Preparation and packing can make all the difference. Choose a Passage: Just as when traveling you need to start out with a destination in mind, when studying the Bible you must first decide what specific passage you will address. Be sure to choose a passage that you can cover well in your designated period of time. For instance, if you are doing a detailed study of a passage from one of Paul's letters, four to seven verses e. If you have a longer passage you want to study e.
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Trying to study too large a section all at once will lead to frustration. However, if you are studying a section of biblical narrative, your passage can be longer since narratives do not depend on detailed argumentation. As you attempt to do Bible study over the coming weeks, you will get a sense of how much ground you can cover in a week's time. Over time you will become more familiar with your tools and processes, allowing you to study more efficiently.
But remember, just as you would not want to hurry past important historical sites just to get to the end of a trip, the key in Bible study is not speed but rather an approach that takes you deeper into God's Word and transforms you in the process. Gather Your Tools: In addition to this study Bible, which includes a variety of features to take you deeper into the Word, it helps to have several types of translation on hand.
Some translations are more "formal," following the patterns of the original words as closely as possible, even if the results are not always readily understandable to modern readers. Others are more "functional," trying to communicate the author's meaning even if that means departing from the exact pattern of words in the passage. Still other translations attempt to strike a balance between these two approaches, which is the tactic taken in the CSB. A strong Bible dictionary has much to offer, including an outline and introduction to each book of the Bible, plus entries on people, places, culture, theological issues, and key events mentioned in the Bible.
It is also helpful to have dictionaries specifically covering the original languages of the Old and New Testaments. These show you the range of possible meanings a given word can have. There are many Bible study software programs available. Some may be had for free on the internet. While the internet can be an amazing resource for Bible study, not all web sites are created equal.
Therefore, do your best to assess the quality of the site. You might ask a minister or mature Christian to help you discern a site's trustworthiness. Also, while free internet sites can be helpful, they often use outdated tools that are public domain. These tools still have value but need to be used in conjunction with tools based on recent study by evangelical scholars.
The best Bible commentaries provide a treasure trove of information, including an introduction to the book, an outline of the book, theological reflection, deep word studies, thoughtful interpretive insights, and application. Ask a trusted Christian or minister to help you evaluate the usefulness, trustworthiness, and accessibility of the commentaries that are available.
Pray: Once you have chosen your passage and gathered your tools, begin your time of study with prayer. You might begin by praying something like this: Lord, thank you for your Word. I pray that you will give me the discipline to study this passage carefully. Please also give me the discernment to understand the details. Lord, please guide me by your Spirit and lead me into your truth.
I am committed to applying what I find here, and I pray that you will change me by your Word, bringing my life in line with your will and ways of thinking. Thank you for this time. Maps are vital to navigation—you must know where you are to understand how to get to where you want to go. In Bible study, knowledge of the historical and literary contexts provides orientation.
Like maps, they give us the layout of the biblical "neighborhood. The Broad Historical Context of the Book: In studying the historical context of a book, you want to understand the following facts:. You can find this kind of information in the book introductions in this study Bible.
You can also find it in Bible dictionaries, commentaries, and Bible handbooks. The Holman Illustrated Bible Handbook , for instance, gives general background information on the city of Philippi and the church there, including the following:. Philippi was an important city in the province of Macedonia. The Literary Genre: Another aspect of the context of a passage has to do with "genre," or the kind of literature with which we are dealing. The kind of literature of a given passage will determine how we approach the text and what kind of questions we might ask of it.
If I pick up a novel, I understand that its purpose is not primarily to communicate historical facts. If, however, I read a book detailing the history of America, the purpose is to communicate and interpret historical facts. Different parts of the Bible reflect different literary genres and, therefore, are intended to accomplish different purposes and must be interpreted by different rules.
Our goal with each is to understand what God intends to communicate through the human author, but to do so we must understand how the author intended his writing to communicate with his original audience. This brings us to vital questions we must ask of the text. For narrative literature, for instance, we want to ask, "What is the significance of this part of the story? How does it fit into the grand story of God in the Scriptures? Psalms and other poetic literature, on the other hand, often communicate emotions expressed in worship.
These might include celebration, thanksgiving, sadness, reflection, or anger. Therefore, an important interpretive key when studying a psalm is to ask, "What is the emotion expressed?
How to Study the Bible for Yourself
Finally, proverbs are meant to communicate general guidelines for living. Accept my words, and you will live many years. I am teaching you the way of wisdom; I am guiding you on straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hindered; when you run, you will not stumble. Some mistakenly take this passage as a promise that an obedient child will be guaranteed a long life free of impediments. There are many wonderful promises in Scripture that are intended to give comfort and hope to God's people, but neither the human author nor the Divine Author intended for proverbs to be promises.
This proverb is saying, in effect, that the best way for a child to live is by seeking out wisdom; this is the path of success in life, and, generally speaking, will lead to a long and effective life. The Immediate Context of the Passage: By the immediate literary context we mean how the passage under consideration fits into the overall development of the book. Words need a context to have a specific meaning. Think about the English word "hand.
It can be used for your physical hand, "give him a hand" meaning either "applause" or "help" , the hand of a clock, etc. Yet, you normally have no trouble following the meaning of the word in specific contexts. Someone might say, "I cut my hand with a knife," and you know they are not talking about the "hand" on a wall clock. In the same way, the words of the Bible often could be understood to mean different things, but the authors used their words to communicate in specific contexts.
So reading a Bible passage in its correct context is foundational for understanding what a given word means. One way to identify the context is to track the themes in a section of Scripture. When I was in seminary, I decided to read 1 John every day for thirty days. That's a good place for you to start, too. The first day—the beginning of the month—simply read all five chapters of 1 John.
It will take you only twenty to thirty minutes. Do the same thing the next dayand the next. About the seventh or eighth day you will say to yourself, "This is getting old. I think I understand 1 John by now. But if you push through and stick with your reading for the rest of the month, you'll have a tremendous comprehension of 1 John.
That is the method I use to prepare my messages. I read through the passage I'm studying over and over again until it fills my mind. I suggest that as you read, you jot down the major themes of each chapter on a three-by-five card. Every day as you read the book, look at the card and read through your list.
You will soon know by heart the main points of each chapter. When you finish reading I John, go on to a large book in the New Testament—the gospel of John is a good choice since you've already become familiar with the apostle John's writing style. Divide the twenty-one chapters into three sections, reading the first seven for thirty days, the second seven for thirty days, and the third seven for thirty days. At the end of those ninety days you will have mastered the content of John's gospel. And all the while keep noting the major themes on three-by-five cards and reading straight through the Old Testament.
After finishing the gospel of John, you might want to go back to reading a short book, say Philippians, and then go to Matthew, then to Colossians, then to Acts. By alternating your reading like that for thirty days at a time, you will complete the entire New Testament in about two and a half years. If you're going to read the New Testament anyway, you might as well read it so you can remember it.
You won't find yourself forgetting what you read a few days ago, and you won't be dependent on a concordance because you'll know where to find what you're looking for. Scripture will stick with you for life if you keep up this practice of refreshing your mind with the text. In using this repetition method of reading, I recommend you stay with the same version and the same Bible. That way you will visualize the precise wording and location of a passage. However, once in awhile, it's good to read your text from another version to get a fresh perspective.
By habit, I normally read the King James Version, but I will invariably read the passage I'm studying in the New American Standard Bible, which is especially faithful to the Greek and Hebrew texts, and the English Standard Version, which is very well worded and easy to read. By reading the Bible repetitiously, you will find that your total comprehension increases dramatically. That's because the Bible explains the Bible. God didn't write it to trip us up; He wants us to understand it.
But you'll never fully understand Revelation unless you have read through Daniel, Isaiah, and Ezekiel. It all begins to come together when you read the Word of God in its entirety. Once you read the Bible and know what it says, the next step is to find out what it means. Only when you've correctly interpreted a biblical passage can you apply it to your life and bring glory to God. Nehemiah 8 shows us the science of interpretation at work: " And all the people gathered as one man at the square Then Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women, and all who could listen with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month.
And he read from it Reading the Bible is where understanding begins. Verse 3 continues, "And all the people were attentive to the book of the law Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up.
Then Ezra blessed the Lord the great God. And all the people answered, 'Amen, Amen,' lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground" vv. Verse 8 is the key: "And they [the Levitical instructors] read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading. In 1 Timothy Paul says to "give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation [application] and teaching [interpretation]. Anything else leads to misinterpretation, and misinterpretation is the mother of all kinds of mania.
For, example, some people are teaching that since the patriarchs practiced polygamy, so must we. Others say that women should suffer in childbirth as a divine punishment and not use anesthesia. Such misinterpretations arise when someone doesn't understand what the Bible is really saying or the specific situation involved. In other words, don't make the Bible say what you want it to say.
That's like the preacher who proclaimed that women shouldn't wear their hair on top of their heads. Obviously that's not what the passage is about! Don't try to find verses to support a preconceived idea. I know if I try to make a sermon, I end up forcing the Bible to fit my sermon.
But if I try to comprehend a passage, a message will flow out of the understanding that follows. In 2 Corinthians , Paul says, "For we are not like many, peddling the word of God.
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You must not force the Bible to illustrate your preconceived notions. Be careful not to interpret the Bible at the cost of its true meaning. Avoid superficial Bible study. Unfortunately, some Bible studies consist of nothing more than person's saying, "I guess this verse means To have a successful Bible study, someone has to study the passage beforehand to find out what it really means. Only then can you discuss it intelligently and apply it. Interpretation requires work. Don't take the easy way out and believe what everyone tells you the Bible says.
Check the facts out yourself. Don't assume there are many interpretations of a biblical passage. There may be many applications, but there is only one true interpretation. God's Word is precise. It is not ambiguous. God has given us the ability to discover its meaning.
Don't spiritualize the text. The first sermon I ever preached was really bad. My text was, "The angel rolled the stone away" from Matthew Doubt, fear, and anger are all legitimate topics, but they have nothing to do with that verse! Picture a preacher saying this: "Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep. All over the world people are lost. And can't tell where to find them.
But they'll come home—ah, they'll come. Yes, but unfortunately not too hard to imagine. Many people tend to do that with the Old Testament. They turn it into a fairy tale with all kinds of hidden meanings—anything but what the text plainly states. Don't spiritualize the Bible.
It deserves more respect. Many of the Bible translations available today are excellent, but no translation can get across everything that the original language conveys. For example, in 1 Corinthians the apostle Paul says, "Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ. It is a lofty term. However the Greek word translated "minister" huperetes originally spoke of a third-level galley slave—hardly a lofty concept.
Paul wanted it to be said of him that he was nothing more than a third-level galley slave for Jesus Christ. You would never get that out of the English term. That's why you need to bridge the language gap. There are some excellent tools available. Definite standards and rules are obsolete and intolerable. The future is unknowable and unchangeable, so we should live it up now. But as Christians, we do have a reference point—the Bible. When we stake our lives on its teachings and principles, God gives us guidance on how to live.
When we love, trust, and obey Him and His Word, we will enjoy the abundant life He has promised every believer. What is there about the Bible that has given it such power to influence and enrich the lives of many millions of believers throughout the centuries around the world? It is sharper than the sharpest knife, cutting deep into our innermost thoughts and desires.
We will get to know the author, the living God. We will discuss how its principles work in the lives of believers and discover practical ways we can study the Bible effectively to apply what we have learned. The Bible has had a greater influence on this world than any other book. To read the Bible for these fundamentals is a necessity of American life. Men and women by the millions, famous and unknown, have changed history because God used the Bible to change them. Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, and many others depended on the Scripture to guide their lives, which in turn gave them power to influence the world in which they lived.
It fits man for life—it prepares him for death. Without some biblical teaching, no one could become a child of God. Which passages did God use to reveal Himself to you? Now consider how God has used His Word to influence your life since then. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight to life. Many years ago while I was a student at Fuller Theological Seminary, two gifted young evangelists spoke at our chapel program. Both believed and preached that the Bible was inspired in every word.
As a result, he lost his moral standard on which to base his life and ministry. He divorced his wife, left the ministry, and eventually became an outspoken antagonist of the Christian faith. When he could not understand something in the Bible, he trusted that what God said was true.
God honored his faith. That man is Billy Graham. God has used him to touch the lives of many millions of people around the world. It tells us how to enjoy an intimate relationship with our heavenly Father and how to receive wisdom, love, and grace from Him. If questions arise in your mind about the authority or accuracy of the Bible, do not hesitate to share them with other believers who can help you find answers. I urge you not to allow your confidence in the integrity of the Bible to be diluted to the point where irreparable damage is done to your life and faith.
The story is told of a young woman who heard about a popular novel. Intrigued, she began to read it but found it difficult to understand. But no matter how she tried to immerse herself in the book, it just did not hold her interest.
How To Study The Bible - Tim Challies
Then one day she met the author. Eventually, she fell in love with him. Now she could hardly wait to read his novel. This time, she found it to be the most captivating and exciting book she had ever read. Before I became a Christian, I had difficulty reading the Bible. In fact, I found it boring. I became excited about what He had to say to me. Do you find the Bible the most interesting book in your library? Or are you tempted to read anything but the Bible? All throughout school, while on the faculty of a major university, and as a businessman in Hollywood, I was an agnostic.
The Bible was an unknown book to me. Then through a series of wonderful circumstances, I began to learn about God and how He has revealed Himself to hundreds of millions through His only Son, Jesus Christ. I discovered that, according to the Scriptures, God the Son created the entire universe and holds everything together by the word of His command. Through the stories of how He led Old and New Testament believers, I saw proof of His love, wisdom, power, sovereignty, and holiness. More than fifty years later, I continue to grow in my love for Him as I am still discovering more about who God is.
Get to know what He thinks and how He acts. Knowing God intimately will change your life. When we read His Word and learn how much God loves and cares for us, we can trust Him with everything—our families, our possessions, and even with our own lives. The Bible has the perfect explanation for the beginnings of all creation—an intelligent, powerful God who created everything with order and purpose Genesis Only a Being with supernatural power and unlimited ability could have fashioned something as intricate as a DNA molecule and as colossal as the Milky Way Galaxy.
How to Study the Bible on Your Own
In fact, astronomers now believe that there are billion galaxies. The Bible assures us that our great God and Savior created it all. Have you ever wondered: Why is there so much human suffering?
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Why is there war and poverty? Many people blame God for these evils. But man, because he is self-centered and seeks his own way, creates wars and inhumanities. What better explanation have you heard for the mess our world is in? I believe that this statement is true because only God—who understands the depravity of the human heart—has the answers to our sinfulness.
That comes through our faith in Jesus Christ and His Spirit living in us. The Bible is our source for understanding this truth. One of the most convincing arguments for the authority and accuracy of Scripture is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies in the life of Jesus. Like a golden thread running from Genesis to Malachi, we find more than three hundred references to the Messiah. They are all fulfilled in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. The more we study the Bible, the better we will understand who Jesus is and what He has done for us. How thrilling to open its pages and find the love of God so clearly demonstrated through the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.
The Word of God is our fuel, our food for growth in the Christian faith. When we feed on its richness, we grow strong and healthy in our spiritual lives. Psalm 1 says:. They are like trees along a river bank bearing luscious fruit each season without fail. Their leaves shall never wither, and all they do shall prosper Psalm —3, TLB. Do not misunderstand me. There is nothing wrong with experiences, emotions, and dreams—if they are validated by Scripture. But beware of depending only on experiences to build your faith. The Word of God is our one sure foundation. But if he faithfully studies the Bible daily, he will avoid the emotional and spiritual problems that many believers experience and consider inevitable.
The Christian life is not without trials. We find the answers to the deep questions of life. As a result, we will live a life of incredible joy and victory! The greatest spiritual harvest of all time is taking place today. More people are hearing the gospel, receiving Christ as their Savior, and committing themselves to helping fulfill the Great Commission than at any other time in history.
How is this revolution taking place? Spending time daily with God in His Word gives us the power and excitement to spread His message of love and forgiveness. Studying the Bible helps us see how God loves the unlovable and seeks the lonely and hurting. Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your principles!
Then I will not be disgraced when I compare my life with your commands.
When I learn your righteous laws, I will thank you by living as I should! The Holy Spirit illumines my mind and enables me to apply His wisdom to my heart. Right now, ask the Lord to give you a deep desire to study and understand His Word. Ask Him to help you apply what you learn to your daily living.
Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you what you need to know John Make your prayer specific and practical. With them He shares the secrets of His covenant. To keep moving along the path of righteousness and walking with God in a fast-track world, we need to plan for a daily time with Him, reading His Word, memorizing Scripture, and studying the Bible in depth.
Build a plan for reading, memorizing, and studying the Bible into your schedule. Be flexible. Do not become discouraged if you fail to make your appointment with God one day. Good habits take work to develop.
Ask God to give you the motivation to stay on course. Let me give you a few guidelines on how to proceed in each area. The purpose of a quiet time is to enjoy the Lord and communicate with Him about every detail of your day. As we read a portion of Scripture and pray each day, we allow Him to speak to us in a personal way. Some believers like to read through a small portion of Scripture and meditate on it.
Others like to use daily devotional helps. These usually have a short Bible passage and a brief reading to go along with the passage. Your local Christian bookstore contains a wide variety of devotional books, including ones specifically written for men, women, youth, or couples.
For the last few minutes, just listen to God. Ask Him to speak to you through His Word. Think about what you have read and thank Him for what He has done for you. One of the most important things a Christian can do to grow in Christ, walk in the Spirit, and be a fruitful witness is to read the Bible through every year. I recommend reading it from cover to cover. For many years I have read the entire Bible during a month period. This has been one of the richest blessings of my life. John Stott, a great missionary statesman, recommends reading three chapters each day and studying one in depth.
With this plan, you will complete the Bible in a year. But take into account that some chapters are much longer than others, so the time you spend each day will vary. Plot out that time. How much time can you give each day? How many days a week? This is a highly practical proposition We are all busy and must arrange for it. In your local Christian bookstore, you will find Bible schedules to read through the Bible in one year. The advantage of using these plans is that they are marked by date. As you read, jot down any questions or meaningful passages so that you can return to them at a later time.
You have much more capacity to memorize than you realize. We should memorize Scripture if for no other reason than the Lord commanded us to learn His Word Proverbs —3. You will soon notice other changes in your life because the Holy Spirit will use the verses you learn to teach you new things and to help you resist temptation Psalm As a new believer,.
I memorized many verses.