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How to Study the Bible

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12
How to Study the Bible Book Cover

So now that you have the big picture, how do you bring the Bible’s epic story into focus for your day-to-day life with Jesus? How do you move past names you can’t pronounce and places you’ve never been to engage with every word in the Bible in a way that equips you with wisdom and strengthens your faith?

The more you relate to the Bible as one large story of salvation rather than isolated passages of wisdom, the more powerful God’s Word will become in your life. So, rather than jumping around choosing passages at random, consider making a plan. You could set out to read through the Bible in a year or two—maybe using a chronological plan. Work your way through the Gospels or read Acts, adding Paul’s letters where they fit in the timeline. Whether you use an app, or work from a paper copy, set an intention.

Throughout this study, we’re going to go into more detail about each book and section of the Bible, and we want to give you some guidance when it comes to studying Scripture too. On days four and five of every week, you will have the chance to put the study process into practice. There are lots of different ways to study the Bible, but we want to give you one method that can be extremely helpful: inductive study. Here are some steps to take:

Start with Prayer

Whether you have ten minutes or an hour to sit with God’s Word, always start with prayer. It can be something as simple as, “Lord, here I am. Show me something about you today; show me something about myself today. Give me eyes to see where I am falling short. Give me a heart to receive your truth. Transform me and help me to engage the world around me.”

Observe: What Does it Say?

Because the Bible was written by particular people at a particular time, its message becomes much more powerful and relevant when we understand the framework. To thoroughly observe the text, we will focus on several different aspects of it. First, we ask:

WHAT
What is discussed throughout the chapter?
What is happening in the text?
What type of instructions does the author note?

WHEN
When does or when will the event take place? Past, present, or future?

WHERE
Where did the event take place?
Where does this passage fall in the story of the book you’re reading? The whole story of the Bible?

Interpret: What Does it Mean?

While observation helps us look at what the text is saying, interpretation helps us understand the meaning of the text. Approach the Bible with humility. The Holy Spirit is the one who helps us interpret Scripture, so pray for a teachable heart, and open eyes to see what’s true. As we seek to accurately interpret the Scriptures, we should reflect on several key components: context, themes, contradictions, and teaching.

Ask yourself:

  • Is your interpretation of the text consistent with the main point or intent of the book?
  • Does your interpretation math other Scriptures that discuss a similar topic?
  • Are you taking into account the cultural and historical context of this passage?

Apply: What Does it Say?

Like everything we learn, the power is in the practice. As we read in James 1:22, we want to be doers of the Word and not just hearers. By “doing” the Word of God, we become more like Jesus, which is our ultimate goal as his followers. The application of Scripture opens the door for God to work in our lives. As we attempt to apply the Scriptures to our lives, let us remember to seek out the teaching of each passage, to examine our hearts and lives for anything contradictory to God’s Word, and to ask the Lord what he is trying to teach us through each passage.

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How to Read Your Bible

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Understanding the Bible

Daily Question

What is the difference between studying the Bible for knowledge and reading God’s Word as a spiritual discipline?

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Comments (17)

Great question and one that I have never been asked to consider until I began by praying more about a year ago. At that time I started to read the bible more but not regularly until about 6 months ago. I now spend time each morning before getting up (an hour sometimes, give or take). I am using The Bible App and that is where I first heard Jennie in one of the daily videos and I loved how genuine and clear interpretations were. I did some searching and read more and came across this study. Reading God’s word for knowledge is like a lesson in history so that we can understand and learn about the facts. Reading God’s word as a spiritual discipline fills you up and is like food for your soul. As you progress and trust you will grow you start to understand how easy life can be with God and the Bible as our roadmap. It’s truly inspiring!

When I read the Bible for knowledge I often use other resources to help me understand. When reading for spiritual discipline I was less likely to use other resources as it was more important to get it done than to understand it.

When reading God’s word as a spiritual discipline – I am asking God to teach me, open my eyes to understand and apply His word to my life, live it out so He can use me.
I think studying the Bible for knowledge is important so we can share God’s story from creation, His love for us. Also if someone ask us questions about the Bible, different stories in the book we may be able to answer question or know where to go in Bible to find answer.

Reading the bible for knowledge doesn’t necessary mean you have spiritual discipline. Have you accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior in your heart? Does the Holy Spirit reside in you? The Word transforms you as you grow in spiritual discipline.

I might have misunderstood the meaning of “study for knowledge” and “spiritual discipline!” I thought a spiritual discipline meant being in the habit – like exercise- so I am answering the question this way:
Both are required for me! I study for knowledge because in the spirit (spiritual discipline) I am brought to a deeper level with God discovering what is observable, developing an understanding of the text in context of all of scripture and historical/cultural context and experiencing how God can use this obedience of studying to work in my life so I can be used by Him for the Kingdom of God and for His glory?

I study the Bible for spiritual Discipline because I want to have an intimate relationship with Christ, I want to know him and understand him not not just know about him. Reading the Bible from knowledge would be like reading the front cover and the back cover a book and claiming to have read the whole book……….there is no true understanding of what’s really there.

Studying God’s word as a spiritual discipline means we are taking it in to change our lives and our hearts and making it applicable whereas reading it just for knowledge wouldn’t affect our lives and wouldn’t make it applicable.

I feel like reading for knowledge is just to remember words, phrases etc. When you’re reading for knowledge, there’s no intimacy with God. What can I find to serve me? Reading as a spiritual discipline, there is a more deep engagement. How can I serve you and others more? I am looking for a sense of peace with God.

under ask yourself: it says Does your interpretation math…

does it mean "ADD up" or is it supposed to say match?! 😉

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