Bible book study is the heart of learning the Bible for yourself. The Bible is like a library of 66 books, some older than others, some history, some guidance, some prophecy. The best way to understand this library is to study each of the books individually.
In a previous post, I covered some of the basics of Bible study. One of those basics is to be systematic; book study helps you to be systematic.
In the most recent Digging into the Word post, I covered how to do a book preview, and provided a printable worksheet to help. If you have not read that post and gotten that worksheet, do so now. It will be helpful as you move into the heart of the study – going verse-by-verse through the book.
The printable worksheet for this phase of the process is available for signing up for my Bible study resources. There are 9 steps in this process. Some of those steps are short, so don’t get worried!
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Bible Book Study Steps
- Record the passage being studied. You should have chosen the book earlier when you did the book preview. Likewise, it is helpful to make (or find) an outline of the book that breaks it down into shorter portions. The sections to study should generally be less than one chapter. An example using 1 John is given at the end.
- Read the passage silently and aloud in your favorite version. Then, read the passage at least two more times in two other versions. You can do more than two versions; three are indicated on the worksheet. Check the appropriate boxes.
- Record the names of any people mentioned in the chapter. You might also want to make a short note by their name as to the person’s history or important. For example, if you were studying Acts 10:1-8, you would list Cornelius and Peter. Then, by Cornelius’ name you might write – a Roman leader of soldiers because that’s what a centurion was. By Peter’s name, you might simply note – the leader of the apostles.
- Next, using the chart provided, record one or two verses indicating keywords, insights, questions, and comments.
- Then, using the notes you took in the chart, create an outline of the passage if you can. Some passages don’t lend themselves to an outline, while others do. For example, Acts 10:1-8 might be outlined as follows: (1) the person of Cornelius, v. 1-2; (2) the vision of Cornelius, v. 3-6; (3) the obedience of Cornelius, v. 7-8.
- Record any cross-references that give further insight into the passage. Again, in the Acts 10 passage, I might list one or two cross-references concerning Peter (v.5), and one or two concerning prayer (v. 4). It would look like this:
Verse 4 (prayer) – Matthew 7:7-8; Revelation 8:4
Verse 5 (Peter) – John 21:15-19; Acts 2:14; Acts 10:9-17
- Answer the question, “What does this passage teach me of God the Father, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit?” In the Acts 10 passage, this might be (1) God answers prayers; (2) God loves all people, even those who are not yet believers.
- Record any questions, concerns, or topics for future study. In the Acts 10 passage you might record the following: (1) Where is Joppa? (2) How far is Joppa from Caesarea? (3) Future study: prayer, alms, angels, visions.
- Complete a personal application, using the acronym SPACEPETS: Sin to confess, Promise to claim, Attitude to adjust, Command to obey, Example to follow, Prayer to pray, Error to avoid, Truth to believe, or Something for which to praise God? Go to this application post to learn more.
That’s it. You have just completed a portion of a book study. Now you repeat the process for each section of the book. Use the outline in a Bible handbook, such as The MacArthur Bible Handbook or The Bare Bones Bible Handbook, to determine what sections to study.
One example of an outline to follow for 1 John:
- Introduction, 1:1-4
- The Conditions for Fellowship
- Walk in the Light, 1:5-7
- Confession of Sin, 1:8-2:2
- Obedience to His Commandments, 2:3-6
- Love for One Another, 2:7-14
- The Cautions to Fellowship
- Love of the World, 2:15-17
- Spirit of the Antichrist, 2:18-27
- Characteristics of Fellowship
- Purity of Life, 2:28-3:3
- Practice of Righteousness, 3:4-12
- Love in Deed and Truth, 3:13-24
- Testing the Spirits, 4:1-6
- Love as Christ Loved, 4:7-5:3
- Consequences of Fellowship
- Victory over the World, 5:4-5
- Assurance of Salvation, 5:6-13
- Guidance in Prayer, 5:14-17
- Freedom from Habitual Sin, 5:18-21
This example was taken from Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps & Charts.
Now that you know how to do a book study, and have the worksheet to help you, I hope you’ll get started. No matter how good published studies are, nothing beats studying the Word for yourself.