There are many different ways you can study the Bible. We’ll finish out our Bible Study Basics series by looking at some of these methods.
Bible Study Methods
There are many approaches to studying your Bible. Here are a few we’ll consider today and tomorrow:
- Devotional study: Reading a little each day and looking for something that speaks to you.
- Book study: Mastering the contents of a particular book of the Bible.
- Topical study: Picking a topic of interest to you and mastering what the Bible teaches about the topic.
- Word study: Finding out what the Bible means when it uses some specific word.
- Biographical study: Getting to know one of the Bible’s characters in depth.
This is the most common type of study. (Actually, I’m not even sure it should be called study.) Here you read some portion of the Bible looking for something the speaks to your heart. Devotional studies come in a number of different form. Some folks read some daily devotional that addresses a different topic each days. Others flip open the Bible and read whatever their eyes fall on. Others read through the Bible a book at a time, but they’re not really studying. They just browse from chapter to chapter looking for a blessing. Devotional study is better than nothing, but I don’t think it develops mature Christians.
You can approach book studies in two or three ways. If you just open to the first chapter of a book and start reading, looking for passages that speak to your heart, you’re studying the book devotionally. If you read through the book looking to get a sense of the general topics it talks about and the sequence of those topics, you’re doing a survey of the book. If you seek to master the content of the book by searching out its background, topics, flow and doctrines, you’re doing what I consider a book study. Here are the kinds of questions you seek to answer as you do a book study:
- Who was the author of the book?
- Who was the audience of the book?
- What was the occasion and circumstances of the writing?
- Who are the important characters of the book?
- What major themes are addressed in the book?
- What statements are made about these themes?
- Are there parallels to the contents of this book in other books of the Bible?
- Am I living by the principles this book reveals?
- A good study Bible and a few good commentaries would be very useful as you do a book study.
When you do a topical study, you’re seeking a thorough understanding of what the Bible teaches about a particular topic. You might study spiritual gifts, or the tabernacle, or the miracles of Christ. If you are studying the tabernacle, for example, you want to gather all the facts about it, including:
- When was it built?
- Why was it built?
- What were the dimensions and materials of the structure?
- What were the dimensions and materials of all of its furnishings?
- Who had access to which parts of the tabernacle?
- Who used the furnishings and equipment of the tabernacle?
- When, and for what purposes, were the building and its equipment used?
- When did it cease to be used? Why?
- What important events took place in or around the tabernacle?
- Do the materials and dimensions of the tabernacleand its furnishings appear in other contexts in the Bible?
- What does the New Testament say about the tabernacle?
- What is the spiritual significance of the tabernacle and it furnishings?
- What personal parallels and application can I make to my own life?
It’s important to be thorough in your study. Find every Bible passage that addresses your topic. A good topical Bible is really helpful here. The Thompson Chain Reference Bible is another valuable resource for topical study.
Tomorrow we’ll finish up our Bible Study Basics series by looking at word and biographical studies.