I am convinced that God speaks through His Word, the Bible. The challenge in our modern-day church culture is that many depend upon someone else to tell them what they should know or believe about the Bible. God’s desire is that we would not be dependent upon someone or something else when it comes to His Word. Rather, His desire is that we would be continually rooted in prayer and in the study of God’s Word.
A common hurdle in studying the Bible is to quickly jump into the application or simply into the historical detail that might be included within a particular passage. I think it beneficial to remind us that as we begin to understand more and more how to grow in our faith, we would begin with the Word of God.
As we approach Scripture, we should ask the simple question of “What does it say?” This step focuses our attention at “looking at the forest not the trees”… getting the big picture. at first.
This is the foundation for Bible Study. We should spend a significant amount of time seeking to connect with the Holy Spirit’s intent through a passage of Scripture. Not reading into a text what we want it to say, but rather discovering what God is communicating through His Word to us.
How do I do that? (I’m so glad you asked!) [Please note: this material has been adapted from multiple sources throughout the years... it is not entirely original]
Let me give you some quick ideas for reading God’s Word that might help…
(most people rush through this but it is absolutely foundational to understanding the Holy Spirit’s intent.)
1. Read broadly.
a. Look for the connectives.
b. Pay attention to context.
c. Evaluate the passage in light of the book as a whole.
d. Look for the big picture or major thoughts of the passage.
2. Read repeatedly. (for me 10-15 times)
What do I look for as I am reading?
1. Notice natural breaks in the passage:
When dividing the passage, look for obvious changes in thought or subject matter. Paragraph breakdowns can sometimes aid in locating divisions in the passage.
2. Notice reasons for and results of:
Look for key words such as because, therefore, in order that, and for. This type of speech indicates to us the motive we should have for doing something or a result we can expect from a certain type of action.
3. Repetition of thoughts and key words:
This type of observation should be made not simply to enumerate the frequency of the repetition, but to help in identifying the issues that are being addressed and how they relate to surrounding issues. Repetition reveals the author’s emphasis.
4. Notice particular types of statements:
Warnings, Commands, Promises, Exhortation, Rhetorical Questions, Etc. Different types of statements help reveal the tone of the passage. Also, they are helpful in understanding how truths should be taken and applied.
5. Notice descriptive words:
Descriptions are usually made up of adjectives, listings of adjectives, or nouns that are used to describe a person, thought, condition, or way of life. Keep a sharp lookout for descriptions because God often uses them when revealing Himself.
6. Notice comparisons and/or contrasts: This type of speech can sometimes be identified by words such as: like & as (comparison), or but & however (contrast). Comparisons help us to understand the similarities between certain things or ideas, while contrasts aid us in seeing distinctions, differences, or opposites.
7. Other: The tone or atmosphere of the passage is very important. What is happening during a conversation or discourse? Is there a pattern or progression?
B. Recording Observations
When recording observations do so using a complete thought or sentence. Make sure your observation is complete and not just the tip of the iceberg (connected to other reasons, descriptions, etc). When this is done it will add significance to your observation. Record your observations in third person.
Incorrect way: Anxious used 5 times.
Correct way: “Five times Jesus commands or teaches against being anxious about earthly things.”
Better way: “Five times Jesus commands or teaches against being anxious about even the necessities of life (food, clothes, drink, tomorrow)
C. The Big Idea
In one phrase or sentence, sum up the author’s main point in the passage. The most effective way to do this is to examine your divisions for a common thread.
The Holy Spirit has given us all the tools we need to understand His Word… we simply need to spend time connecting with His Word!
This is a re-post from my blog in 2009.