As followers of Jesus, studying the Bible is one of the most important things we can do. It’s where we get to learn about God and learn from God. We can see His acts and hear His teaching. We get to encounter Jesus in His ministry and see the impact He makes on His followers and what He expects of them. We learn of God’s plan, will, and promises for His people. But how do we do it?
There are a lot of ways to approach Bible study, but I want to share with you a simple method I learned years ago. It’s a helpful method for both personal study of the text and leading a group discussion. It’s built around asking three simple questions that help you observe, interpret, and respond to what you learn from the Scriptures.
But first, let me mention that it is often most helpful to read through a book or letter of the Bible from beginning to end. This will help you better understand the message God intended the author to communicate. It can also be helpful to study at least a paragraph at a time. That way, you’re more likely to understand what individual verses mean when you know what’s around them.
Question #1: “What does this passage teach/reveal about God?”
Keep in mind that this refers to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Does the passage speak directly about one of God’s attributes? His love, justice, goodness, holiness, etc.? Or does it indirectly demonstrate His faithfulness, grace, mercy, power, etc., by some activity that He does or orchestrates?
Question #2: “What does this passage teach/reveal about humanity?”
This could be either positive or negative. Does the passage demonstrate the pain or harm people cause through sinful actions? Does it reveal something negative about the human heart? Or does the passage show something good about people? Perhaps it shows how they might find wholeness or purpose or comfort through their relationship with God.
Question #3: “What commands or examples should I follow in this passage?”
The focus here is on how you respond to what you’ve read. There’s not always going to be ready-made application points from every single passage. The Bible isn’t a vending machine. Sometimes it’s simply important to know what’s in the Bible because it will likely help you understand and apply other parts later. But, asking question #3 will help you identify anything that you should take away and incorporate into your own life. Was there a good example to follow from Jesus or one of His disciples? Was there an example you shouldn’t follow? Were there any specific commands in the passage you need to obey?
Prayer is vital for studying the Bible
These three questions will help you engage the Scriptures with your heart and mind. They will prevent you from simply reading through a passage without retaining anything. But I would also like to add the importance of prayer to this process. Before you begin to read, ask God to help you understand His word. Ask Him to open your eyes and your heart to see His truth. When you finish reading and asking the questions, pray again over what you’ve read. Thank God for what He has allowed you to know about Him and ask Him to help you apply what you’ve learned to your life.
I pray this simple method will be useful to you. Why not try it for the next week to see how beneficial it can be? May the Lord bless you as you read His Word!
“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).