Session 2: How to study the Bible
Psalm 119:18; Acts 17:11; 2 Corinthians 4:2; 2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16-17; 1 Peter 1:10-11; 2 Peter 1:19-21
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
Our Approach to the Bible. We, at Into Thy Word, are geared toward challenging you to learn how to better understand and study the Bible! We seek to teach people to use logical reasoning while being sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. In addition, with good inductive and deductive principles, we can examine the particulars, facts, and essence of a text before we make any conclusions. As we get to know more about God's Word, we know God and His call, and we can lead a mature, meaningful, fruitful, character driven life and church for Christ's glory. We will do our best due diligence to be honest to the Text and only teach what the Bible, in proper context, accurately says from actual word meanings and inductive analysis, especially with a reverence to true Truth. To gain a better insight, we will also look at what did that term(s) mean to a first century Jew and Roman.
What we do not what to do is disrespect God and His Word by just seeking, "what I want it to mean for me." We will not be "pulling stuff" out of context or twisting facts for personal agendas. If we twist God's Word to suit ourselves, we will draw wrong conclusions and, as Bible learners and teachers, we will ourselves and others astray. What we want to do is appropriate and effectual from the Text of God's most holy Word, and grow ourselves and the people that God gives to disciple deeper to His heart and true Truth for His glory.
We must also be careful when we think it is the Holy Spirit speaking to us--He does--that what we hear is not self presumption. It amazes me how some pastors and Bible teachers can go to a text and not "read it," but can be really good at "reading into it." They then claim it was the Holy Spirit! Instead of reading what is there, in its context, what the words say in the original languages and culture, we read in our theological ideas, frameworks, and presumptions, and completely miss what God is actually saying to us!
This is called Eisegesis or Isogesis which simply means "to lead in" or "read into the Text of Scripture"; this serves only to place into the text one's own presuppositions, ideas, and thoughts while ignoring what is actually there in order to satisfy one's personal agendas and opinions. This is what cultists and false teachers do. In practice, this is using our personal interpretation of what we want and the agenda or meanings we get from our own presupposition. We are called to find what it means rather than what we want it to mean. Yes, the Bible means what it means and says what it says, but we have to read it, not read into it! So, when we look at any text of Scripture, our task is to seek the actual, intended meaning of the passage. We should read the Bible to please a theological paradigm or personal agenda. If our theological idea is correct, then the Bible will prove it; if not, it is time for a thought change.
Remember faith and reason go together; logic and seeking the heart of God are friends. The Holy Spirit never contradicts.
How to understand the Bible. The key to understanding the Text of God's Word, is to read it. This is His Word. As we read, we need to surrender our pride and not use our assumptions, be in prayer and do our best due diligence to exegete (draw out) correctly to our best ability. We must also be teachable, be correctable, never be sloppy or assume if you are a teacher of the Bible.
Inductive Bible Study is the counter to bad or sloppy reading and study. It is by far the best method to honestly read and study the Bible. We use logic and sound reasoning by examining the passage in its context, look to facts and the real meaning to the best of our ability before making any conclusions. This helps us read the Bible for all its worth, impact, value and significance and not miss important stuff or focus on the wrong things.
We have three main areas in mind as we read, "what does it say," "what does it mean" and "how does this apply." To do this, we first really read it, seeking "what is it" by examining the ideas and words of the text, looks things up and not assuming; this leads us to the effectual meanings and better interpretations. We are led to the right conclusions and powerful applications.
To begin, select the verse, book, and passage you wish to study. New to this? We suggest starting with Genesis, Matthew or John. Remember to be in a state of prayer and humbleness before the Father!
Carefully read and study the passages chosen. Always be aware of the context! Remember, most Christians read into it, they do not necessarily read the Bible, and fewer study it! Use a good translation like the, ESV, NASB, CEV, NKJV or NIV versions. Do not be sidetracked and do not stop. If you get stuck, try reading aloud for better concentration.
The Three, Basic, Essential, Inductive Bible Study Questions:
1. What does this passage say?
2. What does this passage mean?
3. How does this apply to me?
The primary purpose of this method is to teach you how to study His Word in a logical, clear, and concise way.
More Inductive Bible Study Questions:
4. What is God telling me?
5. How am I encouraged and strengthened?
6. Is there sin in my life for which confession and repentance is needed?
7. How can I be changed, so I can learn and grow?
8. What is in the way of these precepts affecting me? What is in the way of my listening to God? What will I do about it?
9. What can I model and teach? What does God want me to share with someone?
10. How do I exhibit a life of fruit, character, love, faith, and maturity in my daily life now?
11. How can I develop the willingness to be a more disciplined, character, fruit and faith driven person who will realize I am called, empowered, and filled by Christ?
12. What blocks His work in me from working and being exhibited in me?
13. How can I accept and commence His work, and discipline myself to carry it out?
14. What can I do to make His work in me function better, stronger, and faster, even in times of uncertainty and stress?
What is our LORD telling you? You can do it! Remember, there is no "best way;" it is important only that we do it in the best way we can. For even more impact, write it out. We have handouts and charts on our Inductive Bible Study page on website to help you.
You might view this as "interviewing a passage" and also allowing God's Word to interview and intervene with us. Remember God's Holiness; enter into study with reverence, respect and humility without injecting our preconceptions or agendas. The goal for effective and impacting Bible study is to seek what God is actually saying before we seek what a passage means. Then, we can get it; we can apply it to our lives in a more effective and effectual manner. Our main application is to know Christ and His Word better, to be convicted and impacted so we can have a life that glorifies His.
Look at it like a CSI (person who collects and examines evidence at crime scene), examining the evidence, following the leads. Let God lead you without preconceived biases, while Christ's hand is on our shoulder being directed by the Holy Spirit. As we read, look, ask questions, reason, and research and extract the plain meaning of what God has for us. Many good people get it wrong because we follow what we want with our hypothesis like a detective, with our hunch chasing the wrong lead, and not following the evidence like a CSI; one may get the wrong peoples convicted, the other will find the right perpetrator.
Always have a profundity for the Reverence of God and His Word. Seek to interpret Scripture to Scripture! All we can really do is our best, get into His Word, surrender ourselves to Christ and His Lordship, and be aware of the dangers of pride. If you feel you do not have reverence, then just read, and let it come to you when you are ready.
The bottom line of why we are to study the Bible
We study God's Word so that we may know God, His Way, and grow in our knowledge and faith in Him so we can then be better used by Him. We are called to spiritual growth-that is, the formation of the investment of faith Christ gives us that we give back to Him in dividends. This is a deep conviction of our faith, a practiced submission that shows our obedience, and a life of personal and relational maturity. We can't do this when we bring what we want into Scripture and not take out what God wants us to have! We have to listen to God; if not, we will not learn and then we will not grow and then we will not have a life of transformation. Instead, we will experience a storm-tossed sea of life, wayward in every perspective because our eyes and ears are not upon our Lord (James 1:2-8; Heb. 6:13-20).
The point of studying the Bible? God desires us to be His, to listen to Him, and to trust and obey Him; He wants us to have a heart after Him. He has designed us to be with Him in personal relationship, to seek Him and place Him first so that we might be more like Our Lord. We can meet with Him, we can trust in Him, we can expectantly be learners and doers of His Word and build an effectual church and life (2 Cor. 3:18; 4:6; 1 John 3:2; Rev. 22:4)
Key Takeaway: When we read the Bible, we need to keep in mind the Who and What that I am reading. Consider the truth that what you are reading is from the very voice of God, I am purely and truly communing with God Himself. We must seek; we must open our hearts and minds to hear what He has to say to us.
When in doubt, ask God to help you understand!
Questions to Ponder
Read Psalm 119:18; Acts 17:11; 2 Corinthians 4:2; 2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16-17; 1 Peter 1:10-11; 2 Peter 1:19-21
1. Have you ever read through the entire Bible? How long did it take you? How often? Why is this important? What stops people from doing so?
2. Can you explain the difference between "read it," and "reading into it?" Why is this important?
3. How do you feel that God desires you to be His? How can this help motivate you to listen to Him, trust and obey Him; to have a heart after Him?
4. How do we disrespect God and His Word by seeking, "what I want it to mean for me?" How does this lead us to draw wrong conclusions?
5. What do you think is the best approach to study the Bible? Why would a Christian not want to learn how to better understand and study the Bible?
6. The key to understanding the Text of God's Word is...?
7. What is the difference between a CSI (person who collects and examines evidence at crime scene, examining the evidence, following the leads) verses like a detective with our hunch chasing the wrong lead? How does this relate to how we study the Bible?
8. How important is reverence, respect and humility when you read the Bible? How does this help us remove our preconceptions and agendas?
9. How do we best balance the logical reasoning with being sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit when we study the Bible?
10. Have you ever considered that when we read the Bible we are hearing the very voice of God? How does this motive you?
11. How can you be better when you look at Scripture, to seek the actual, intended meaning of the passage?
12. What do you need to do to allow God to transform and renew you deeply? Who will this help us all build a better church for His Glory?
more Inductive questions and expansion of this tutorial, see Inductive Bible
Study Basics at Inductive Bible Study
© 2012 R. J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org