Bible Studied. Simply.
I think there are two ways to approach the Bible:
1) To simply read it & allow God to speak through His words.
2) To engage your mind deeper and to study it & allow God to speak through His words.
To simply read it gives you a great “birds-eye” view of the Bible and allows you to grasp the general narrative as God does what only He can do and speaks to your heart, mind and soul. God will certainly also speak to you as you deeply study His word. To study the Bible is like getting dirt under your fingernails and mining out treasures in the ground. Those treasures are so worth finding.
I’m hesitant write this because often I think that Bible study isn’t so simple. Then, when I really face this hesitation, I realize that it seems difficult only because, until this last year, I didn’t know ways to study God’s Word. I, for all too long, thought that Bible study was boring and unproductive. My thoughts have done a 360, and now I find Bible study to be exhilarating! (Anyways, now that we’ve established my dorkiness on a whole new level) Let me help you to learn how to study the Bible easier.
There are many ways to study the Bible and I encourage you to find a way that works best for you to best understand the Bible.
Here is my personal process:
1. First and absolutely foremost, PRAY. I always pray that the Holy Spirit would absorb my mind into the words of scripture and would de-clutter the thoughts that inhibit my focus. Also, I pray that God would speak to me through His Word and that He would give me supernatural understanding and joy from it.
2. Sit still and in awe of the fact that God divinely wrote this book as a means to teach us about Him and to proclaim, prophesize, and enact His grand plan for all of creation. Don’t read over this point too quickly. Our God is greatly to be praised and stared with our jaws dropped and hearts poured open.
3. Train your eyes to find Jesus in ALL of the Bible- Plastered across the entire Bible is Jesus and the grand plan of His redemptive work He has and will do. Also, pay attention to the work of the Holy Spirit throughout the Bible, too.
4. Start at the beginning of a book. (Like Genesis, Matthew, Mark, Luke, etc.) I’ve found that I can more easily understand when I commit to studying an entire book- not just a chapter of the Bible here, and then another chapter there. I first implemented all these study principles on the book of Genesis, and it changed my view of the Bible completely.
5. Learn about the context of the book: (This is such an important step! Don’t skip it!) Who wrote it, when, why, where, what is the general theme of the book, what type of writing is it. To find this information, I love to start out reading the introductions that are in the ESV Study Bible I use. Also, a really important addition to my studies lately has been watching a Bible Project video about the book in their “Read Scripture” series. They are animated videos that really break down these “W” questions. I frantically scribble down notes of practically all that they say. There are many great Bible commentaries out there, too. I just haven’t quite dove into them a whole lot yet.
6. Start reading! I’ve heard many Bible teachers suggest to read a book of the Bible in its entirety before studying it. In some cases I find this to be tough to read the whole chunk. Therefore, I like to focus on a chapter or two, or maybe even just a paragraph or two. Once I determine how much of the book I’m going to study at that time, I then read it over a few times.
7. Take notes! I’m definitely a note-taker. Which makes me a highlighter fan. Which then adds a whole nother’ piece to this Bible study puzzle—Basically, I highlight in set colors: 1.)Verses about God, Jesus, Holy Spirit 2.) Verses that could be great prayers 3.) Verses I should specifically apply to my life 4.) Repeated words or phrases that I notice 5.)Verses that stick out to me (or that I just particularly love). I’ve said before that structure gives me the heeby-jeevies, so this highlighting method is in no way a dictatorship. If I feel like highlighting something, I do. If I don’t, I don’t. When I am diligent enough to highlight the passages, I do find that it helps me to comprehend the passage more, and to be able to remember to apply or pray the verses.
8. Back to the note-taking: I write ALL OVER my Bibles. I enjoy keeping my thoughts and revelations about God right in the Bible and to write down anything and everything that my heart is pondering or joyously dancing over. Sometimes I just re-write out a scripture verse in the margin. Other times, I will circle some of the words of the Bible and draw a line to a big fat question mark on the side. Often, I write out definitions (which brings me to my next point)
9. Look up the definitions of key words that you don’t know and words that you think you know. Bible scholars, when translating the original Biblical language to our English language, went through great depths to choose the word that most corresponded to the original language. Looking up definitions of English words that I thought I knew has been nearly mind-blowing to my wonder and understanding. Seriously, it seems so simple, but it is so good. Merriam-Webster has an app for that. (I haven’t learned how to look up the definitions of Greek/Hebrew/Aramaic words yet, but I hear that that also proves to be a wondrous tool)
10. Follow cross references. Those are the little itty bitty letters and numbers in the Bible that point to other scripture passages. Often, the Bible writers will even quote another passage of scripture, or will talk of a prophecy being fulfilled—go follow that scripture or prophecy and read the surrounding paragraphs and the verse in which they were referencing to. (Goodness, maybe even take your Bible study onto those passages and re-start at step 4)
11. Always train your eyes, heart, and mind to KNOW THAT THE BIBLE IS A BOOK ABOUT GOD. It is not a book about us. It teaches us about our Creator and draws our hearts closer to His. Sure, we can-and should- apply the Bible to our lives, but we need to first ask the question of, “What does the Bible teach me about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit” before we can ask, “What does the Bible teach me about me?”
Lastly, enjoy! Also, understand that the enjoyment will build as your knowledge and awe of God builds. We better love when we better know. You aren’t going to always feel like it, but it will always be eternally beneficial to you and to the others around you who will automatically be able to sense that you have been in the presence of God.
Don’t take my word for it, though. Here’s God’s:
“For as the rain and snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing which I sent it.” –Isaiah 55:10-11
Know that, even if you don’t feel like your Bible Study was awe-dropping or mind-blowing, God is storing up scripture in your heart and He is able to do more of a work in us than we can imagine. He promises that His Word shall not return to Him empty, but that it will accomplish in us what He purposes.