Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Spying on Christmas


The Big Idea: How to inductively examine the Christmas passages. 

Investigate Christmas passages.

I call my blog and website "Scripture Spy" because I love to investigate deeply into the Bible. I want to discover what really matters and explore how it applies to my life. Better yet, I want others, like you, to learn how to dig into it yourself.

This may sound a little like a cooking blog with how-to instructions, pictures and a recipe. Only it is a recipe for Inductive Bible Study, not food.

This Advent I want to guide you to dig into a Christmas passage. Here is a recipe on how to study the first two chapters of Matthew and of Luke so you can dig into God's Word. I hope you can discover insights from God's Word for yourself today!

There are a few inductive steps I take with any passage I want to work on. Let's call it the recipe. Others may have a different recipe, but this is mine. Gather your ingredients.


1. Colored Pencils and markers/highlighters

2. Find a digital version of the Bible like You Version or Bible Gateway.

3. Cut and paste the passage from the Bible program on the computer. Paste it into a word processer document like MS Word. Make the print a little bigger. Print the page. I have a blog with more specific instructions for making your own worksheet.

4. Paper for extra notes


1. Pray.

2. Highlight all words referring to God in yellow

3. Differentiate to which member of the Trinity is it referred

4. Underline all locations in green

5. Circle all time references in brown

6. Circle  key players (or the author in some cases), in one color and lesser players in another color.

7. Look for words that reoccur, as well as relationships such as contrast, synonym, etc.

8. Underline or star lines that touch you spiritually.

9. Ask yourself the 5 interrogative Ws and H.

            Who, What, When, Where, Why and How

10. List theme and learning points on spare paper.

11. Apply to your own life, today


1. Pray.  Always start devotional time with prayer for God's blessing. Invite the Holy Spirit to lead you.

2. Highlight all words referring to God in yellow. This includes pronouns referring to God such as in Matthew 1: 21, "He will save his people from their sins." You would highlight "he" and "his."

3. Differentiate to which member of the Trinity is it referred. I use the Precepts International symbols on the Trinity. This is what they look like. Each member of the Trinity is represented in Matthew 1.

4. Underline all locations in green. Precept has geographical places double lined with green on top like grass and brown underneath like dirt. I sometimes just use green. It is for towns, countries, etc. I would also underline things like tent, house, the sea, etc. It is about location and setting. The only location I noted in Matthew 1 was "Babylon."  Matthew 2 on the other hand has a lot of geographical references.

Not all of these steps are as predominant as another in different parts of the Bible and different chapters. But these steps do get you to slow down and re-read the passage and examine the Word for yourself.

5. Circle all time references in brown. This can be a word like "yesterday" or "hour," as well as "suddenly" or "after a time." In Matthew 1 there are not too many time reference. I circled "fourteen generations," for instance.

6. Circle  key players (or the author in some cases), in one color and lesser players in another color.

Every passage is different in who the players are. It is good to note that. Matthew 1 is a little odd in that there are so many names in verses 1-16. I circled all those names (verses 1-16) in orange. Many occurred twice, first as the son born, then as the father. I circled the four women in the chapter in pink marker on top of the orange. They are Tamar (v. 3), Rahab and Ruth (v. 4), and wife of Uriah (v. 6). I also decided to do something special for David, because the house of David is important to this story. I made the symbol for Judaism. That is two triangles in blue, one upside down. It looks like the star of David. From verse 16 and then 18-25, I decided I would circle Joseph in purple and Mary in pink. 

7. Look for words that reoccur, as well as relationships such as contrast, synonym, etc. Sometimes I mark repeat words in a similar manner or draw a line from one to the next for cause and effect, synonym or a slash through a line for a contrast. None of those correlations are all that relevant in Matthew 1. Or at least they did not stick out to me this time. Every time you try this method on the same passage it will be fresh as if through new eyes.  

In Matthew 1, I noticed the repetition of the term genealogy/generations. Also there are similar words about marriage and family. Conception, birth, betrothed, divorce, etc. We learn this entire chapter is about the birth of Jesus and how He was conceived.

8. Underline or star lines that touch you spiritually. There will be spiritual lessons that will jump out at you, an ah-ha moment sometimes. In Matthew 1 I underlined "He will save his people from their sins," (v. 21) and "which means God with us" (v, 23). These two phrases jumped out to me today as a blessing. I don't want to miss it!

9. Ask yourself the 5 interrogative Ws and H. If you are an investigator or detective, these questions are important. Someone else may answer these questions with a different nuance but the gist of the passage will be there. Here is what I did for Matthew 1

Who : Ancestors, David, Mary, Joseph, Jesus

What : Generations, engaged, divorce, marriage, conceived, birth. It is all about the unusual conception and birth of Jesus.

When : After 42 generations of the Old Testament.

Where : Israel. This one is not written in the text specifically but we know from further passages it will be revealed this is where we are. The point of inductive study is to stay as much in the text and not read commentaries and Bible Helps, especially at the beginning.

Why : To save people from their sins as God (God with us).

How : Jesus conceived by the Holy Spirit to a virgin woman.

10. List theme and learning points on spare paper. I simply wrote down a few thoughts here. One could go into a lot more detail. One could take the genealogies and look up in the Old Testament the stories of the women in the genealogy. One could study the quote in verse 23 from the Old Testament. One could map out Joseph's movements and list the things he did. One could make a list of what you learn about Jesus in this passage.

For Matthew 1 today I listed these learning points

  • God works through the years, centuries even.
  • God directs us, as He did with leading Joseph.
  • God's promises come to pass (v 23).
  • God has a plan to save us from our sins. It has been a plan in place for a long time.
  • God is with us.

11. Apply to your own life, today. God is at work in the world today and at work in my life. Sometimes I see things as moving slowly. Right now we see the COVID-19 as going on and on, and on. But the situation is not hidden from God and it is a small blip in time compared to the centuries we see God at work to bring about His promise of the Messiah. God sees me. God is with me. God guides me. I can have this dynamic ongoing relationship with Him. And by the way God, thank you for Jesus and what he came to this world to do for me!

You will have a different list of application for yourself. In a couple years if I did this again, my thoughts would be a bit different. That is the richness of God's Word.

Here is my final product. Messy but I had a wonderful time in the Word with it. For me it took almost an hour to complete. You can break it up into several days of study too. The first two chapters of Luke are so long they should probably be studied by section.

Here is the before picture


So there is an example of taking a chapter of scripture and digging into it, investigating it to find what it says to us. No commentary. No Study Bible notes. Just me and God and the Bible. Oh the depths and riches of His Word! 

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! Romans 11:33

Up Next: Pondering… Mary and Joseph Style

Previous Post: Make the most of Advent



1. Do you like to write stuff in your Bible or take notes? If not, how do you remember valuable lessons you have learned from sermons and Bible study? We all have different ways we learn. 

2. Have you tried this method of Bible study before? Are you able to approach it by yourself or do you feel the need to use a prepared lesson? 

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