Studying the Bible is a rewarding endeavor, but it takes a desire to grow spiritually from the Word of God, and it takes effort. The first thing to take note of, is that there is no single “right” way to study the Bible. There are many methods you can use, and all are beneficial to anyone who truly wants to hear God’s word speak to them.
Below are just a few common methods used to study the Word, along with a description of how to use each one.
What it is: A word study involves selecting a key word and looking up verses in the Bible that contain that key word.
Purpose: Word studies help us understand how the Bible uses a particular word and what it says about that word.
Benefits of this method: Choosing to do a word study can give you a collection of verses that increase your knowledge of words used in Scripture, and is particularly helpful in creating a chain of verses along similar lines. In fact, the Thompson Chain Reference Bible does this for you, because it already has hundreds of words linked together in chains which you can reference in the margins of the Bible. If you don’t have a Thompson Chain Bible- that’s okay! You can create your own!
Study Tools: Concordance; Bible Dictionary (optional)
Getting Started: Select a word you wish to study and look it up in the concordance. Then, begin going to the references one at a time to read the verses in your Bible. If you choose a word that is used dozens (or hundreds) of times, you might choose to jot little notes on the verses that speak especially to you. Your goal should be to end up with a list of several verses (15ish) which contain your chosen word and give you a “shortcut” to locate those verses easily in the future. You can either take notes and list references in a dedicated Bible Study notebook or begin with the earliest reference and make a “chain” in the margin of your Bible telling you the reference to go to next. For example, if your word is “choose,” you might start with Joshua 24:15, and make a note in the margin of your Bible to go from there to 1 Kings 18:21, and from there make a note to go to whatever verse is next on your list.
What it is: A topic study is similar to a word study. It involves choosing a particular topic to follow through the Bible. This type of study often goes into more depth than a word study by using more than one word to explore the selected topic. For example, if you did a word study on “truth,” you would only be locating verses that used the word “truth.” However, if you did a topic study on “truth,” you would find other words that have similar meaning (like “Gospel” or “doctrine”), and look up those words as well.
Purpose: Topic studies help us gain a deeper and well-rounded understanding of the Bible.
Benefits of this method: Doing a topic study allows you to explore a topic in depth and gain a richer insight on the selected topic than you would likely receive by simply reading through the Bible chapter by chapter. You can even see how a topic spans both the Old Testament and the New Testament!
Study Tools: Concordance; Bible Dictionary
Getting Started: Choose a topic you want to know more about and start by looking up your topic in the Bible dictionary to see what other words you might look up in the concordance. For example, if your topic is “obedience,” you might also look up words like: obey, submit (or submission), hearken, etc. Depending on how broad your topic is, you might want to subdivide it into smaller sections to keep from getting overwhelmed. An example where you might subdivide topics could be “the fruits of the Spirit.” Rather than doing them all at once, you might study each one separately and spread the study out over the course of weeks instead of trying to do it all at once. After you’ve selected your topic and found related words, use your concordance to find scriptures that use those words.
What it is: A character study follows a particular person’s story in the Bible and seeks to learn lessons from that person’s behavior, attitude, and experiences. The lessons learned can be either positive or negative, depending on the person selected.
Purpose: Character studies allow us to relate to someone in the Bible and help us learn from their mistakes or be inspired by their example.
Benefits of this method: By slowly working through one character’s story as told in the Bible, you have time to thoroughly analyze what that person was going through and whether their actions/reactions were good or bad. You may also find that you sympathize more with a Bible character’s circumstances when you study out exactly what that person’s life story was, and what influenced them to behave the way they did.
Study Tools: Concordance (helps you locate where their story is found, helpful in seeing if they are mentioned in more than one book of the Bible); Bible Commentary (can provide background information about the culture or attitudes of the time period).
Getting Started: Select a Bible character. You can pick anyone who is mentioned in the Bible, but someone whose story is told in more than one or two verses will yield a more complete study. Good selections might include: Joseph, Abraham, Noah, David, Solomon, Elijah, Gideon, Paul, Mary (mother of Jesus), Mary Magdalene, Ruth, Esther, etc.
Once you select your character, you might want to read that person’s entire story to get an idea of the big picture before you begin to study in depth. Some people’s stories might take longer than others because their stories are told over several chapters (e.g., David, Joseph, Abraham, etc.) The next step is to divide the story into manageable chunks for close analysis (maybe look at 5-8 verses at a time). You might want to do some research in the library or online to find background information on the time period. Here are possible questions to think about: What was the main religious influence of the time? What cultural attitudes or practices might have influenced your character? Was there a war going on at the time? If so, with whom, and why? Did the war influence your character’s actions in any way? Did God give this person specific directions, and if so, did the person obey or disobey? What were the consequences?
You can organize your notes chronologically according to the person’s life. You might have sections such as, Early Childhood, Early Adulthood, Old Age, or whatever categories work best based on the information the Bible gives you about your chosen character. You might also want to include a section in your notes about Lessons We Can Learn from this character today.
These are just a few easy Bible study methods to jumpstart your studies. When you seek God’s direction in prayer and have a desire to learn more, you will find that studying the Word of God plays a pivotal role in your spiritual journey!
(credit: Manassas Church of God)