If you’re anything like me, learning to study the bible is a process. I wrote a blog post about learning to read the bible as a beginner, you can read that here. But there’s a huge difference between reading and studying the bible.
Have you ever felt like you read your bible faithfully but you just aren’t getting anything out of it? Maybe you just need to start digging a little deeper. I decided to share with you all one of the ways I study my bible in hopes that it will be helpful to someone.
Why we should study the bible
I think there are two big issues with not studying the bible. One is that we easily miss the context surrounding not only a verse but a chapter, book, and the big picture of the whole bible. This is a huge deal because, taken out of context, the words in the bible (as with any words) can inaccurately take on any meaning we decide to assign them from our perspective. This leads to our own misunderstanding and misapplication of the Word in our lives and, if we’re sharing, in the lives of others as well. I believe this happens to all of us at some point, but we have to be diligent to prevent it so we aren’t misleading ourselves or others.
The other big issue is that really digging into the Word brings you closer in relationship with God. The more time you spend studying the Word, the more the Holy Spirit will lead, stretch, grow, correct, and comfort you. So if you aren’t digging, you are missing out, big time!
How to study the bible
First I want to say, I am no expert and God is for sure still leading, stretching, growing, and correcting me. I’m sure there are all kinds of people who study the Bible better than I do and who understand it better than I do. This isn’t the only way to study, it isn’t even the only way I do it. But it is one of the best ways I’ve discovered for me, so it might be for you too.
If you subscribe to the Grace and Moxie Life email list, you already received my newest free printable Bible Study Sheets. If you don’t, you can still subscribe and get them here. These sheets will walk you through each step in the study process. Here on the blog, I want to dive into the reason why each of the steps/sections on the sheets matter.
Below are the different things I look at when studying the bible. You can write these out in a journal or download my free Bible Study Sheets printable.
Okay, this one is pretty self-explanatory. But while we’re on the topic of where you’re reading, I want to add, don’t be afraid to skip around. Don’t get too determined to finish a book before you move on to another one. When following these steps, there have been times I have found a connection to what I was reading in another book/chapter, which will happen all the time. Sometimes, exploring that led me into studying an entirely different book to the end before I returned to the book/chapter I started with.
The bible isn’t the kind of book that needs or even necessarily should be read from beginning to end. It’s not a single book but a library of books. The big picture drawn from the connections between the books are…well, big. They aren’t just coincidental, they are paramount to the understanding of the whole bible.
About the Author
This section isn’t for a one-word answer like, “Nehemiah.” Who is Nehemiah? If you’re anything like I used to be (still am with some I’m still learning), I knew all these names of people in the bible. I heard so many bible stories growing up. I’d be like, “Oh yeah, Nehemiah. I know who Nehemiah is.” But truthfully, all I knew was part of a vacation bible school song that said something about Nehemiah and the walls of Jericho coming tumbling down.
So when you answer this question, remember it’s not just about a name. The author may have a backstory you can find somewhere else in the bible. You can find more about them using the index in your bible or an easy, free tool like the Logos Bible App. Whatever you learn about the author while you’re reading that book, you can go back and add it in this section as you learn more.
About the Audience
Who is the author talking to and why? What is their situation and what is their history? Write what you know to begin with and go back and write what you learn about the audience after reading
The time and location matter because they are a vital part of understanding the cultural background of the people in the story. This dictates context and a true understanding of what happened and why it happened.
Context, context, context. Without context, we can’t have complete understanding or proper application (more on application in a minute). This is one way the use of a concordance that I mentioned in my blog about reading the Bible can be used. A concordance will help you understand the theological meaning of a word. It will also indicate where the meaning of that word may vary in different parts of the bible and based on whether it’s used concerning God or people. Who, what, when, where, why — those things matter to the purpose and meaning of the book, chapter, and verse.
Another pretty self-explanatory section. This one is just to note which chapter you’re taking notes on.
Here you’ll note words that stand out to you in a passage/chapter. In some passages, a word will be repeated over and over, which may be worth noting. I typically mark these in my bible but I like making note of them too. Again, the concordance is a useful tool for connecting and understanding keywords. Also, be sure to have a dictionary and a resource like https://www.blueletterbible.org/ to look up definitions in our language and others.
When you’re researching context and looking into keywords, you’re sure to find related passages. Noting them for future reference will be helpful for making other connections from other books later.
Not every chapter will have a specific application to your life right now. But there is always application at least to your perspective, your overall understanding of being a Jesus follower. There’s alway something to learn.
You’ll be running into other notable people in each chapter beyond the author. This section is to list them and make quick notes for reference.
I love this section. We find a lot of promises, commands, and warnings in the bible and it’s not for nothing. I think it’s really important to not only write them down, but to come back to them often.
I finish my personal studies with questions pretty much every time. After I have done all the digging I can do, I write down the questions I still don’t feel like I have clear answers to. I take these questions to people who might know the bible better than I do or I might consult a commentary on the chapter. Sometimes I don’t find an answer right away. Sometimes I don’t find an answer until a month or year or even years later.
One of the best things about studying the bible ourselves, without the help of an alternate study or devotional, is that we get to make our own observations. When we use other resources and commentary first, we automatically take on their perspective or their takeaway and we typically don’t dig deeper than that. It ends up being harder to draw our own conclusions when we start from someone else’s conclusions (in my opinion, at least).
I love to take a verse from each chapter and write it down to try to commit to memory. Honestly, I don’t do well with memorization most of the time. I’m not always learning them word for word. But I do try to commit it to memory the best I can, even if I’m paraphrasing. Even if it’s just the point the verse conveys.
About How I Study
Like I said, this is just how to study. There are tons of other questions you can ask and ways you can approach your bible study. I started to title this How I Study the Bible instead of how to. But honestly, I titled it so it will be more easily found in a google search. That’s why I want to say again, I’m no expert and this is not the only and maybe not even the best way. It’s just what works for me. I hope you will find it useful!