How to Study the Bible
“What does this Bible passage even mean?”
We have all asked these questions at one point or another. Knowing God’s Word requires familiarity. This familiarity comes through reading and studying Scripture every day. Sometimes studying the Bible can feel overwhelming and it can be hard to know where to start.
Here’s what our team has to say about studying the Bible and what helps them.
Each morning I start with my Bible reading plan and prayer. Afterward, Laura and I sing a hymn and sometimes read a devotional. Right now, we’re going through the Family Worship Bible Guide which gives some context and application for every chapter of the Bible. Last, we sing a hymn together as a family. The Bible reading is the most important thing we do, the song is what we usually carry through the day as the words and tune come to mind.
A big part of Bible study involves knowing Scripture, which is why a Bible reading plan is so important. With a reading plan (either yearly, every two years, or every six months), you are going to read through the entire Bible in an orderly format and be able to study passages you would not otherwise naturally read (for example, Song of Songs, Lamentations, Jude, etc). It also helps to get a good overview of Scripture. Currently, I am reading through the Old and New Testaments in chronological order along with a daily Psalm.
When I am studying a specific passage to teach, I first go through the text and make observations, maybe diagram it if I’m struggling with getting main points, circle helping verbs (“therefore” and “because” clauses are huge for me), and look for themes and connect those with other Bible passages. This often turns into a topical study but yields great results when studying a specific passage as well. A good Bible concordance or reference Bible is super helpful in making these topical connections. After this, I typically reference two main commentaries: Matthew Henry and Lexham Context Commentary (both Old Testament and New Testament). Matthew Henry will be more devotional, and Lexham Context tends to be more technical. Both approaches are very helpful in getting an overall understanding of the text both from a technical and devotional approach.
When I approach any passage of Scripture, I use the “O.I.A.” method of Bible study. This stands for observation, interpretation, and application. The questions that I ask and look to answer that correspond with these points are: “What does the passage say?”, “What did the original author mean?”, and “What does this mean to us today?”
The second step, interpretation, is the most important (and sadly is often the most neglected). Asking questions about the original author’s intent, context, intended audience, and purpose of writing are very important in making sure a proper interpretation of a passage is reached. For any kind of Bible study, I work through these questions to make sure the conclusions I reach are consistent with the original author’s intent.
For more in-depth Bible study, I use Logos Bible software. I have several layouts saved within the app for Old and New Testament study. I like to begin any serious study of a passage with original language study, so I have the Hebrew and Greek text opened alongside the English translation. Logos has good tools to aid in working through meaning, syntax, and grammar of the original languages. Then I compare English translations of the passage to see which carry the original meaning through the best. The two translations that I compare the most are the ESV and NET. The NET has great footnotes that explain why certain passages are translated the way they are and is very helpful for Bible study.Then I look at commentaries to see what other respected thinkers say about the passage and also look for practical applications as well. If I’m teaching on the passage, I also look for illustrations to help make the teaching more interesting and relatable.
Most importantly, I try to bookend my Bible study time with prayer, asking for the Holy Spirit’s guidance and praying for wisdom and opportunities to apply the passage to my life.
When I read the Bible, I like to switch between picking a book of the Bible to read through and going through a YouVersion Bible Plan. When I’m going through a Plan in the Bible App, I will use it as a reference for what to read and for the devotional portion, but I like to use my paper Bible to highlight and take notes. I am currently reading through 1 Samuel.
When I read a passage of Scripture, I read it once for comprehension then I will use the Blue Letter Bible to access David Guzik’s Text Commentaries. These commentaries break down each passage of Scripture, providing cultural and historical context as well as how we can apply these passages of Scripture to our lives today.
How do you study God’s Word?
We’ve told you what works for us, now you tell us how you best connect with God’s Word! Let us know on social media! Be sure to tag us @sowespeakmedia.
Kali Gibson is the editor-in-chief for So We Speak and a copywriter for the Youversion Bible App.