Most of us would agree that Bible study is important. We simply don’t study the Bible as much as we ought to. But even when we do study, we often fail to get all that we should from the text.
Perhaps, as busy people, we underestimate the need for preparation. What about you? If you’ve increased the “quantity” of your Bible study, but haven’t seen good results, perhaps you need to work on the “quality” of your study. There is, after all, much to be said for learning HOW to study the Bible.
Here are ten suggestions that will help you get more out of the time you spend studying God’s word. And if you think you’ve advanced to the point where you don’t need these tips, just ask yourself how often you really APPLY these to your own study. Be honest!
- Read larger sections. We tend to get bogged down in the details of Bible study to such an extent that we lose the bigger picture. There is much to be gained from backing up and reading larger portions of the Bible at one time. Whenever possible, we need to read an entire book at one sitting, especially the letters in the New Testament which were meant to be read just as we today read a letter that we receive from a friend.
- Use multiple translations. Regardless of which translation you use regularly, get several of the better translations and compare these as you study. When it comes to translations, there is safety in numbers. What is unclear in one translation is often clear in another.
- Look up unfamiliar words. It’s amazing how many people will come across words they don’t know in the Bible and never make any effort to find out what they mean. Keep an English dictionary and a Bible dictionary handy, and use them every time you need to. God’s word is too important not to know what the words mean.
- Outline the books. You don’t have to do the kind of detailed outlines your teachers made you do in school (back in the old days). Just learn to see the major sections of each book and how they fit together.
- Engage all three parts of your mind: INTELLECT, EMOTIONS, and WILL. God gave us all three parts of our minds, and we need to use them all. When you study, bring your emotions and your will to the aid of your intellect. Having learned intellectually what God says, feel emotionally as you ought to feel about it and then use you will to do what you ought to do about it!
- Study to learn more than what the text does not say. We certainly need to be able to refute false doctrine. But we need to know more about each passage than what it does NOT say. The question is: what DOES it say? And especially, what does it say to ME? What is God saying that I myself need to hear?
- Look for three things: INFORMATION, INTERPRETATION, and APPLICATION. When we study, we need to get not only the “information” (what it says) and the “interpretation” (what it means), we also need to look for “application” (how we can use what we’ve learned).
- Bathe your study in prayer. Prayer is the Number One thing we can do to help ourselves in any endeavor, including Bible study. Without a prayerful attitude, Bible study can actually be dangerous. So pray before you study, while you study, and after you study.
- Be patient. Much of what we need to learn takes time. We must be willing to go over the text again and again and again. Patient repetition, perhaps stretching over many years, is what will yield substantial results. Don’t give up. Just go over the text carefully, put it away, and then go over it again later. Keep doing this for the rest of your life.
- Be honest and courageous. When we study God’s word, we must strive to lay aside our preferences and preconceived ideas, and be willing to LEARN whatever the text actually says. And having done that, we then need to DO what we should about what we’ve learned.
The ability to get quality results in Bible study is not an inborn trait — it is something that can be learned. And the truth is, most of us have a lot to learn about even the simplest aspects of searching the Scriptures; we’re hardly more than children in our study skills. Let’s decide to do better. Which of these ten tips can you make the best use of?