Thursday, May 21, 2020

Personal Bible Study Methods

The big idea: Even if you are new to the Bible you should not be afraid to read the Bible on your own. 

Why study the Bible for Yourself?

God's Word, the Bible, is like spiritual food to build us up spiritually. (Matthew 4:4). You eat every day, and you should eat what is good for you! The Bible is important for us to take and digest. It will make us stronger and build us up.

It is very helpful to read inspirational books written by strong Christians who teach us through their writings. But it is important to be in church and hear pastoral teaching regularly. It is great to join a Bible study or Sunday School class and learn with others. In addition to being a part of a body of Christians (the church), and reading good stuff about the Bible and about God, it is extremely important for each Christian to intake and digest God's Word for themselves.

Don't be afraid to read the Bible on your own

Don't be afraid to read the Bible on your own and ask yourself what it means for you today. You have the Holy Spirit who promised to guide us in the Word of God. But don't isolate and read a verse here and there and build your life on a few snippets of the Bible. We need the Holy Spirit to work in us through other Christians, and have them and the Bible to be in sync. Though our studies might be private, like a personal cup of coffee with Jesus, we are part of something bigger, the Church of believers in Jesus.

There are a number of ways one can study the Bible. Of course there are lots of devotional books that explain an aspect of a verse to you, like "Our Daily Bread," and Bible study guides you can follow with or without homework each day.

But the absolute joy of discovering the Bible speaks to YOU, in personal time reflecting with God will bring you closer to Him and give you great satisfaction. Some will find one method works for them and they stick with it their whole life. Some get bored with just one method and it may be helpful to mix it up.

How should you begin?

  • Have a Bible/Bible app, paper and pen.
  • Find a place where you can focus.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you.

Types of Personal Study

A. Read a small section of the Bible.

There are several ways you can approach this.
  • Read a chapter each week. Read it every day for the week in a different translation.
  • Read a paragraph. The next day read the next paragraph. Compare/contrast. Chart it.
  • Read a verse. Study one verse each day, reading carefully, slowly, out loud, write it.
  • Read a passage till something jumps out at you. Meditate on that thought.
  • Read the Bible through. Or the New Testament, the Gospels or the Psalms. You will get an overview of themes and principles.
Each of these methods, involves reading repetitively, and taking time to meditate on it. You may want to chart it or diagram something.

Ask yourself

  • What is the passage saying? Who? What? When? Where? How?
  • What is the passage saying to me? How can I apply it to my life?

Here is a good article about these various methods.

B. Focus on one idea in the Bible

Again, there are several ways you can approach it. This method is greatly helped by using a concordance or word search in your Bible App.

· A character study. Choose a character (i.e. Samuel). Check each time he is mentioned in the Bible. Chart his life. Ask what are lessons of what to do or not to do like him? Qualities?

· A word study. Choose a subject such as joy, or peace. Follow it through the Bible. Is it more in the Old Testament or New Testament? What do you observe in the verses? Patterns?

· A topical study. Choose a topic like prayer, or marriage and see how it plays out in the Bible. This is an expansion of the Word Study. Ask what we can learn and apply? Many books and Bible studies are written on topics. But they are harder to do as an in depth study through the Bible. Additionally it can be tempting to focus only on your topic of interest all the time and you may miss something else God wants to teach you.

C. Inductive Bible Study

Studying the Bible methodically, slowly, in detail, piecing together the whole. This method can be as simple or complex as you are comfortable. This method needs a notebook. You can find journal pages free online. Pinterest has a lot of them. Take a verse, paragraph or chapter and your journal/notebook.

SOAP Method
  • Scripture
  • Observe
  • Apply
  • Pray

ACTS Method

  • Ask God
  • Chapter reading
  • Think about the chapter
  • Scripture verse to write down that stands out to you

APPLE Method. Read the passage and ask yourself what you see.

  • Attributes of God
  • Promises of God
  • Principles for life
  • Lessons learned or sins to avoid
  • Example to follow

Inductive investigation
  • Observation
  • Investigation
  • Application
I like the worksheet from as it is very simple and easy to reproduce daily. You can also just write each category in your journal.

Organizations with resources to help you in Inductive Bible Study

Precept Bible Studies with Kay Arthur. I think no organization does a better job producing Inductive Bible study guides, tools, and methods. This organization has special training for their most in-depth study guides, for each book of the Bible, called "Precept upon Precept." I have been trained in it and love it. But it is a very time consuming way to study the Bible. You need to commit an hour a day to study. There are shorter study versions that are excellent too. Precept Bible Studies uses colored pencils to mark the Bible. Their detailed studies guide you to learn on your own, and take you methodically through the process. They provide worksheets for each chapter of the Bible for your to mark up and put in a binder. Or you can buy one of their Bibles specifically made for this.

· Intervarsity Christian Fellowship has a ministry to various groups. Their campus ministry was foundational in my life when I was a college student and that was where I learned about Inductive Bible Study for the first time. Their hallmark is a presentation of God's Word that is founded on careful study. They do not shirk from the tough questions.

· The Navigators also have tools for Inductive Bible Study. They have a wonderful College Campus ministry and ministry to Military organizations. My father came to a personal walk with Christ and growth in the Lord when he was in the Navy through this organization. Their hallmark is discipling people to walk with God in what they call "Life to Life Discipleship."

Diane Reading a Family Bible

A Foundation for your Faith

When I left college and went to seminary, I was shocked to discover that personal Bible study by the inductive method was not taught, nor did many seem to know how to do it. Of course seminary was designed to teach Bible background, Church History, how to use tools with the original languages of the Scriptures, and how to communicate the Bible clearly in ministry. While my school encouraged a wonderful deeper life with Jesus, and great tools for my life of teaching God's Word, my training in Inductive Bible Study has been foundational.

May this overview of Bible Study methods encourage you to choose a way to sit down with your Bible and notebook, pray and open the Word of God to your life.


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