Let’s get this straight right off the bat: there is no right way to study the Bible. If you are opening the Bible, reading it, thinking (meditating) about it and trying to apply it all day, and then gaining some insight from a Bible teacher, study notes, etc., then you are on the right track.
Studying the Bible is about getting it into your mind, letting it sink into your heart, and allowing it to flow out of you. If you want to use books by others to help you until you feel a little more confident, then I encourage you to do so. However, I also encourage you to set aside all the study helps and delve into the Bible by yourself and let the Holy Spirit speak to you directly through the scriptures.
Howard Hendricks once said, “There is no jewel more precious than that which you have mined yourself.”
As you mature in your faith, you will need more in-depth study of the Bible to explore concepts, ideas, and even words. The inductive approach is ideal for such times, and let’s face it, books are expensive.
The S.O.A.P. method of studying your Bible works well with the inductive approach because it prompts observation and application. (If you are looking for other ways of studying inductively, I recommend Kay Arthur’s How to Study Your Bible. It’s an oldie but a goodie.)
a concordance or your Bible’s chain reference
writing utensil (you can use highlighters if you’re feeling fancy)
- Topical/Subject/Concept Study:
A concept study give you a well-rounded understanding of what the the Word of God has to say concerning a specific subject, topic, or concept.
For example, your pastor asks the congregation to participate in a corporate fast. This piques your interest, and you begin a concept study. Using your concordance or your Bible’s subject index, find the first mention of fasting in the Bible. Read the entire chapter in which it is found to gain context and then start writing.
Scripture: Write down the scripture that jump out at you.
Observation: Using the who, what, when, where, how approach, jot down what the Holy Spirit shows you in those scriptures.
Who was fasting?
For what were they fasting?
When were they fasting (for how long)?
Where was the fast taking place?
How long were the people (or person) fasting?
Application: Make notes about how this passage answers your questions about fasting. How can you apply the new insights to your current fast? How does this information fit with what you already know? How do you need to adjust what you think or believe about fasting?
Because you will not be able to read every portion of scripture pertaining to fasting in one sitting, meditate during the day on what you have learn. The next day, read the next place fasting appears in the Bible and apply the same S.O.A.P. method, synthesizing what you discover with your pre-knowledge and what you learned the previous day. Keep this up until you have worked your way through every instance of fasting found in the Bible.
- Character StudyCharacter studies, a close reading of a person in the Bible, are useful in gaining insight into the relational side of God.
For example, during your daily reading in Numbers 25, you come across Phinehas the priest and are surprised to find it isn’t the same Phinehas the priest in 1 Samuel 2. You are intrigued by Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, because he is quite different than Phinehas, the son of Eli, and want to know more about him. You begin with the concordance or your Bible’s subject index, taking note of all the scriptures, chapters, and books where the character is mentioned in the Old and New Testaments. You begin your study with the first reference (Exodus 6), reading the entire chapter for context.
Scripture: As you read, write down the scriptures references containing notable character traits of Phinehas the zealous priest. Who was in his lineage? How did he become a priest? Why was he considered zealous? What individual character traits did he show?
Observation: Discuss in writing why these character traits are worthy of being noted. Why is it important for Phinehas to have such character traits? How did he develop these traits (make sure to back up your claims with evidence from the passage. Always be careful not to insert your ideas into the scripture)?
Application: Note how the character traits of Phinehas gives you insight into your relationship with Jesus. What do you need to do in response to this new information? How can you apply what you learned about this character to your life today?
Prayer: Thank the Holy Spirit for showing you the new information, and ask Him to bring it back to your memory throughout the day when you need it most.
You will not be able to read through all chapters in which Phinehas is mentioned, meditate throughout the day on the insight to the relational side of God you gained from this particular character. The next day, read the next chapter in which Phinehas appears, apply the SOAP method, and synthesize with what you learned the previous day, always finding ways to implement the insight into your relationship with God.
The key to studying the Bible is setting aside the time and making it a priority. Determine in your heart that you will never give it up that time for anything else. Studying your Bible isn’t easy, but it is rewarding. Jesus will meet you there each and every time. Guaranteed.
Questions and comments are always welcomed. I’d love to hear how this series has helped you.