As far as Bible Study “methods” go, there is one that you can and should put into practice every time you open up God’s Word. Whether you are reading an entire chapter of a book or looking up a lone verse, whether in a group discussion or a solitary devotional time, there are three questions you should always make sure to ask and answer to help make what you just read part of your life. These simple questions, which are the foundation of pretty much every other Bible Study method (many of which we’ll explore later), can take your thinking about and living Biblical truth to a new, exciting level. These THREE MAIN questions to ask when reading the Bible are:
WHAT DOES IT SAY?
This first question involves Observation. Read the passage being studied several times in order to get a good feel for the details. Act as though you are reading this passage for the first time and observe all the facts. Ask some who/what/when/where/why/how questions of the passage, like:
- Who is involved?
- What are they doing?
- Where are they? Where are they going?
- When did this happen? What happened before? What will happen afterwards?
- Why is this happening? What happened to lead up to this event?
Observation is crucial in obtaining a good understanding of any given Bible passage.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
This question takes you to the next step called Interpretation. Regard the passage as though you are a detective, studying the passage for any clues that can help to answer the following questions:
- What does this passage mean? What is being said? (Attempt to discover the actual meaning of the passage.)
- What was the “Author’s Intended Meaning” (AIM)? What was he trying to say to his original readers? How would the original readers have understood this passage?
- What is the author trying to say to me? (Keep in mind that there is often significant distance – historical, political, societal, cultural, geographical and positional, to name just a few – between ourselves and the original readers.)
- Why is this here? Is there a theological significance of the text? If so, what might it be?
The Bible was written for normal people to understand, so don’t look for hidden meanings unless you have good reason to think there is further meaning that is not obvious or indicated by the surrounding context.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO ME?
This final question explores areas of Application. Personal application of God’s Word begins during your study, but continues on into your day-to-day living. Bible study without application becomes a stale, intellectual exercise. Spiritual growth will not occur by merely reading the Bible; its truths must be acted out. Do not rush into application until you are sure what the passage says and means, then adjust your life accordingly. If you are having difficult understanding how a specific passage applies to you, try asking yourself these questions:
- Is there a command for me to obey?
- Is there a good example for me to follow?
- Is there a sin here for me to avoid?
- Is there something here I want to thank God for?
- Is there a promise I can call my own?
- Is there a blessing I can enjoy?
- Is there a failure from which I can learn?
- Is there a victory for me to win?
- Is there a new thought about God, the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Satan, man?
- Is there a truth in this passage that has greatly affected me?
As you begin to apply what you are learning through your Bible studies you will find that you have made some progress toward change in a certain aspect of your life, which ultimately will lead to less frustration and failure in life and much more joy and peace.