I have met quite a few people who say, “I don’t even know where to begin when it comes to studying God’s word.” I was one of those people once. I felt like I could never understand it and so I just didn’t even try.
However, if the Bible could not be understood, why would God have given it to us? God has revealed himself to us through his word and so we should make every effort to study and understand his word.
Here are 7 steps to help you grow in your knowledge and understanding of God’s word:
Step 1 – Pray
God’s word is living and active, inspired by His Spirit (Hebrews 4:12; 2 Peter 1:21). The same Spirit of God that inspired the writing of Scripture will inspire the understanding and applying of Scripture. Ask God to reveal his truth to you through His word. Ask God to use what He reveals to you to change your life.
Step 2 – Read the Whole Passage
Read the entire passage multiple times. Each time, make note of what jumps out at you. No matter what it is, if it catches your attention, make a note. This might include:
– Repeated words
– Things you don’t understand
– Questions you have
– Anything you notice as you read
Step 3 – Context, Context, Context
Context is key for understanding Scripture. Many passages have been used for purposes they were never intended to serve because someone was irresponsible with God’s word and took the verse/passage out of context. Read what comes before and what comes after to get an idea for the context (if you have already studied what precedes the passage, even better!). What is he talking about now? How does the context direct our understanding of the passage?
Also, what is the literary genre of what you are reading? Meaning, what kind of writing is it (poetry, discourse, narrative, letter, apocalyptic, prophecy, etc.)? How does this affect how I should read this passage? You don’t read Edgar Allen Poe the same way you read a letter from your friend. Scripture is the same way; you should read it the way the author intended it to be read.
Step 4 – Words
What words seem to be important in this passage? What do they mean? Does he use metaphor or figurative language? What picture does it paint? Language and words, both literal and figurative, are crucial to understanding what someone means. If someone tells you they tolerate Italian food and someone else tells you they love Italian food, you can bet they are saying something drastically different.
Step 5 – Clarify Difficult Passages
When you come across a difficult passage, a few things will help clarify its meaning: What other passages talk about this? What do they seem to be communicating? What does the context tell us? We always use Scripture to interpret Scripture before using anything else. Scripture is the highest authority and is inspired by God. It is sufficient for us as the revelation from God and therefore we should do everything possible to allow it to explain itself before seeking other means.
Step 6 – Summarize
What is the main point of this passage? Try to summarize the passage in one or two sentences. If you can’t concisely summarize the passage in 1-2 sentences, you probably don’t have a good grasp on the meaning. If you can summarize the main point: How do you know? What in the passage supports this main point?
Step 7 – Application
At this point in your study, there have probably seen little things that jumped out at you with regard to your personal life as you have been studying. Now it is time to really focus on how this passage applies to your life.
o What does this passage teach me about God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit)?
o How does this passage make me want to grow closer to Jesus?
o What does this passage say about how I am living?
o What sin has God revealed to me through this passage that I need to confess and repent of?
o How should my life change because of the message of this passage?
o What does this passage say about those around me?
o How should I engage others based on the message of this passage?
God’s word is the revelation from an infinite God. Therefore, we could spend our entire lives studying it and never exhaust the depths of it’s meaning. Be diligent each day to study God’s word and apply it to your life so that, as Paul said, “the man of God may be equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16).