Recently I was asked how to study the Bible. Although a simple question, the answer is long.
When I blogged a bit more on my personal blog, I wrote this:
Several years ago, I worked with Young Life while living in New England. I’ll never forget a Bible study one morning at the home of one of our high school students. We met regularly to share what we learning in the Scriptures, cast the vision for the ministry we were doing at the high school and pray for the people at the school. One morning, we decided to go back to the basics of how to study Scripture. As we handed out the worksheets with the Bible Study method, the eyes of the students lit up. They excitedly asked for more copies. I ran out and promised to email more to them.
I marveled at this because these were our solid, spiritually growing kids. Many of them regularly read their Bibles and shared what they were learning. It was at that moment I realized that even though I regularly emphasized reading the Bible, I had rarely given people the tools to study the Scriptures.
Regular Bible reading and study has changed my life more than any other spiritual discipline. Study methods come naturally for some people. But, for many, these methods must be learned and practiced. In Ephesians 4, Paul describes the role of church leadership as using their roles and gifts “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up (v. 12)”. Since the morning of that Bible study, I have tried to equip people with the tools they need to study. Once practiced, these methods can become such a habit that we no longer need to think about each step of the method.
- I recommend getting a Bible version to read. Without getting into a very long debate over this, my favorite recommendation for people starting to study the Scriptures is the New International Version or New Living Translation. As you study the Bible, you will probably want to compare translations. You can do this online in many places such as YouVersion (which we use for our sermon outlines, etc.)
- Find a place to start studying. While I started in Genesis, this may not be the best place for most people. I recommend beginning in a Gospel or an epistle (letter) like Galatians or Philippians.
- Try using a method:
One method I learned from others is SOAP: an acronym for Scripture, Observation, Application & Pray. So, when reading the Bible, follow these steps…
Start with the Bible. Have a reading plan, pick something out of the scripture that you like
Make some observations about what is happening in the passage. What do you know? What is God saying?
Reading and studying Scripture is of no use unless you actually apply it to your life. (Matthew 7:24) How can I apply this today??
Spend time talking to God like you would your friend. Ask for the wisdom and strength to apply what you just learned.
Well, this should help you get started. I’ll post a few more things in the near future–some more about my favorite method (Inductive Bible Study) and tips about some other tools. Until then, let me know how this has helped! And, remember, check out the devotional material we talked about last week.