen. Once you feel more comfortable with some of the smaller books move on to the books of the Gospel, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Also, consider studying Genesis, Job, and Revelation.
4. Start with Prayer – “I just don’t understand it!” is one of the most common excuses for not studying the Bible, and this is also the reason we have so many immature Christians. We understand not, because we ask not. The Bible tells us that the Word of God is foolishness to those who don’t believe, and to those who are carnally minded. So before you start each study session, begin by praying and asking God to forgive you of any un-confessed sin and open your heart and mind to spiritual understanding. The Bible says in 2 Timothy 3:16,17 “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent (complete), equipped for every good work.” (ESV) So, as you pray, realize that the words you are studying are inspired by God, and are profitable in every aspect of your life.
5. Read the Entire Book – Next you’ll spend some time, perhaps several days, reading through the entire book. Read it verse-by-verse and chapter-by-chapter. Do this more than once. As you read, look for themes that may be woven into the chapters. Sometimes you’ll detect a general message in the book. For example, in the book of James an obvious theme is “Persevering through Trials.” Take notes on the ideas that jump out at you.
Look also for “life application principles.” An example of a life application principle in the book of James is: “Make sure my faith is more than just a statement – it should result in action.” It’s a good practice to try and pull out these themes and applications on your own as you meditate, even before you begin using other study tools. This gives an opportunity for God’s Word to speak personally to you. (Point #5 taken from About.com “Bible Study”)
6. Dig Deeper – Now you will start to slow down and read the book verse by verse, breaking down the text, looking for deeper understanding. This is where you will begin to mark in your Bible, notes, applications, and references. You will also use symbols, highlight, and underline significant phrases and key words. Key words are words that stand out or tend to be repeated. Key phrases are usually life applicable, or illustrate the main thought of the passage. There are many ways of marking your Bible such as using as color coded system with highlighters, or a symbol chart. I use a simple underlining method that works best for me, but feel free to use other methods.
For example: Job 1 – v.1“There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was (Job), and that man was blameless and upright, (one who feared God and turned away from evil).” v.4 His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sister to eat and drink with them *Party. And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and (consecrate) them. v.21b-22 “+ The Lord Gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. + In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.”
As you can see I parenthesized the word Job so that I knew who this passage was talking about. I also underlined blameless and upright because they describe Job. I then parenthesized “one who feared God and turned away from evil”, because it illustrates why Job was blameless and upright. This is a life application statement, if I fear God, and turn away from evil I can become blameless and upright. I then underlined feast, eat, and drink, and then I made a note to myself that this was more like a * drinking party. I also circled the word “consecrate” because it stood out to me. This word could have many possible meanings, and correlations to this passage. This would be a word that I would do a word study on, and check references. I then put cross symbols around the second to last statement, because it references LORD. Finally, I underlined the last verse because it makes a crucial statement.
The biggest mistake many people make when it comes to marking their Bibles is that they mark a single passage so much that it becomes confusing, irrelevant, or hard to read. The purpose of marking your Bible is so that certain parts will stand out, and will be easy to reference back to. When you underline everything it defeats the whole purpose.
7. Equip Yourself – There’s no limit to the wealth of understanding and growth that will come from your time spent in God’s Word. Once you have established a basic understanding of the passage, as well as the key phrases, words, and principles then you will want to begin using Bible study tools in order to develop greater understanding. The major Bible study tools consist of a commentary, lexicon, Bible dictionary, and Concordance of the Bible. You might also consider using a Bible Encyclopedia.
Some of my favorite Bible Study Tools consist of:
- John McArthur Bible Handbook and Commentaries
- Halley’s Bible Handbook
- World’s Bible Dictionary
- Wiersbe Commentary
- Thru the Bible Commentary – J.Vernon Mcgee
- Nelson’s Complete Bible Maps and Charts
- ESV Study Bible Footnotes
8. Apply It – Now it’s time to apply it to your life. Don’t just study God’s Word for the sake of knowledge for that will lead to self-righteousness; however be sure to put the Word into practice in your life. Jesus said in Luke 11:28, “But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice.” (NLT) When you apply the Word of God into your life people will begin to see Christ in you. Your life may be the only Gospel that some people might read. Be sure to also begin to apply Bible study into your prayer life. This could consist of a favorite passage, a psalm, or even just flipping through the pages.
9. Map it Out – Once you’ve finished your first book, choose another one and follow the same steps. Go ahead and map out a timeline of which books you plan to study over the next year. Make sure you be consistent in your study time, and set a comfortable steady pace. Once you become more confident in your skill begin to incorporate longer books. Once the practice of Bible study becomes habitual begin to mix up your timeline with books consisting of the Old and New Testament, and Gospels. You will want to spend much more time digging into the Old Testament and some of the longer books of the Bible. Don’t forget to set goals for yourself, and reward yourself when you accomplish those goals. (Example: New Bible, Bible Study Tool or resource, or just some good old fashioned ice-cream).
10. Pass it On – Now that you have grown in your Bible study skills, and you have completed your first book, it is now time to pass it on to others. Share with a friend, family, Bible class, or even start a Bible class. When you begin to teach others, don’t expect to have all the answers. If you are unsure of an answer inform the person that you will have to get back with them with an answer. Seek counsel from other Biblical scholars, such as, teachers, preachers, and elders. Never give questionable answers, and be sure to always confirm what you are teaching to prevent the Word of God from being taken out of context.
Many times people get so caught up in trying to comprehend the Word of God that they forget why they were reading it in the first place. Be sure to make time to read the Bible for devotional, quiet time, and pure enjoyment. Make sure to make Bible study an enjoyable practice, by being creative in your study. Listen to soft music, consider different atmospheres (example: nature), and change up the pace if need be. Remember to keep a strong prayer life, because this will prevent burn-out of reading God’s Word. For a Study on prayer visit: www.justinsrefuge.com/2010/08/12/prayer