I’ll be honest…
When I came down to South Carolina last year for my first Summer Training Project, I basically had no idea how to study the Bible.
I grew up with Christian parents, I went to church my entire life, and I studied the Bible with my youth group throughout high school.
But when I was alone and I reached for my Bible, I was paralyzed.
Pessimistic thoughts flooded my mind:
“This book is huge.”
“How do I even start this thing? The beginning, right? Or does that matter? Do I just read and read until I get tired, or do I stop at the end of each chapter?”
“What’s the point of the Old Testament if Jesus basically voided out the law anyway?”
“I seriously cannot take another ‘and so-and-so begat so-and-so,’ or read another section on how many ‘cubits’ a tent was. This is boring and pointless.”
“Why do Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all seem to say the same thing? Why didn’t they just condense all the stories that repeat themselves?”
…But I digress.
So these were some of my raw thoughts as I approached the Word of God. I had always felt ashamed to tell people that I didn’t know how to study the Bible – a good Christian girl should know how to do that. It wasn’t until Summer Training Project when someone sat me down and said, “Studying the Bible is incredibly important, so let’s break down how to do that exactly.”
Welcome to Bible Study Training.
Every Wednesday afternoon, we gather together as a Project for Bible Study Training. First, a staff member gives a talk elaborating on some aspect of the Bible. This may be expounding on the fact that the entire Bible, cover to cover, is about Jesus (yes, folks, even before He was born). Another example is clarifying the fact that Bible is ultimate authority and requires that we believe all of it or none of it.
After the talk, we collectively take a look at one of the daily verses on the calendar for that week. Because the book for the summer is Galatians, every Bible Study Training verse we study will be from Galatians.
Although it is certainly not the only way to study the Bible, Campus Outreach has found the inductive method to be very helpful.
The inductive method is comprised of three parts: Observation, Interpretation, and Application.
Let’s break that down.
Observation: What does the verse objectively say? This is where you must check your preferences at the door. Don’t infer what you know, or what you think you know. There are no assumptions during this time. For example, let’s look at John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Observations could include: God loved the world; God had a Son whom he gave; belief directly correlates to eternal life.
After observing what the text says, ask questions! Back to the example: Why did God love the world? Who was the Son? Is believing in him the only way to have eternal life? There is no such thing as a dumb question, especially when you really want to dig into the text.
Interpretation: Now is the time to start bringing in what you know from the rest of the Bible. It’s also time to answer as many of your questions as you can. Example: Who was the Son? We can interpret from other verses (John 10:30, Matthew 3:17, and Matthew 17:5 to name a few) that Jesus was the Son of God.
Application: As we read through the Word of God, and the gospel is rooted deeper and deeper within our hearts, our lives should be changing as well. Application is the opportunity to think of a practical way the text can affect our lives on a daily basis. We attempt to have applications that are M.A.T. – Measurable, Attainable, and Timely. Saying, “My application is that I want to be a better person,” is pretty vague and doesn’t require mulling over and internalizing scripture. It would be more helpful to say, referring back the example, “In light of the fact that God loves the world so much that he sent his only son to die for us, I want to do acts of service today for those around me. Not because I will get brownie points with God, but because I am fully loved by him and want to extend that love to others.”
If you have no idea how to study the Bible, you’re certainly not alone. Don’t give up in frustration or embarrassment or whatever is keeping you from the Word of God. Ask someone! Study with a friend! Try the inductive! But do something, because the Bible is God’s gift to us and through it we get to know more about the Son of Man who rescued us.