One of the primary ways God speaks to us is through his written word, but we need tools for studying the bible to hear him clearly. Unlocking the mysteries of the Bible excites me! God is the beginning, middle, and end of all of life. If we want to truly know who we are, who we were created to be, and what we created to do (that’s your purpose), then we have to get to know God intimately. One of the ways we accomplish this is by reading his word. When you know the word of God, you learn the will of God for your life.
God revealed a part of my purpose to me through scripture and he speaks to us all the time through his word.
We are called to be interpreters of the Bible, which is very cryptic. Studying is the process we use to learn and interpret. In this episode I’m going to share some things that will help the scriptures come alive off of the pages to you. You’re going to see what you’re reading differently after this.
In this episode, I’ll break down:
- Why anyone should study the bible
- How to decide what to study
- Tools for studying the Bible that help you gather the information you want to study
- Three easy, but effective bible study methods
- Important questions to ask when you’re reading
- Guiding principles for studying
Why Study the Bible?
When I was younger I would hear preachers lowkey chastise and rebuke people for not reading the Bible. I didn’t really understand why though. The reason I would hear often would be, “you need to know this for yourself.” That never resonated with me. I would try to read it sometimes though but the Bible always seemed like a mystery to me when I would try to read it. Now I know why. My approach to it just wasn’t the best. I also had not been given any tools for studying for the Bible.
But I had a sincere desire to read and know the scriptures. I craved the ability to dissect a text and receive revelation straight from God about what I was reading. The truth is, I needed answers.
I assume that most people who listen to this episode will already know the importance of reading scripture and they just want to know how to study, so most of the episode will focus on teaching you how.
But, for the person reading to this who is wondering why they should read the Bible, I want to offer up these points.
1. The Bible reveals Jesus
In Paul’s letter to Timothy he encourages Timothy in his knowledge of scripture telling him that the scriptures make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. [2 Timothy 3:14-17]. The scriptures reveal Jesus and give us wisdom. The word is intended to change our character so that we become more and more like Jesus, so it reveals Jesus to us at just about every opportunity in some way or another.
2. Scripture equips us
Another reason we should read the Bible is because the scriptures help us grow spiritually so that we are equipped for whatever God calls us to do. In the second part of the scripture from 2 Timothy, Pauls tells Timothy that all scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that [we] may be complete, equipped for every good work. Pastor Rick Warren breaks down how each of these things leads to growth.
“Teaching shows us the path on which we are to walk; rebuking shows us where we got off the path; correcting tells us how to get back on the path; and training in righteousness teaches how to stay on that path.” This shows that the Bible is not just a comprehensive guidebook for our purpose but also for our lives.
3. God's word contains biblical promises and spiritual realities
As a Believer you are entitled to A LOT of things. If you do not read the Bible, then there is a great chance that you don’t know them, which means you aren’t able to take advantage of them. A promise is a declaration that something will happen in the future. A spiritual reality is in the past tense which means the action has already taken place.
The redemptive language in the New Testament is predominantly in the past tense, which means a lot of the things we ask God for he has already done. When we speak the word, the spirit of God partners with us to bring manifestation in our lives. This is why our adversary has a campaign to keep us from reading the Bible. He does not want us walking in the fullness of our inheritance through Christ.
4. The word a powerful weapon for spiritual warfare
It’s literally, the sword of the spirit. In the spirit, the sword of the spirit is the word of God. It’s the only offensive weapon we have. Satan uses ignorance and deception to get Christian’s to ask God to do for them what He has given them authority to do instead of acting on your authority. Find the promises in the word and use them against Satan.
Deciding What to Study
Before we can talk about fun and easy tools for studying the Bible we need to figure out what to study.
Deciding what to study can seem daunting and overwhelming but I promise it isn’t. If you already have a study method that is working for you, then stick with it. But, if you need some guidance in this area then this portion is for you.
When you are trying to decide what to study, here’s a filter I learned:
- Appetite. Appetite is based on your personal desires. What do you have a craving to explore in the word? This isn’t anything God has necessarily led you to. It’s simply based on what you’re feeling at the moment. There are endless topics to study in the Bible.
- Ailment. An ailment is a pain point or a struggle that you are having. If you are stressed, worried, experiencing poverty, in need of healing, or anything you can think of—you can study scriptures that speak to that specific ailment.
- Assignment. The final method you can use to decide what to study is by studying topics based on your assignment. This isn’t you selecting the topic. This is selecting a topic based on an assignment God gave you or an assignment God has for you.
Before You Study the Bible
When thinking through tools for studying the bible there are some additional points I think should be made to help guide your reading and studying. One of the best tips I’ve gotten for studying the Bible is to investigate it. It’s important to know and understand what the Bible is not as that will help inform your approach to reading and studying it.
- The Bible is not a history book.
I remember someone once questioned why the bible doesn’t talk about dinosaurs. I was like, “what, that’s so random.” Seriously, why would the bible talk about dinosaurs? Do dinosaurs reveal anything about Jesus? I don’t see any mention of kangaroos or pandas in the bible either. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
The reason why someone would make a comment like that is because they think the bible is a history book. It isn’t. It is not a book of random principles or disconnected stories thrown together. The whole Bible reveals Jesus and includes tools for successful living, so we have to approach it as such. If we see it as a history book, then we will likely miss the connection to Jesus and fail to apply any of it to our lives.
- The Bible was not written by man
A common argument for not reading the Bible is the belief that the Bible was written by man. That is partially true. But this is an argument that stems from ignorance, because who else was gonna write the Bible?
God made it very clear that He chose not to operate on the Earth independent of people. So if He’s going to leave a book… He’s going to use people to write it. But getting back to the point I was making, which is that the Bible was not written exclusively by man. It was written by inspiration of the Spirit of God aka the Holy Spirit. 2 Timothy 3:16.
- The Bible is not completely literal
The Bible is composed of 66 books. 5 books of the law. 12 books of history. 5 books of poetry or wisdom. 17 books of the prophets. On top of that Jesus would speak and teach in parables. Jesus said he spoke in parables, because the secrets of the kingdom of heaven had been given for certain people to know. It hadn’t been given to everyone [Matthew 13:10-11]. That means that there are some great truths in the Bible that are not easily seen.
It’s going to take time, effort, concentration, and persistence to study. It’s so worth it though. Once you start opening up and applying the things you learn, you are going to get results. Once you start really studying, you won’t want to stop. It opens up a whole new world. Now let’s get into some tools for studying the bible.
Tools for Studying the Bible
Before I get into Bible study methods there are some tools for studying the bible that I recommend incorporating into your study.
The Bible was originally written in multiple languages, with the primary languages being Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. One word can mean different things in each language.
Not only is all of that going on, but the meaning of English words have evolved over time. I’m not saying you need to trace the etymology of the word completely, but it would help if you knew what the original meaning of the word was as the author of the biblical text intended. If you’re reading the old testament, then you want to look up the Hebrew meaning of words. If you are reading the new testament, then look up the Greek definitions. There are free resources on the internet that provide the Greek word that the English words in scripture are translated from. Once you have the Greek word, the next step is to look up the meaning of that word.
Bible Hub is a free resource that allows you to find out what the Hebrew and Greek words are that were used in the text.
Context is giving consideration to the speaker and the audience. Some questions to ask while you are studying are 1) who is the author, 2) who is the author talking to, 3) what was the intended message to the original audience, and 4) How would the original readers have understood the text?
This is important because it sheds light on the meaning of the text you’re studying.
3. Historic background
What were the sociological, archeological, and psychological norms during that time? A lot of farming and things we no longer do are mentioned in the Bible so we need to know what this stuff means.
A good example of this is when Jesus says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am [a]gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30.
What in the world is a yoke? Even though I had no clue what Jesus was talking about when he said take yoke, the people he was speaking to at the time he said it, knew exactly what he was referring to.
So when we encounter a verse like this, we want to make sure we investigate the historical background so we have a clearer understanding of what the text is really saying.
4. The Rule of Logic
The rule of logic says that if the Bible says something in one place then it will not contradict itself somewhere else. If there are segments that seem to contradict themselves then we need to go deeper to find the meaning.
Which is why it’s important to pray before reading and ask the holy spirit to guide you as you read and give you supernatural, spiritual interpretation of what you’re reading.
Now that we’ve dived into some tools for studying the bible, let’s explore some methods for studying the bible. When reading, also ask yourself what is the premise of the text? What is the problem that merited the statement the speaker is speaking? You want to ask that question because the statement is made because something exists or is happening.
These tools for studying the bible are recommendations but they will add depth to your study experience and your revelation. You don’t have to incorporate all of them at once.
Methods for Studying the Bible
Now that we have covered tools for studying the bible, let’s explore some methods for studying. There are a lot of ways to study the Bible so in an effort to not overwhelm you, in this episode I’m only going to mention the three most popular and easy to implement. No matter the study method you decide to use, you will need at least two things: a study bible and a notebook. Writing is absolutely necessary when studying. You will need to go back and read your notes.
1. Study a Verse
Studying a verse is one of the easiest ways to dip your toe into studying the Bible. A very popular way to organize your study of a verse is the SOAP method. It’s one of those tools for studying the bible that is all over social media, especially TikTok, so you may have heard of it before. My approach to it is a bit more in depth than what I have found on social medial, so I included a breakdown below.
SOAP is an acronym for scripture, observations, application, and prayer. Let’s dissect each part starting with the S, which is for scripture.
S - Scripture
When reading a passage of scripture, select the verse that stood out to you. Write the scripture as it’s written in your bible/version of choice. Then, write a paraphrased version in your own words underneath. The goal is for your paraphrased version to be a condensed version of the scripture. You don’t want to expand it.
O - Observation
Then we move on to the O in SOAP which is observations. This is where you want to get deep and incorporate some of those guiding principles I mentioned earlier.
- What is the context? Who is the speaker? Who is the speaker talking to? How would the original readers have understood the text?
- Write down any questions you have about words, phrases, or people in the verse.
- What insights did you discover or gain from the verse?
A - Application
This is one of the hardest parts of studying the Bible. Application of the scripture to your personal life is where Satan will fight you the hardest. Here’s why: you having knowledge of the scriptures is no threat to him. He knows the scriptures. But once you decide to implement and do the word, you become dangerous!
As you are seeking to discover how to apply the verse or verses to your life, pray and ask God to show you how to apply it to your life. Use your imagination and get creative here because you’re applying what you read and gleaned from the text to your own life. Some questions to ask are:
- What is the premise?
- What is the problem that merited the statement the speaker is making The statement is made because something exists or is happening.
P - Prayer
The last letter of SOAP is P, which means prayer. Write out a prayer about the things revealed to you and during this time and your application of it. Make sure to quote scripture as support for your application. Confess your prayer out loud after you write it.
2. Biographical Study
This is what some people refer to as a character study. I hate calling the people in the Bible characters because that makes it seem like the Bible is merely a novel with characters, setting, and a plot. These were real people though, so you will hear me refer to them as a person or bible person.
People matter to God. We are so important to him that he made us in his image and likeness. We learn so much about God and his nature from how he interacted with, led, disciplined, and cared for the people in the Bible. Studying the people of the bible allows us to learn more about God and we get to see how to handle situations and what not to do. This is one of the easiest bible study methods to get personal revelation and application from for your life. You can quickly find something that applies to you when you study a person in the Bible.
Here’s how to study a person:
1. Choose a person
I recommend starting with someone in the Old Testament. Scriptures tell us that God gave us the Old Testament to teach us and to be examples for us. On top of that, studying the people in the Old Testament is one of the best ways to learn the Old Testament. The Old Testament has the tea lol.
I also recommend that you choose someone whose life will give you a lot of valuable lessons and insights but who has a small number of references. You want to keep your first study of a person from the Bible simple so that you get the hang of it. Here are some examples: Rachel, Gideon, Jonah, Martha, John the Baptist.
Also, be careful about names. There are a lot of people who have the same name. There are 15 Jonathans, 7 Marys, and 30 different people in the Bible with the name Zechariah.
2. Make a list of references
Find every scriptural reference you can about that person in scripture. Use a topical bible to find the scriptures. Open Bible has a solid online topical bible that you can use for free. I’ll link to it in the show notes.
3. Summarize their story
Pay close attention to their journey, especially how God slowly molded them into someone better or how Satan brought them down. If you are studying a major person, then include a timeline of their life in your summary. Here are some questions to ask as you are summarizing:
- How did the person get along with others?
- What does God say about the person?
- Why do you think God allowed this person to be mentioned in the Bible?
- Did the person experience a divine call? What was their purpose? How did they respond
- What part did they play in the history of God’s plan?
4. What are they known for?
You want to immerse yourself into their story. Live with them. Walk in their shoes. Try to get inside their mind and figure out how they would think and respond in certain situations. This can only happen if you spend a lot of time with them. Ask God to show you things about them that don’t immediately jump off the page at you.
5. Evaluate the qualities of their character
- What are their strengths?
- What are their weaknesses?
- Did they experience any victories? If so, what were they?
- What were their challenges?
6. What are some Biblical truths illustrated in their story and journey?
Is their journey an illustration of “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me [Philippians 4:13].” Is it an illustration of “Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart? [Psalm 37:4].”
7. How does that person point us to Christ?
The whole Bible reveals Christ so He’s likely in there somewhere.
8. Lessons you can learn from the person.
Jot down a few sentences about lessons you learned.
9. Personal application
Write down how any of the insights you learned apply to you. This is personal. Some questions you can ask yourself are:
- Did I see any similarities between this person’s life and my own life?
- Do we have similar strengths or weaknesses?
- What impressed me most about this person?
- Would I have handled things how they handled them?
3. Study a Topic
Sometimes you want to learn more about a specific topic in the bible. When this is what you want, then I recommend doing what’s called a topical Bible study. A topical Bible study requires some thorough research before you ever get to the studying phase. That’s because you are collecting all of the information to actually study so that you will be able to organize this information in a way that facilitates you learning it.
1. Choose a topic
There are alot of topics to study from the Bible. Some require more time and depth than others. Here are a few topics:
After you have chosen a topic to study, you need to collect Bible verses that mention the topic directly or the concept of the topic.
Let’s use faith as our example of a topic we want to study. For faith, we want to find every scripture that uses the word faith and every scripture that explores the concept of faith even if the word isn’t used.
2. Make a list of references
A great tool to use is a topical bible. There are free versions online. I linked a version I use in the show notes.
Once you have your topical Bible of choice, search for faith and it will pull scriptures that use the word or the concept of faith. The list may not have every scripture but they try to pull as many as they can find.
Once you receive the search results from topical bible, create a document and list every single scripture you find to be relevant to the topic you are studying.
Find out if there are also any cross-reference scriptures. You’ll typically find these in the margins of your Bible whenever the scripture of interest is located. If you don’t have a bible that identifies cross references, then you can go on to the next step.
3. Create a table
Create a table with the main points from each of the scriptures.
In column one will be the scripture reference with just the book, chapter, and verse. The second column would be the cross-reference scripture if there is one. The third and final column would be the main points of the text from the original reference scripture in column one and the cross-reference scripture(s) in column two.
4. Create a condensed outline
The final step is to create a condensed outline of relevant subtopics and the scriptures you found that support them.
During the example research of faith, you’ll find that there are different types of faith. There’s general faith, saving faith, special faith, etc. These would be your subheadings for your outline. You would include any points about each type of faith, as well as any examples of faith. Use other subheadings for major themes you find in the main points of your reference scriptures like 1) examples of faith, 2) hindrances to faith, 3) how to build faith, etc.
Ask These When Studying the Bible...
No matter your method of studying the bible, there are some questions worth asking about Jesus:
- What does the text reveal about Jesus?
- What difference does the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus make in how I understand this passage, especially in the Old Testament.
It’s great practice to answer these questions before asking how the passage can be applied to your life.
More Tools for Studying the Bible
- Be curious. When studying the bible, approach your reading with a high level of curiosity because this will drive you to ask the right kind of questions.
- Pray before reading. The Bible is full of poetry, parables, symbolism, allegory. It cannot just be read like a piece of literature. You need the Holy Spirit to interpret it. The bible was written by inspiration of the holy spirit. Pray and ask him to reveal to you what God is communicating to you through the text. This is so important. Believers receive revelation through the word because we have the spirit of the author in us to help us. That’s why people who are not Christians struggle to believe the bible.
- Write your observations and discoveries. This is a bible study requirement. You should have extensive notes when you’re studying the Bible.
Believers are called to be interpreters of the Bible. I believe strongly that every believer should be equipped to explain scriptures.
Here’s a confession I say:
On top of that, scripture is one of the primary ways God communicates to you. For those who are seeking their purpose, the Bible is a great place to look.
I want to encourage you to make it an experience. Get a cute notebook and pull out your favorite pens or markers. Go to your favorite area of your house or to a super cute coffee shop, or maybe sit on your front porch or on the grass with a blanket at a local park.
If you enjoyed this episode about tools for studying the bible, then you may also enjoy the episode of the show about how to clearly hear God’s voice about your purpose or this episode detailing what to expect when operating in your purpose.
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