Bible Study Methods
The Bible is rich with wisdom and direction for our lives, but for many hard to understand. Different types of passages require different ways to draw applicational meaning to our lives. Below are some simple ways for us to draw meaning from God’s Word as we take time to read and apply it to our lives.
Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly. Colossians 3:16a
After reading a full passage (a chapter or full letter) to understand the context of what is going on, take a smaller verse and read it over and over, emphasizing one major word at a time. When emphasizing that word, consider what it means, what the opposite of that word might be, and synonyms for the word.
For example, LET…, allow, yield, submit. DWELL…fill, take residence, fully encompass, consume. RICHLY…extravagantly, not poorly or stingy.
Then ask yourself, what word stands out as particularly meaningful? What might be preventing you from applying this more fully into your life?
As you sense God ‘speaking’ to you, pray along those lines of how to apply or pass this idea on to others.
Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law. Psalm 119:18 (NIV)
This method of devotional study meditation is a particularly good method for drawing out applications from narratives or stories. After reading a full story like David and Goliath, or Jesus walking on the water you imagine you are each of the characters in the story asking yourself questions about how might have felt experiencing what they did, what would I say or do?
Then ask yourself with whom you most identify and why? How does their situation apply to your life right now? What is God trying to say or asking me to do? As you sense God ‘speaking’ to you, pray along those lines of how to apply or pass this idea on to others.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22 (NIV)
This method encourages us to read a passage (single verse or larger section) and ask ourselves a series of questions which drive us to action. It is VERY important to read the bible, but reading at the expense of asking what it means and how it affects my life and choices, is very shortsighted. As you develop a reading plan, don’t make it so demanding that it forces a choice to just get done instead of also drawing application. It is far better to read a small passage a day and take time to draw from it even if one never actually reads the entire book then it is to read the entire Bible cover to cover but never take time to be transformed. Of course, that is an unnecessary extreme.
Probe It uses an acrostic, S.P.A.C.E.P.E.T.S., to help us remember 9 questions to ask of the passage in the Bible we are reading. Of course, we don’t have to ask all 9 every time, nor do all 9 elicit answers of all passages, but to approach the Bible with questions is the key to learning and the key to listening to the Holy Spirit.
1. Is there a SIN to confess? Does God’s Word make you aware of something you need to make right with God?
2. Is there a PROMISE to claim? There are more than 7,000 promises in God’s Word. Ask yourself if the passage you’ve read contains a universal promise. Ask whether you’ve met all the conditions of the promise. Every promise has a premise!
3. Is there an ATTITUDE to change? Is there something you need to think about differently? Do you need to work on a negative attitude, worry, guilt, fear, loneliness, bitterness, pride, apathy, or ego?
4. Is there a COMMAND to obey? Is there a command you need to obey, no matter how you feel?
5. Is there an EXAMPLE to follow? Are there positive examples to follow or negative examples to avoid?
6. Is there a PRAYER to pray? Paul, David, Solomon, Elijah, and Isaiah, among others, pray in the Bible. You can use their prayers and know that they’ll be answered because they’re in the Bible and in God’s will.
7. Is there an ERROR to avoid? It’s wise to learn from experience, and it’s even wiser to learn from the experience of others! We don’t have time to make all the mistakes ourselves. So what can you learn from the mistakes of those in Scripture?
8. Is there a TRUTH to believe? Often, we’ll read something in Scripture that we can’t do anything about. We simply have to believe what it says about God the Father, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the past, the future, Heaven, Hell, or other topics in the Bible.
9. Is there SOMETHING for which to praise God? You can always find something in a passage you can be grateful to God for, like something God has done or protected you from.
As we ask ourselves these questions and then act on them, our lives move toward Christlikeness. And when we ask these questions with others in our LifeGroup, we can encourage each other through meaningful perspectives, encouragement to action, and prayer support.
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11 (NIV)
Read a passage and put it in your own words. It’s like an ‘active listening’ exercise where you reflect back to God what you heard. Of course this can be done alone in your daily reading, but it has particularly great meaning when hearing how others understand the passage. This leads to rich discussion and greater application as you drive the meaning of a passage deep into your heart and mind.
Personalize It and Pray It :
Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.: Matthew 7:24 (NIV)
The word of God is his love letter to you, not just the people to whom it was originally written. By substituting your name in the place of pronouns or nouns helps you experience the Bible as if God was speaking directly to you. So instead of “For God so loved the world…”, it would be “For God so loved (your name)…” (John 3:16) To pray it would be to rearrange the verses in away it is a prayer back to God or a prayer for someone else. Some examples might be, again using John 3:16, “Thank you God for the love you have for me that you sent your Son…” or “Lord, I know you love my son/daughter and you sent your Son…” You can be assured that prayers based on His own words are in line with His will and heart. They bring you comfort, assurance, and a deeper sense of hope and trust.