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How to Study the Bible, God’s Word

This companion article to “How to Read the Bible, God’s Word” provides tips for people who want to begin to study the Bible.

The first step in studying God’s Word is to understand that the Author is always the best one to interpret His writings. One of the principles you can utilize is to let scripture interpret scripture. Have you found a passage which is hard to understand? God usually has several companion passages which will help you to understand the one you are reading if you are willing to dig around and look for them. Also, don’t be hesitant to stop in the middle of what you are doing and ask God what something means. Often, God will inspire you by His Spirit as to the meaning right then and there — simply because you asked. (“Everyone who asks, receives.”) However, if the answer doesn’t come immediately, be patient. Your answer will come, even if it comes through a life situation five years from now.

Second, use commentaries only when absolutely necessary. It is a mark of spiritual infancy to always want to be fed by someone else. The book of Hebrews notes that there is a progression in which those who were once given milk should move on to meat and eventually be able to teach others younger than them in the faith. As well, you must realize that the people who write commentaries have their own opinions and biases (gasp!) which color everything they read and write. A Sunday School teacher I know actually had a lady come to her and ask her to recommend one book, one commentary that she could read and just trust everything the author said! There isn’t one out there. You have to be willing to sort through the good with the bad no matter who the author is or how popular he or she may be in Christian circles.

Third, you can take the approach of studying a theme in one book of the Bible. Using this method, you can focus on all that the book has to say about the topic and gain an in-depth understanding of it. Some examples of this are studying liberty in Galatians, the word “better” in the book of Hebrews or the body of Christ in the book of Ephesians.

Fourth, you can study the life of a character in the Bible. Character studies are great because they make use of the narrative style which most people find so much easier to read. For a great negative example, study King Saul in 1 Samuel. For a positive example, study David. Another example is to study the life of Jesus and focus on how He responded to the different situations He was put in by His opposition. In doing a character study, be willing to ask the basic news reporter questions of who, what, when, where, why and how. For instance, with Saul you can ask whether he was spiritually alert before he was anointed by Samuel. With David, you can ask whether he even knew what he had been anointed for (the Bible doesn’t tell us that he knew immediately). Those types of questions can spur an understanding of how God works in life situations, even yours.

Fifth, study in a group. The Bible tells us that no scripture is of any private interpretation. By testing your views and beliefs against other people’s views on the same scripture, you can learn, teach, be corrected and generally avoid some of the folly which comes from only trying to interpret the scripture within your own four walls. It’s also amazing how God can take the multiple viewpoints that come out during a group Bible study and meld them together to shape the mindset of the whole group. Life-changing events take place in group Bible studies.

Sixth, get a good concordance and learn how to use it. A concordance is different from a commentary in that it is simply a large dictionary of the Hebrew and Greek words which were used in the Old and New Testaments. Why is it important to have one? A concordance will help you in beginning to understand some of the richer depth of meaning which can be found in the original words used in scripture, and in the process you may find a word which is translated two different ways in two different passages. This allows you to link the uses of the word in a way that increases your understanding of the basic meaning of the word and its nuances. A note of warning: not every definition of a word can simply be inserted into any passage as you please. Context does determine a lot of meaning, and a concordance does make one a Greek or Hebrew scholar overnight.

Seventh, look for answers to your life questions by studying what God has to say about it. Do you have trouble with your mouth saying things it shouldn’t? Then study words and the tongue in the book of Proverbs. Do you feel lonely? Study about love and friendship. Sin problems? Do a study on righteousness and holiness in the Old and New Testaments. Do you worry? There are a lot of verses on peace you can study. Are you not as free in your giving as you need to be? Do a study on tithing and giving. It’s all there waiting for you to look.

Finally, remember that God is the greatest Teacher, and He wants you to understand His Word. That being said, some diamonds are just beneath the surface, and others are deep down where only those who dig for them faithfully will find them. But whatever your level of study, DO STUDY. You will be feeding your spirit and opening yourself up to grow in new and exciting ways.

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