As a series for the Bible study group on Exodus I’m teaching this month, I am writing these posts for students to delve deeper in understanding and appreciation of the greatest book ever written.
God’s Word IS the Word Of God That Saves Mankind
God’s Word doesn’t just contain the Word of God. It IS the Word of God and the Word of God is Jesus. (John 1:14) The Word of God and the Good News gospel have power to bring salvation to everyone who believes. (Romans 1:16) It contains all the information we need for life as Christians.
Scripture Comes Directly From God Almighty
Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training men and women for Christian service. (2 Tim. 3:16) It’s powerful enough to divide soul and spirit and judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
The Bible Is A Biography
It’s not a set of stories, it is a biography of what God wants us to know about his people, his character, and especially his Son. (John 21:24) These things really happened.
There is a method I have developed over many years of Bible study and research that has been a simple and straightforward way of acquainting myself with Scripture. You don’t need fancy Bible college or seminary degrees and it doesn’t take a Rhodes scholar to learn how to do read for understanding. You just need a few things to start.
Bible Study Tools
What do you need to study Scripture? Really, it’s pretty basic. You will need:
When I write for Christian Standard Magazine, we use the NIV, but I use the NIV84 and the NASB translations a lot.
You can make this as fancy or basic as you like. My notebooks are usually the $.99 skinny notebooks you buy at Walmart at the beginning of the school year. I also have beautiful journals, but for research and study, I tend to be a scribbler or need big space to draw out the concepts I’m learning.
Devote this notebook to your Bible study and sermon note-taking in church. Our preachers, pastors or priests should be preaching and teaching the Word of God every Sunday and we want to capture what they have to tell us, too. God’s Word will never contradict itself.
The Holy Spirit, Prayer, and a Humble, Willing Heart
Seriously, the most important thing outside of God’s Word that you must have in order to have a greater understanding is the Holy Spirit. Only the Spirit can discern spiritual things. We ask the Holy Spirit to guide us into this greater understanding with the prayer that comes from a humble, willing heart.
“The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)
1. Read it multiple times.
A long time ago, the first pastor I ever worked for in ministry challenged me to read the same passage of Scripture every day for an entire week. Reading the same passage gives us familiarity with the text. Familiarity gives us room to breathe, especially when the Bible is new for us.
First, identify the WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN and HOW of a passage. Write it down in your notebook or draw out the story or ideas you read. Reading the passage in a different translation, like The Message or NLT or an expanded version, brings huge benefits to Bible reading, particularly as you go line by line through it.
When I do Bible research for pastors or when I write the Bible study questions for Christian Standard Magazine, I read through the given texts multiple times in different translations to ensure I’m comfortable with what I’m reading and have a good grasp and understanding of the text.
2. Record in your notebook what God is teaching you.
What do you learn about God? Note Scriptures that jump out or impress you and write them down. If it seems significant or important, write it down.
Is the Scripture you’re seeing and reading brand new to you or are the ideas something you’ve never realized before reading it? Ask yourself if what is being revealed to you are timeless truths that are for all people at all times in all cultures and situations or if it something specifically for you at this time. Record in your notebook what God is teaching.
3. Engage and interact with the text.
A vital part of Bible exegesis is questioning the text. Ask questions of the text in your notebook, noting chapter and verse.
When you see he/she/they, ask yourself, “Who is this?” Go back to figure it out so that you can get the story straight. Sometimes I draw arrows in my Bible or make stick figures in my notebook to explain a paragraph or story.
Words like “this” or “that” (as in, “A man who does this is blessed”) often require going back to find see what it is. I ask, “What is it that a man can do to make him blessed?” When you see “If” starting a sentence, search for the “then” part that’s sure to come later. This is a conditional statement that yields huge fruit when we learn it.
Since Scripture uses so many word pictures and Jesus teaches in parables often, drawing things out, as mentioned above, can be key to understanding and remembering the details.
4. Go back for more each day.
Keep going back to the Scriptures each day to search for answers to your unanswered questions. Time spent in God’s Word will never return void; it’s always worth it.
Next time, I’ll explain more about doing word searches and online commentaries. To read more posts about the Bible like this post, check out last week’s post The CGW’s Guide To Studying The Bible (Part One): The Bible and Its Divisions, Who is Melchizedek?, Interview Questions With A Dead Author: James, Colossians 3: The Five Virtues, Colossians: The Five Vices x2, and The Stone Pavement.