In my first year in campus ministry, our group was filled with young believers who constantly asked questions.
“I was reading Isaiah and was confused by it. What does it mean?”
“What does the Bible say about [this topic]?”
“How do I study my Bible?”
These questions launched us into a study on how to study our Bible. I later found out that the process we went through is called inductive bible study, and it’s a tried and tested process. Not only that, it’s a way that many campus ministries over the years have taught Bible study. What exactly does that process look like? We’ll describe the process briefly here and then point you to some resources that can help you learn even more!
Observation: What do I see?
The first part of Bible study is seeing as much as you can see. Print out the passage you’re studying on a piece of paper and mark up everything you can. As my professor once told me, “The more ink on the page, the better.” Create a key to mark what you find. Are there repeated words? What are the main verbs? Who is talking in the passage? Who are they talking to? Is there anything that confuses you? Look and look and look, and once you’ve done that, look some more. The more you observe and the more questions you ask of the text, the more you’ll understand your passage.
To further understand observation check out this video.
Interpretation: What does it mean?
Now it’s time to determine what this passage is talking about. What exactly is this passage saying? After you observe everything that you can, you will still have some questions about what the text means. Sometimes, you can find the answers to your questions in the text itself, but if you don’t find your answers, there are places where you can go to find them. Read a good study Bible and see what it says. There are many books written to explain the Bible, and those are called commentaries. Check some of those out and see what they say. You might even be able to find some trusted pastors/leaders who have preached through the passage you’re studying.
What is the benefit of looking at these kinds of resources? (1) Many of these materials have helpful answers to your Bible questions. (2) There is safety in a multitude of counselors (Prov. 15:22), so reading Bible resources provides you with some needed spiritual counselors! (3) Referencing these Bible study materials helps you confirm that you’re not losing your mind! If you’re the only person in all of church history who interpreted a passage that way, chances are you’re misunderstanding something.
Some online resources, like blueletterbible.com, have tons of free, useful interpretational resources for you to use.
Application: What should this change in my life?
When we look into the “mirror” of God’s Word, we should never leave the same! (2 Cor. 3:18) You’re not just reading the Bible to fill your head with spiritual knowledge (although that is important). God uses His Word to transform you more and more into His image. The following are some great questions to ask once you’ve studied and understood your text.
Is there an example to follow?
Is there a sin to avoid?
Is there a promise to claim?
Is there a prayer to repeat?
Is there a command to obey?
Is there a condition to meet?
Is there a verse to memorize?
Is there an error to mark?
Is there a challenge to face?
How does this passage help me have a closer relationship with God?
These questions help you live out what you’re reading.
With God’s help, see everything you can see, figure out what it means, and apply it to your life! This is Bible study in a nutshell.
Also, if you’re a Cross Impact chapter, ask your Pastor or chapter leader for the “Studying My Bible Better Series,” which is available in every chapter’s shared Google Drive.