2010-07-07 - How Do I Study the Bible?
Originally Published 2005-05-16
1 Peter 4:11, Whoever speaks, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, as by the strength which God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Question: I'm in the process of reading the Bible for the 2nd time. I've never really studied the Bible on my own, just in Bible study classes. I may start where you suggested in this devotional. What process should I take, when studying a book of the Bible?
This is a great practical question. My first response is to say that you move to the head of the class of Christians, by going through the Bible for the second time. Many Christians go through their entire lives and never read it once, so whatever you are doing, you are on a great start. I would also say that reading the Bible is studying it, so you are already studying the Bible on your own.
First, as I said in the devo that you reference, John 3 is a great place to start, for anyone. However, it really does not make that much of a difference where we start. It is God's Word, and it is the Holy Spirit who takes the Word and helps us apply it to our lives. The Spirit can take the oddest verse, help us to understand it to our particular place and time, and it becomes exactly what we need at that moment. The importance, for us, is to be in the Word of God, and the Word of God is like something barely explainable, but as best as I can put it, it changes us.
You asked what process should you take. Well, there are so many methods for serious Bible study. One would be to read it with a commentary. I really think that Matthew Henry's is the most practical one for both being in-depth, and consistently right-on. Another method is to do some Scripture memory work. I have had so many systems in my devotional life over the years; it seems like it depends on the year, but for many years I had the process of reading six chapters a day (It only takes about 40 minutes, and my system was six chapters in six different books of the Bible). And then as I read those six chapters, I would be seeking one verse to focus on for the day. I would write it down on a 3x5 card, take it with me for the day, and try to memorize it. It developed into a really neat Scripture memory system that I still use today. It was my system, but I share it with you because it worked, and it is a process of Bible study.
Lastly, I really want to encourage you. Whether you read with a commentary, or look for that one verse to focus on for the day, or just read, it is great that you are in God's Holy Word. I really believe it, so I say it with conviction, that God's Word changes lives. There is an old saying that prayer will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from prayer. But it is just as true with God's Word. The Word of God will keep us from sin, or sin will keep us from God's Word.
Thank you for your gracious, honest and insightful note. I am glad you took the time to write, because now many have a starting answer to a question many might not known how to ask, or be afraid to ask. How to start, and you have already started, is never a dumb question.
Soli Deo Gloria,