Christian Basics- Chapter 12, Bible Study
Written by: Guenther, Herb and Debbie Posted on: 05/05/2003
Category: Bible Studies
Psalm 119 verse 105 says "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a
light for my path." 4 As expressed in the song below, a Christian
should desire to follow the leadership of Christ. God has provided the
Scriptures for us, in it's words we will find the wisdom of God made
available to His people. The Bible shows God working in the lives of
man for centuries. During these centuries people faced many of the
same delemas that we do today. The Bible will act as our lamp and
map. It gives us direction and allows us to learn from others.
The following verse is from Matthew 4:4 "But he answered and said,
It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word
that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." (Authorised Version) This is
a quote by Jesus from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy where the
Bible says in Chapter 8 verse 3 "He humbled you, causing you to hunger
and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had
known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every
word that comes from the mouth of the LORD." God's written Word is the
daily bread for our Christian health, it packs the essential vitamins
and minerals for a healthy Christian life.
Bible Study is also interesting and challanging. It is rare that
we will approach the Bible with eagerness and not be rewarded. Group
Bible study with your spouse, room mate, or friends will also cement
your relationship. The Bible is a living Word from God because the
Holy Spirit helps us to understand it in a fresh way each time that we
Thy Word 1
Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet
And a Light unto my path.
Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet
And a light unto my path.
When I feel afraid
Think I've Lost my way
Still You're right beside me.
And nothing I will fear
As long as you are near.
Please be near me to the end.
I will not forget
Your love for me, and yet
My heart forever is wandering.
Jesus, be my guide
And hold me to Your side,
And I will love You to the end.
Reading the Bible is like no other experience in your life. The
Bible is a living book. It will meet you fresh each time you pick it
up. God has designed it for us. It has many aspects. They range from
commanding authority, to an expression of His love for us.
Since this is chapter twelve of fourteen, if you are reading this
you are interested in what God has to say about your life and
hereafter. I hope that you have enjoyed the time that we have spent
together. However, I must tell you that even on my very best day, my
word for you falls very far short of God's word for you.
In this chapter we will spend some time thinking about, and
hopefully practicing, some of the techniques of Bible study. But
remember that the key is not to study about the Bible, but to study the
Let's start with a few ground rules for effective Bible study.
1) Accept the Holy Bible as being God's Word, and having His
2) Be willing to be changed by the Bible as you read it for
3) Interpret the experiences in your life according to the Scripture,
rather than interpret the Scripture according to your life
4) Understand that your knowledge and understanding of the Bible are
not complete and will grow as you apply yourself to it's study. Be
willing to admit that there are differences of opinion regarding some
passages, and do not condemn other viewpoints unless clearly led to.
But lovingly correct when a position or opinion is in clear opposition
to the Bible's teachings.
5) Look first to what God is saying to you, for your own application.
Act on it. Each Christian has the right and responsibility to know and
interpret the Scripture for themselves.
The Bible is its own best study guide. As you study the Bible
look for patterns and themes. Start out by seeking a true
understanding of the commitment that God has made to us through His
Son. This is illustrated throughout the Scripture. Then look for His
personal commitment to you, and then look for the opportunities for
response, service, and maturing growth He has given us.
How many of you remember receiving your first love letter? You
probably opened it immediately when you received it. You then sought a
quiet place allowing some privacy and carefully read it. You looked
for all of the meaning that you could find, you then re-read it and
picked out those parts that were the most special to you. In a few
minutes you could probably quote the letter word for word!
Just think how easy Bible study would be if we approached it in
the same way. Look for the immediate opportunity to read God's word.
Seek a quiet private place to read, a place where you won't be
disturbed. Read the text more than one time. Pick out the parts that
speak personaly to your heart and memorize them. See wasn't that
simple?. We're finished already.
Well not quite finished. Let's look for a few minutes at how we
learn from the Bible. Most of us attend a church. Many of us attend
classes, or small group discussion type Bible studies. These are all
very good and important things to do. However the point of our
discussion today is personal Bible study. Next we will look at some
tools to use in Bible study.
We will see that the basic learning tools that we use to
understand anything are useful here as well. How many of you remember
the following poem from elementary school.
I keep six honest serving men
(They taught me all I knew)
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who 2
When we study a Bible passage the six servants above will help us
The Three Steps of Bible Study
Step One: Observation
1) Who - Who is the author of the book? To whom is he writing? Who
are the major and minor characters?
2) Where - Where do the events occur? Are there any references to
towns, cities, provinces? If so look them up in a Bible atlas or on a
map. Many Bibles contain historical maps just for this purpose. If
you are reading a letter, where do the recipients if the letter live?
3) When - Are there any references to time, day, month, or year? Are
there references to the timing of other events happening in relation to
4) What - What actions or events are taking place? What words or ideas
are repeated or are central to the passage. What is the mood (joyous
or somber, soft or stern, intense or peaceful, instructional or
5) Why - Does the passage offer any reasons, explanations, statements
of purpose? Why did the Holy Spirit move the author to write these
6) How - How is the passage written? Is is a letter, speech, poem,
parable? Does it use figures of speech (similes, metaphors)? How is
it organized (around people, ideas, geography)? 3
Use the questions above to probe the passage that you are
studying. Write down your answers. You will remember the passage and
its meaning better if your write down your observations as you study
the passage. Pretend that you are studying for your drivers licence
exam, or for another test that is important to you.
Use you powers of observation to pick up the details of place and
person and you will have a good idea as to what the passage says. Now
you will want to know what the passage says to you.
Step Two: Interpretation
To understand what the Bible is saying to you today, you will
often need to interpret the verses you are studying. Here is another
important place to remember that the Bible is its own best commentary.
Remember that interpretation must be faithful to what the author, not
the reader wants to say. The principle is that Scripture interprets
Find out about the historical context of the book you are
studying. Because the Bible was written in a place and time unfamilier
to us, we must work a little harder to understand it. However as we
learn about the people and places in the context of the passage it will
become both more real and understandable to us. Try to understand the
problems of the people in the passage. Look for clues in the passage
itself as well as in a Bible dictionary and/or almanac.
Read related passages of Scripture so that you know the people in
the passages as persons rather than names (see also character studies
later in this chapter).
Second, identify the type of literature that you are reading.
Biblical authors use a variety of literary forms, (see below).
Discourse; an extended logical discussion of a subject. Many
New Testament epistles and some of the longer sermons of
Jesus fall into this category.
Prose narrative; the author describes and recreates sense of
biblical history which are theologically significant.
Genesis, Joshua, and the Gospels are examples.
Poetry; uses figurative language and parallelism and is
emotional in nature. (Psalms)
Proverbs; wise sayings which illustrate practical principles
for living. Should not be confused with commands or
promises. (Proverbs and elsewhere)
Parables; Jesus used them more than anyone else in Scripture.
A parable explains a spiritual truth using a story or
Prophetic literature; books by the four major (Isaiah,
Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel) and twelve minor (Hosea, Joel,
and Amos through Malachi) prophets. These are spokesmen for
God who announce curses and blessings associated with God's
covenant with Israel and future events for all who believe in
God, (and for some who don't!)
Apocalyptic literature; these passages use heavy amounts of
symbolism. Daniel and Revelation are examples.
Identify the type of literature that the Bible passage you are
reading contains. This will help in your understanding.
Thirdly, get an overview of the book. Parts of the book take on a
fuller meaning in the light of the whole book. Different books are
arranged in different ways. Try to understand the broad thrust that
God is trying to make in the book.
Begin by reading quickly through the book.
Next look for major sections.
Now look for subsections.
At each step look for connections between sections.
Fourthly Study the book passage by passage. Remember that the
original Bible did not have chapters, paragraphs, or verses, or even
punctuation! The present organization of the Scripture is useful for
finding specific text etc., but remember not to limit reading to a
specific verse, paragraph, or chapter if further reading would help
Find the subject of each passage.
What does the passage say about the subject.
What is the context of the passage.
Notice the atmosphere or mood of the passage.
Fifthly, Compare your interpretation with a good Bible
commentary. The commentary will give you additional insights into the
passage and its meaning. However try to understand the passage on your
own before you consult a commentary.
Step Three: Application
The ultimate aim of Bible study is not so much to educate but to
transform. As we renew our minds through Bible study, the Holy Spirit
gradually transforms us into the image of Jesus Christ. Almost every
book of the Bible was written to address specific questions and
problems, needs, and questions of the people living at that time. Many
of the same issues face us today, however some do not. It is helpful,
when seeking direction in the Bible to look for people with the same
difficulty that we have. Then we can find the best the Bible has to
offer for us on that subject. Get to know the people in the Bible and
often we will see ourselves.
What to keep in mind when studying the Bible.
1) Handle with care. Study the Bible with the same care and diligence
that you would study for an important test.
2) Assume that the writer is being straightforward. Don't look for
hidden meanings, but look for clear teaching.
3) Use a contemporary translation of the Bible. Among those that are
widely accepted are the New International Version (NIV), Revised
Standard Version (RSV), New American Standard Bible (NASB), and the
Good News Bible (GNB). Many of these versions are offered as Study
Bibles. Study Bibles contain additional outlines, maps, and historical
and background information which many find exceedingly helpful. This
is especially true if do not yet have other resource materials
available to you.
4) Let the material season. Study the material a few days before you
need to so that you may clear up any questions you may have by talking
to a friend of consulting a commentary or reference work. 5
There are three ways (at least) of organizing a Bible study. Each
of the methods below has it's own place in your Bible study plans, each
has it's special strengths. The three ways are:
1. Topical study
2. Book or passage study
3. Character study
1. The topical Bible study is designed to help you learn all that
the Bible has to say about a particular topic or subject. The
strengths of the topical Bible study are many. One of the strengths of
the topical Bible study is that it does not restrict you to learning
about a particular time or person.
A well done topical study will teach you about the relationship
between God and man as you see generations of people deal with the
subject you have chosen. It also allows you to identify with a
particular person or situation that speak most directly to you.
The goal of your Bible study should be learning about key truths
revealed in the Scripture about your topic. This will point out what
you should do regarding the subject, and help you to teach others about
The first step is to choose and define the topic well. It should
be broad enough to meet your need but not so widely defined that you
become discouraged from a lack of progress. Carefully choose key words
to describe your subject. The goal is to choose ten or twelve key
verses for study, ideally they will be the ten or twelve best that the
Bible has to offer you.
The best way to find these verses is by using a concordance. Many
Bibles have a limited concordence in the back, a study Bible may have a
more complete one. A concordance will tell you where a particular word
appears in the Bible. It is helpful to look up closely related words as
well. Other helps to finding the best verses are the New Topical Text
Book (Revell), Harpers Topical Concordance (Harper and Row), and Nave's
Topical Bible (Moody).
It is very helpful to choose ten or twelve verses for further
study, otherwise you will get bogged down looking for just one more
tidbit of truth. Some Bibles also have subject indexes and cross
references that are helpful to find the best selection of verses.
Get a few sheets of paper or a legal pad and do the following.
Write out the topic in a brief paragraph defining the topic,
it's much easier to find the answer if you know what the
Scripture Passages Studied
Make a list of your source verses (or passages)
Summarize or Outline
On a separate piece of paper briefly summarize each verse,
then go back to your first paper to summarize the summaries.
Find the Key Verse
Identify the one verse or passage that seems to summarise
what the Bible has to say about your topic.
Find illustrations in the passages, relate the subject to
particular people or events. You may also think of other
illustrations relating to nature, your past experiences, or
even clippings from books or poetry.
Read the Scripture passages again and write down things that
puzzle you. Are there things which you think are hard for
you or other Christians to understand? Choose the verse that
best addresses the problem and record it with the problem.
Review the other parts of your study and each of the verses.
Write a brief statement of the truth that you have found in
the passages that you have studied. Write down a simple plan
of action that will enable you to bring areas of your life
into conformity with the truth you have discovered. Spend
time praying about the problem and asking for God's help in
A Book or Passage Study
When studying a passage or book from the Bible the following steps
will help you. They will help you to understand about the passage, and
about what the passage says.
Who is the author of the book? To whom is the author
writing? What are the major personalities mentioned? How
well do they know and understand each other?
When was the book written? What is the historical setting?
What is the historical setting of the recipients? What was
happening in this part of the world at the time?
Why was the book written? If there is a problem to correct
what was it? What was the author trying to accomplish?
What is the major emphasis of the book? What are some of the
recurring ideas? What subjects does the book deal with?
Summarize the book or passage in an outline form.
First you will need to read the whole passage. Start out by just
reading the passage, you want to be able to see both the trees and the
forest so look at the broad flow first. It is more difficult to see
the broad sweep of the passage if you read it too deeply at first.
Try to get a feel of the tone of the passage and the mood of the
After you have read the passage a few times briefly describe the
contents on paper. You will find that you will learn and remember
better if you write things down.
Read the passage verse by verse. Give each verse the time it
needs to percolate in your mind. Think. Write down your observations
under four headings (1) Observations, (2) Questions and Answers, (3)
Cross References, and (4) Notes and Comments.
You have by now done a considerable amount of study and should
begin to draw things together. Frame the passage that you have learned
into a theme and conclusions. At this point you will want to rely most
heavily on the care and work you put into your study, but you may also
want to refer to Bible Commentaries and other helps.
As always the most important reason for Bible study is personal
application. Bible study without application leads to vanity. Dwight
L. Moody said "The Scriptures were not given to increase our knowledge
but to change our lives."
A Character Study
The Bible is alive with personality. It includes the lives of
many people. You may be surprised at how well you can identify with
the lives of the people chronicled in the Bible. Many times they
faced similar struggles to those that we face today.
Begin your character study by choosing a character to study.
Choose one who may have an attribute that you can identify with or
whom you would like to be like in some way. Make a list of the
passages that the character appears in.
Read the passage where the character appears and try to do a
biographical sketch. Pay attention to there growth in there
relationship to God. What were the major events in their life? Who
were some of their contemporaries? What was their major achievement,
what influence did they have on people or events?
Choose a summary verse and a key verse that you feel best
describes the character. Make a summary of the passage that you have
Find out what the leading lesson is of there life. Read through
the Scripture passage again as well as the notes from above.
Find an application for you. One way to do this is to identify
common problems or situations in your characters life. Then look for
what God told them, the same should hold for you.
Notes: For a more in depth look at how to study the Bible we recommend
The Joy of Discovery in Bible Study by Oletta Wald c1975 Published by
Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis MN
1 Thy Word by Amy Grant and Michael W Smith c 1983 Bug and Bear
Music/Meadowgreen Music. 54 Music Square East, Suite 305, Nashville TN
2 Rudyard Kipling 1865-1936 from The Elephant's Child
3 Questions are from Leading Bible Discussions pp26 by James F Nyquist
and Jack Kuhatschek c1985 pub by Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove IL
4 Verses unless otherwise noted are from The Holy Bible, New
International Version c 1978 by New York International Bible Society
pub by Zondervan Corperation Grand Rapids MI 49506
5 Leading Bible Discussions pp24-35
6 The Navigator Bible Studies Handbook c1974 published by Navpress,
Colorado Springs CO.
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