Bible Study – Part Two

04 Mar 2016

Bible Study – Part Two

How to study the Bible

In this article we will cover the particulars of how to study the Bible. This is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. In our previous article, Bible Study – Part One, we taught about why to study the Bible, We learned:

  • God’s commands us to do it.
  • Bible study increases our faith.
  • It makes us a success.
  • We can’t be lead astray or deceived.

Now we are going to learn some of the different  ways to actually study the Bible. Romans 12:1-2 says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” God deserves our reasonable service of regular and systematic Bible reading and Bible study. It is essential for Christian growth and maturity. Bible study renews our mind and helps us think on the things of God. “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Phil 4:8) When we study the Bible, God reveals things to us. “Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law.” (Ps 119:18 NAS) “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7)

” God deserves our reasonable service of regular and systematic Bible reading and Bible study.”

Studying is a feeding process that results in spiritual nourishment and growth; just as newborn babies desire the pure milk of the word. By feeding on the Bible, you grow up. (1 Pet. 2:2) If you are spiritually malnourished, you need to feed yourself by reading God’s word. Did you know that you can be spiritually anemic? If you’re feeling a little under weight, study the Bible for awhile. Do you want to be a 99 pound weakling pushed around by temptation and sin, or a spiritual body builder working out each week with the Bible? Choose to be God’s champion, His warrior. The more you study and learn God’s word, the more you grow and mature spiritually. I have seen children and teenagers who were spiritually mature, as well as, old men and women who were like babies in Christ and the things of God. Hebrews 5:12 points out that, when the time you ought to be teachers, you have need that one teach you again the first principles of the word of God; and are become such as have need of milk again, and not of strong meat. God’s word has milk and meat in it. As you grow, you are not satisfied with milk anymore and desire something of more substance. Only by a definite systematic plan of study can a Christian understand the great truths and doctrines of the Bible. It won’t happen by haphazard study.

My son, if you will receive my words and hide my commandments within you, make your ear attentive to wisdom, apply your heart to understanding; For if you cry for discernment, and  lift your voice for understanding;  If you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God. (Pr. 2:1-5) How precious is the word of God to you? We need to be treasure hunters for God’s word. Have you heard the saying, “put your money where your mouth is?” Well the Bible says that, “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart. (LK 6:45 NAS)Let me say that last part again, your mouth speaks out that which fills your heart or mind. Have you been around sports enthusiasts?  All they talk about is the latest game, and they memorize statistics of players and teams. Ask them a question about a player and they can tell you all about him. They spend lots of money traveling to watch games and buying sports apparel to wear. But how about us? Are we Bible enthusiasts? Do we talk about the good things we just read or studied? Are we memorizing scripture? Can we give an account of why we believe in God, if we are asked? Do we spend our money buying Bible study resources and supporting the work of the ministry? As Christians, it’s time we stepped up to the plate and hit a home run! We need to fill our minds with God’s word, so that we can bring forth what is good.

“Bible study is not a spectator sport.”

So, what are our challenges to Bible study? We have distractions and daily life that get in the way. We’re tired from working, or we have to take the kids to practice. Shopping, cooking, mowing the yard, and a million other everyday “life” things can rob us of our Bible study time! There is good news…we can overcome these obstacles by discipline and determination.  God says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” (Hos. 4:6) You have to make up your mind to do it! Do you want to be tossed around like a wave? “We are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;  but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.” (Eph. 4:14 NAS) Jesus said, “everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. “And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. “The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.” (Mt. 7:24-27 NAS) We have to lay a foundation by studying the Bible, so that when the storms of life come we will not fall. We have to become determined, nothing is going to keep us from studying and learning!

Let’s examine some scriptures. “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” (James 1:22 NAS) In 1 Timothy 4:12-13, the apostle Paul writes to Timothy and tells him to show himself as an example of those who believe by giving attention to reading of scripture, and to exhortation and teaching. Again Jesus tells us to, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” (Jn. 5:39) “O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.” (Ps. 119:97 NAS) “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’ ” (Mt. 4:4 NAS) “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. ” (2 Tim. 3:16) “for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” (Acts 17:11b NAS) All these verses point to the first thing we need to know about Bible study.

“First of all, study the Bible itself!”

Too many read and learn from books written about the Bible and actually study the Bible itself very little. Those books are good, but we need to put the Bible first in priority. Study aids should help you find that elusive verse you can’t remember, or give you a dictionary meaning of a word. But, as we just learned from the preceding verses, we need to “search and read the scripture daily until we have read all the bible;  every book, chapter, and verse.” Then we need to continue to read it all again…over and over. This is what renews our mind.

Daily Bible Reading:

The first and most important way to study the Bible is by daily devotional reading. We need to read the Bible just like any other book or novel…from cover to cover. When I was in high school, I had a English teacher who said something to our class that influenced me for several years. Somehow one of the girls in class and this teacher got into a discussion about the Bible. The girl asked the teacher if he went to church. He replied that he was an atheist, which shocked the teenage girl. Then the teacher asked the girl if she went to church. She replied, “yes, of course.” The teacher then asked her if she believed in the Bible. “Yes,” she said. Then the teacher asked, “have you ever read the whole Bible all the way through?” The girl remarked, “well, no.” The teacher asked, “so, you go to church and base your religious beliefs on something that you have never even read?” The girl responded, “well, have you ever read the Bible?” He told her, yes, he had read the complete Bible all the way through from cover to cover and didn’t believe a word of it. Today, I feel sorry for that teacher, and I hope he did come to a place where he realized a need for Jesus as savior. But for years when I was asked about Christianity, I replied that I hadn’t read the Bible all the way through and until I did I would not make a decision about it.

Then after I gave my heart to God and asked Jesus to come into my life, I realized that it was by faith that I believed. I knew I didn’t have to read the complete Bible to make that decision. But, in order to grow spiritually and know the plans God has for us, we do need to read the whole Bible. It’s not in order to become a Christian, but after we do, that it is important to read the Bible daily. In order to accomplish this we need a plan to read through the Bible. There are several Bible reading plans available. Some break the daily reading into a 365 day outline. These take about 15 minutes per day and you finish reading the entire Bible in one year. Other plans exist to complete the Bible in two or three years of daily reading. Whichever plan you choose, you should try to select a specific time each day to do your reading. It helps to be consistent. Don’t get frustrated if you fall behind in your plan. Remember, your goal is to read the entire Bible from cover to cover and spend some time daily reading God’s word! These Bible reading plans are just a tool to help you along the way. Another thing to do that’s helpful is to take notes or write a journal after your daily reading. You will want to keep track of important verses or topics to study in detail for later. We recommend the 365 day plan or the chronological plan from oneyearbibleonline.com. They also have a blog that is great. I suggest  that you sign up to receive weekly emails or an RSS feed from them. The blog is at oneyearbibleblog.com. You can even purchase a one year bible arranged in 365 daily readings. These are available in different translation too.

“We need to know what the Bible says…before we can understand what it means.”

By reading the Bible from cover to cover, you will get a broad overview of God’s word. Focus on learning the main themes of each book and seeing God’s plan for mankind as it unfolds. You should be looking for the overall unity of the Bible. Think of yourself as a explorer or mountain climber. First you are getting a bird’s-eye-view from the top of the mountain. After examining the lay of the land, like looking through a set of binoculars, you begin to explore it in detail. Mapping out your trip and taking time to see all the sights (this is like dissecting it with a microscope).

Bible Study Methods

This would be a good place to share Martin Luther’s Bible study method with you. He compared Bible study to gathering apples from an orchard. He said:

  1. Shake the whole tree so the ripest apples would fall. (study the Bible as a whole, Daily reading plan)
  2. Climb the tree and shake each limb. (Survey or do a study on each book of the Bible)
  3. Shake the smaller branches. (Do chapter studies)
  4. Shake each twig. ( perform verse studies)
  5. Look under each leaf. (do individual word studies)

This is a great analogy.  What’s important is to find the approach that works best for you. Try mixing and matching methods to give variety to your learning. But find a study method that focuses your learning. Here are the Bible study methods according to Martin Luther’s example:

  • Daily Reading Plan – for more on this Bible study method see the preceding section.
  • Book-by-Book study –  The purpose of doing a study of a each book of the Bible is to develop a working knowledge of the contents of the Bible. This is also called the synthetic overview method because you are looking for the synthesis (how the parts form a whole) of each book into the whole Bible. Major themes to look for are Christ, redemption, and how God deals with mankind. While studying a book of the Bible, the unity of the whole Bible is most important, as well as, the content over the actual interpretation. There are 66 books in the Bible, 39 in the old testament, and 27 in the new testament.
  • Chapter study – By doing a chapter study you are starting to analyze God’s word in more depth. We are no longer looking for a broad overview, but digging deeper to discover more complex meaning from God’s word. Here we’re more concerned with paragraphs and outlines. There are 1,189 chapters in the Bible, 929 in the old testament, and 260 in the new testament.
  • Verse study – By doing a verse study, you are really starting to look at the details of God’s word. Here you are more concerned with actual sentences in the verse. You will want to diagram the sentence structure, as well as, identify the key verbs in order to perform word studies. After finding the verbs, you will want to define other key words in the verse. You will also want to cross reference other Bible translations and start to examine the original Biblical languages. You are most concerned with dissecting the verse to understand the meaning. There are 31,173 verses in the Bible, 23,214 in the old testament, and 7,959 in the new testament.
  • Word study – Here you are doing the most detailed analysis of God’s word! This is like studying through a microscope. You will want to use dictionaries and lexicons. Also, look up different variations of the word  with a thesaurus. You will want to compare how the word is translated in different versions of the Bible. Look up the English definition, and the definition in the original language. Examine where the word is used elsewhere in the Bible, and the root or origin of the word. Also look at the word usage in other writings, as well as, the synonyms of the word. (watch out for homonyms of the word i.e. light as in from the sun or light as in not heavy) Some interesting examples are the words servant and love. In English we have one word for servant, but in Greek there are seven different words meaning servant. There are different words to describe the different types of love in the original language.  (i.e. romantic, brotherly love, etc.)There are 773,692 words in the Bible, 529,439 in the old testament, and 181,253 in the new testament. *An important note about word studies. Verbs are action words. They contain the action of a sentence and make choice words to study. Look for the verbs and learn about their tenses and parts of speech in the original language. These are the gold nuggets of God’s word!

Other Methods

There are other Bible study methods that focus on one aspect or another of God’s word.

  • Topical study – This is a thematic study of the Bible. You can study by subject, doctrine, event, place, type, dispensation (period of time divided by how God deals with mankind), or character traits. You will need a exhaustive Bible concordance to find and list all the passages that relate to your study. If you are systematic and comprehensive in studying  your topic in the whole Bible, then you will develop a clear-cut understanding and mastery of your subject. (i.e. prayer, or honor) You will learn everything the Bible has to say on that topic.
    • Study of Bible types – This is a study of the symbolism used in the Bible. We call this Typology. In the old testament and the Pentateuch (the first five books of the O.T.) in particular, there are things and symbols that have a prophetic nature to them.  In the old testament, the type is a shadow of what was to come and its anti-type in the new testament is the substance of the shadow. “For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things.” (Heb. 10:1a NAS)Also see (Col. 2:17, Heb. 8:5-6). St. Augustine said, “the new is in the old contained; the old is in the explained.” A type in the Bible is a visible earthly thing teaching us about an invisible heavenly thing. Compared with a parable, which is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. Paul, talking about the Israelites in 1 Corinthians 10:11 says, “Now all these things happened unto them forensamples: and they are written for our admonition.” The word ensamples used here is the Greek word “tupos.” It means a figure, form, an example, the pattern to which a thing must be made, a pattern of warning, a pattern of events which serve as admonitions or warnings, or a type of person or thing prefiguring a future (messianic) person or thing. A typology study might include people, places, things, ceremonies, or events.
    • Biographical study – We call these “Life Portraits.” This is a study of a particular character from the Bible. There are over 2,930 different people listed in the Bible that you could choose to learn about. You would study their struggles and failures, as well as, their triumphs and successes. Watch how they develop moral character or Christ likeness. Look for them to show human nature and God’s interaction with that person. To make a life portrait of Moses, study the meaning of his name, his background, ancestry, education, childhood, etc. List his friends and associates, and places he lived. What are his character traits? Look for his failures and faults. Watch especially for a great crisis in his life. After you have researched all the details, write a summary and include a chronological outline of his life. Finally, be sure to write out an application to your own life. Ask yourself, “what can I learn and apply to my life today?” We offer a free template for biographical studies at http://www.learningthebible.org. Just look for our Tools tab.
    • Devotional study –  This is a study method where you meditate on scripture to apply its truth in your life today. The focus is on application and being a doer of God’s word. In a quiet time alone, you want to meditate and visualize what’s happening in the passage you are studying.  Make a mental picture for yourself. Imagine yourself in the scene of the Bible. How do you feel? Who is speaking? What is happening? Next, emphasize each word of the key verse out loud.(i.e. Phil 4:13) I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Ican do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, etc. After that, personalize the verse by adding your name. Sara or Emily can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Lastly, use the verse in prayer to God. “Father God, you said in your word, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  So, I’m asking you for strength today! Thank you, in Jesus name, amen.”
    • Survey – you can also study the Bible by doing a new testament or old testament survey. There are books, classes, or correspondence classes that can help you. You will get an overview of the Bible that will improve your general knowledge of Biblical events, places, and people.

“Bible study is a lifetime habit!”

There are other methods used to study the Bible. These are the most popular and time tested. As Christians, we need to study customs and languages of the people who lived during Biblical times. We need to become experts on Bible culture and language.  Why? Because over time the meaning of words change. Consider Matthew 19:24, ” Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Most of us have never seen a camel. Likewise, if you were to go back just a few years and say to someone, “I’m going to go home and surf the internet.” They wouldn’t understand what you were talking about. Imagine saying, “I’m having trouble with my mouse on my desktop.”  These words mean something different to us today than they did even a few years ago. The meaning of words change over time. So, in order for us to learn the meaning of the scriptures, we need to study Biblical language and culture too. May God bless you during your Bible exploring.

*We have several Bible study templates to help you use these methods in your personal study. They are available at www.learningthebible.org.

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JD Wilhite

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  1. Thanks for the post!

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