Basic Steps in Bible Study
My goal in this occasional series on studying the Word is that we can grow together as we learn to immerse ourselves in the bounty that is found in the pages of Scripture. I shared a bit about my history with Bible study in this recent post. Now I want to dive into how to study the Bible. Today, we will look at some foundational practices for fruitful study.
As we begin to explore ways to study the Word with more intentionality and more regularity, we must first accept that all study needs to begin with prayer. Prayer, accompanied by confession of sin and request for the enlightenment of the Spirit, is crucial to the proper understanding and application of Scripture to our lives. I do not want you to gloss over this point: studying the Word will become a rote practice or a distant memory without the aid of prayer. Pray first. Always pray first.
Next, our study of the Word should be consistent. Let me pause here for a moment and draw a distinction between several ways of being in the Word, all of which are useful, but not all will qualify as Bible study as I am using it in this series.
Some ways of being in the Word include
- Simply reading the Word; for example, reading through the Bible in a year
- Reading a devotional that includes a verse or short passage of Scripture
- Memorizing and meditating on the Word
- Working through published Bible study books, with or without a video series
My goal for you – and for myself – is to be in the Word in direct study more frequently at the end of this series than at the beginning. So, as an example, you might choose to read through the New Testament in one year (nothing at all wrong with not doing the whole Bible), and choose to read 1 chapter a day. This would give you 260 days’ worth of reading, leaving 105 days for deeper, more intentional study. Coincidentally, this schedule works out almost perfectly for reading the New Testament, one chapter at a time, Monday through Friday, and spending more time studying on the weekends. Both are important and adopting a schedule that allows time for skimming the surface in reading, and deep diving in study is highly profitable.
I would urge you to put away the devotionals for a season, in order to spend more direct time in the Word, and – this might be a stretch! – try to avoid doing a published study for a few months while you establish a habit of feeding yourself on Scripture. Commit to personal study time even one or two days a week, and see what God can do in your heart and life.
Third, our study must be systematic. In other words, pick a portion of Scripture and stay there until you’re done. Choose one passage, and stick with it – not necessarily an entire book, but a unit that makes sense. Along these same lines, decide at the end of one study session where you’ll be the next time so that you don’t waste your study time trying to find the ‘perfect spot.’ For example, I might decide I want to study the Sermon on the Mount, so I start with Matthew 5 and choose verses 1 – 9 as my first topic. When I’m finished, I decide that next time I’ll study Matthew 5, verses 10 – 12, or 10 – 16. Just choose beforehand.
Fourth, write down what you learn. This is where a journal – like my Faith Journal – comes in handy. A written record of what God is teaching you, as you learn and apply the Scriptures to your life, will become a treasure and a remarkable history of your growth in faith. While you’re writing down what you learn, write how you will apply the truth of the Word to your life – this is the fifth step – application.
Finally, share what you learn with someone, somewhere, somehow. This final step is often not done but will benefit you. Sharing what the Lord is teaching you makes you more likely to follow through with an application, and will encourage the other believer(s) you share with to get into the Word themselves.
In summary, the basic steps of Bible study are:
- Pray first – and throughout the study
- Be consistent
- Study systematically
- Write down what you learn
- Apply the truth to your life
- Share what you learn
That’s it for today. But I do want you to think about where you will start your study of the Scriptures once we get into methodology. I suggest a short portion of the gospels, such as the Sermon on the Mount, a short epistle such as Philippians, 2 Peter, or 1 John, or a selection of Psalms, such as Psalms 1, 29, 23, 51, and 100. Each of these has something to commend it, but will not lock you into a long-term study such as doing an entire gospel, the book of Romans, or a prophet would. Comment below when you decide on your passage.