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Last week we did a brief series on five basic disciplines in our Christian lives. We began by talking about reading our Bible daily. It’s one of the first things we start to do as new followers of Jesus.
As we grow, however, we’re going to want to dig a little deeper. The best way to get to know more about God is not just to read, but also to begin studying His Word. Maybe sometimes we think we need to be real scholars with a seminary degree to study our Bibles. And if that’s you, great! But if not, all of us can still learn great truths for ourselves as we study God’s Word.
Before we get into the ways we can study Scripture, let’s talk about a few basic tools you’ll want to have on hand. Obviously, you’ll need a Bible. For my personal Bible study, I use a Bible that my parents gave me when I was in high school! I love seeing all the notes I’ve written in it over the years. And I’m so familiar with its layout that I can picture exactly where many familiar passages are on its pages!
Secondly, you’ll want a pen and something to write on. It could be a nice journal or just a basic notebook, which is what I use.
And then you’ll want a way to do some research. You could certainly have physical books like a concordance and a Bible dictionary on hand. I actually like having all of that available digitally. I use my laptop to do things like look up the meanings of words or search for verses on a particular topic. My cell phone works just as well but I’m more likely to get distracted and look at other things on my phone than I am on my laptop.
Finally, I want to remind us that what we need more than any other tool is the help of the Holy Spirit. He’s the one who can take the words on the page and make them come alive for us. You’ve probably had the experience where you’re reading a very familiar passage and all of a sudden you grasp a truth that you’ve never noticed before. In our lifetime we can never get to the bottom of all that the Bible has to teach us.
So whichever way you choose to study the Bible, it’s always good to start by praying and asking for the Holy Spirit to reveal truth to you.
Now let’s look at eleven different ways we can study the Bible.
1. Study a specific Bible character.
You could choose a well-known character who has many verses or even several chapters written about him – like Moses or Joseph or Paul. Or dig into someone who’s a lesser-known character like Abigail or Mordecai.
2. Study a topic in the Bible.
Fear, prayer, temptation, wisdom – the list of topics you can study is quite long! Use a concordance or a topical Bible to find all the verses that deal with your chosen topic.
3. Study one of the epistles.
You’ll find these letters that the apostles wrote, most of them to different churches, in the New Testament.
See if you can discover the theme of a particular epistle. If people’s names are mentioned, try to find out more about them. Search other epistles or the book of Acts to see if their names appear there.
4. Study the Psalms.
You could spend a good long time in Psalm 119! It’s a great study about God’s Word. Look for new lessons in popular Psalms like 23 and 100.
Or you could do a study of Psalms that focus on praising and worshipping God. There are lots of them! Look for similarities and differences.
5. Study Who God is in a story.
Choose any story – the Israelites at the Red Sea, David and Goliath, Esther, Daniel in the lions’ den, Paul and Silas in jail. Note how God interacts with the people in the story. What action does He take, if any? What characteristics of God stand out the most in that story?
6. Use a published Bible study.
I tend to rotate between doing my own study and using a published one. Some of my favorites have been Priscilla Shirer’s The Armor of God, Jen Wilkin’s God of Creation, and Betty Henderson’s A Woman of Prayer.
7. Read through the gospels.
I got this idea from Annie F. Downs. She read through all four gospels every month for a year as a way to get to know Jesus better. I’ve read the four gospels through in a month, though not for twelve months in a row!
8. Do a word study.
This is similar to studying a topic, which we mentioned above. But instead of a topic, choose a particular word and find all the times it’s used in Scripture.
If you want to go deeper, maybe choose a Hebrew word in the Old Testament or a Greek word in the New Testament to research. We’ve probably all heard the different words for love, like agape. Find all the mentions of agape in the Bible and see what you can learn from it.
9. Study the names of God.
Jehovah, Adonai, Alpha and Omega – these are just a few of the names of God used in the Bible. Read them in context in various passages and realize all that God is to you.
10. Study the promises of God.
This one is exciting to me! Find promises God made in the Bible. Start with the one He made to Noah that the whole earth would never be destroyed by a flood again. Then find more of His promises, to Abraham, to the Israelites, to believers in the New Testament.
11. Study the commands of Jesus.
This idea came to me when I was reading John 14. In verse 15, it says, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” I decided that I wanted to know exactly what those commandments are. I went through the gospels and found commands that Jesus gave to His followers.
These are just 11 ideas for ways we can study the Bible. There are certainly many others! I hope you’ll let me know if you have another one that we could add to the list.
May we take the wonderful gift God has given us in His Word and use it to learn more about Him.
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I like to take a book of the Bible and study it from beginning to end, but your ways are great ways to study the Bible, too!
I’ve studied some books of the Bible that way, too. I’ve been amazed at how much encouragement I find in Isaiah. (I guess I just thought of it as more of a prophetic book directed to Israel, but there are some wonderful truths in it that blessed me.) Philippians is probably the epistle I enjoy studying the most.
Do you have particular books you’ve especially enjoyed studying?
Honestly, I’ve enjoyed all of the books that I’ve studied, but I think I enjoy the historical books in the Old Testament the most.
These are fantastic! I have to say, I’m so thankful for technology: I love that with a simple click on my phone, I can read scores of translations. I’m fascinated with the nuances of different versions, and I feel like I get such a deeper, more complete understanding of the scripture when reading the same verse in all those different ways.
I’ll second that appreciation for technology! Similar to what you’re talking about, I enjoy using Bible Hub to read different commentaries on a specific verse. They can give me a clearer understanding of the context as well as the meaning of the verse.