Deep and Wide: The Two Essentials to Effective Bible Study
Today, I am sharing the two essentials of effective Bible study. Your time in God's Word is precious, my friend, and I want you to get the most out of it.
Here, in the Scripture Confident Living community, we love digging deep into Scripture and studying the Bible independently. There are so many resources roaming the blogosphere these days, but what I really want for you is this: To study the Bible effectively and skillfully... because that will lead to Scripture confidence.
To study the Bible effectively, you need to build a strong Bible study foundation. Learn some key Bible study methods that are tried and true and know what the Bible is all about.
Learn Proven and Effective Bible Study Methods
I'm going to take you back to your high school English days. If there is a globally respected way to study and analyze literature well - poems, classic books, etc. - then how much more should we apply these methods to Bible study?!
To study the Bible effectively, learn the "Observation, Interpretation, and Application" Bible study method. This is the tried and true Bible study process that is taught in Bible colleges across the country... and you can learn it! I'll tell you how.
First, let me introduce you to these Bible study steps.
This is what makes your Bible study independent. Making your own observations takes some time and practice, but, before you know it, you'll be a pro.
Start by remembering your high school English and ask those 5W & 1H questions: Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How?
Always be sure to read a Bible passage in context. What just happened and what's about to happen? What is the author's flow of thought, and how does this passage fit into it?
Even better, how does the passage fit into the Bible's story as a whole? Do other passages speak of this subject and bring further insight?
This step may take a little time, but that's ok. Bible study is not a race; you can always slow down your pace. I recommend spending some time on this step.
There are Bible passages that are really straightforward and don't require a lot of interpretation. Then there is the exact opposite.
Base your interpretation on your observation. Start with determining the genre of the text. Is it a narrative (like history and law) or are you reading wisdom literature like a Psalm. Check the 'Intro to the Bible' lesson for more on this.
When Paul tells us to "not let the sun go down on your anger" (Ephesians 4:26), is he saying you can be angry until sundown? Or is he saying to not hold on to your anger for too long or leave conflicts unresolved?
Furthermore, when Jesus says we should rip out our own eye before it leads us to sin (Mark 9:47), is He actually telling us to mutilate ourselves? Or is He saying that we should consider drastic action to keep from sinning?
You get the picture.
Whenever you are not sure of an interpretation, this is a great time to consult outside sources. Some of my favorite free resources are on biblestudytools.com and on the Logos Bible software (basic free version available at logos.com/basic).
Don't stop at interpretation. This last step is important and the one that truly will bring us closer to God through Bible study. We need to apply His Word.
Sometimes, as a result of our study, we come across a command in Scripture that we are currently not keeping and we know exactly what we need to change.
Other times, it may be that we realize there is a truth about God or the world that we don't fully believe yet. What if on some level, your heart has never quite accepted that Jesus forgave you at the moment of your salvation. What if you are still hiding from God in shame rather than accepting that you now stand before Him blameless because of the blood of Jesus.
Surely, I hope that as you study the Bible, you will be assured of your salvation and God's grace. It should change your life and bring you into a close relationship with your Father.
When it comes to overcoming festering sin, I recommend making some big changes and getting accountability. First and foremost though, we have to remember that it is the Holy Spirit who enables us to live a God-honoring life. Keep praying and listening and stay God-dependent.
See the Big Picture
To truly study the Bible effectively, you need to be able to see every Bible passage in the context of all of Scripture. The Bible has one storyline and knowing it will drastically improve your Bible interpretation.
You cannot pick up any book, just read a portion of it, and assume you fully understand it.
Let me give you an example: If you pick up a parenting book that teaches a new parenting philosophy, you need to read the complete book - or at least large portions of every chapter - in order to really grasp what it's teaching. If you simply pick out a paragraph here and there, without having understood the overall philosophy, you read their advice out of context and may even apply it counter to their suggestion.
This principle is even more true for Bible study. You cannot study the Bible effectively if you do not understand the redemption story that God lays out in Scripture.
To get you started here is a very brief overview of the Bible's story:
The Old Testament
God creates the world, including Adam and Eve. When those two sin against God, sin enters the world. However, God continues to lead His people from patriarch to patriarch. He leads Noah. He leads Abraham. He leads Isaac and Jacob. God changes Jacob's name to Israel, declaring that He will make his family a nation. His 12 sons become the 12 tribes of Israel. God leads this people out of Egyptian captivity with Moses as their leader and guides them through the wilderness for many years. God finally gives them the Promised Land and rules via prophets and judges until the nation of Israel asks for a king. God calls first Saul, then David, to the throne, followed by Solomon. Solomon dies, and his son becomes the next ruler. The majority of Israel rebels against him as king and the nation splits into two: Judah (actually the tribes of Judah and Benjamin) and the remaining ten tribes of Israel. Both Judah and Israel go through several generations of kings, most of them disobedient to God but some faithful. God warns Israel through the prophets that if His people continue in their sin, He will have them captured by Babylon. As Israel continues to disobey God, the day comes that both Israel and Judah are captured and scattered around the Assyrian and Babylonian Empires. Stories like that of “Daniel in the Lion’s Den” took place during the time of captivity. God promised all along that one day He would restore Israel as a united nation. He finally does so around the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, who led the people in rebuilding the temple and city walls. More prophets rose up to warn the newly reunited Israel to remain faithful to God to avoid further punishment. What follows is a period of silence before Christ enters the scene in the New Testament.
The New Testament
The four gospels tell o the story of Jesus from His birth to the end of His ministry on earth. Jesus gave up much when He took on flesh to walk this earth with us and ultimately die for our sins. He preached in words and action, was tempted but did not sin, and raised up disciples to spread the good news after His departure. These 12 disciples plus Paul become the apostles, who spread the gospel to both Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews). That's a big deal because previously, we have not seen many Gentiles become followers of God while they now turned to faith in Jesus in masses. Several apostles were traveling missionaries, who stayed in each place for a while and then moved on. However, they usually left a leader in each city and communicated with them. This becomes clear in their letters to these towns/churches in which they address specific issues within that community that have been brought to their attention. We find out that eventually Paul is arrested for his preaching efforts and brought to Rome, where he is put under house arrest but continues to share his faith and write letters. The New Testament ends with the book of Revelation, a look into the future that still awaits us: One day, Jesus will return. We will all face the judgment throne, and only those who have accepted Christ will enter heaven. That is all because of Jesus, the only one who can save us.
No, that's not all. That's just a very quick summary of the Bible's redemption story. There is much more to explore, and the better your picture of the overall story, the more equipped you are to study any passage of Scripture. Always remember that a single passage is only one piece of the whole story!
Practical Steps to Learn Effective Bible Study
Let's talk about how you can learn and practice these two essentials of effective Bible study.
Of course, you can search Pinterest for tips on how to study the Bible effectively, and you'll likely find a few worksheets or journaling tips.
But what if I told you, you can learn the "Observation, Interpretation, and Application" Bible study method step by step, without getting overwhelmed?
What if at the same time, you could study the Bible chronologically to get that full picture of the Bible's storyline. No, I am not talking about "reading the Bible in a year" plans. You can certainly find many of those as well. But it's often hard for us to read that much and still fully take in what we are reading.
The first time I read the Bible cover to cover, I actually missed a lot of information. It's just so much to process and so easy to lose the big picture while reading chapters and chapters every day.
There is a solution that will truly help you build a strong Bible study foundation and study the Bible effectively.
The Scripture Confident through the Bible series
In this Bible study series, you will...
Build a framework for studying the Bible well:
Don’t worry; I break everything down into small steps and provide lots of help, so you’ll be able to follow along without a problem. In each lesson, you will learn a new Bible study method that builds on the previous one. You will study the Bible with the reliable "Observation, Interpretation, Application" Bible study method that even pastors and scholars use.
Practice your new skills with growing independence:
These comprehensive Bible studies start out very guided - just like most Bible study guides you’ve used. Then, I slowly step back and let you take over the study process. You'll be more than equipped to do so. Plus, find discussion questions and other resources to explore this course with a friend or study group.
Track the Bible's storyline, so you’ll truly be able to study the Bible in context:
You won’t read the Bible cover to cover. Instead, you will dig deep into hand-picked passages that will give you a full view of the Bible’s storyline. Bonus videos and historical timelines will ensure that you continue to see the big picture. Knowing God's journey with His people will allow you to understand every Bible passage more clearly.
Are you ready to get started?
Take this series for a spin for FREE!!! Access the first three lessons of Scripture Confident through the Bible without paying a dime or making a purchase commitment.
Get started here.
Now tell me, what has helped you study the Bible effectively?
Wishing you a wonderful Scripture-filled day,