For many people, it is best not to try to do serious Bible study during every quiet time. They do better setting aside regular blocks of time for study–for example, 2-3 hours Sunday afternoon and 1-2 hours some evening. On the other hand, some can do a little each day, and are able to stop in the middle of something and continue later. If you are like this, then study daily. The key is to make steady headway in Scripture over the course of the year.
Use a standard version of the Bible (translated by a team of Bible scholars) with good paragraphing. The RSV is excellent for both these reasons; the old American Standard Version is helpful as well. The New American Standard Bible is an accurate translation, but is more wooden and is broken up by verses. Avoid studying from versions which are more like a paraphrase because you cannot get at the original text as well. Unfortunately, the NIV sometimes obscures the original text for the sake of “better style.” In Mark 1 the same word “immediately” is translated twice fairly recognizably, 3 times unrecognizably, and twice it is omitted altogether. Thus you simply cannot get at the original text in this instance. Unfortunately, this is true in many other pas-sages. Other versions can be useful as references.
Find someone to study with regularly–to compare notes on your study. God works through us as a body. Together we see more of his truth. And whenever you study Scripture, realize that the Spirit is with you, seeking to lead you into all truth. He knows Scripture and he knows you, and he is more concerned for your growth in Christ than you are.
- Read/skim the book. Note the literary genre. List brief chapter titles. You can adjust “unit” divisions to bet-ter fit the book. For example, the Nicodemus story begins at Jn. 2:23 and goes through 3:21. Units should include multiple paragraphs, You can adjust further as you understand the book better. However, it is fine to use chapters initially.For letters, note a few facts you find about the author and those to whom he’s writing. For narratives, jot down a fact about the main characters and list a few major events. Look for a major turning point. If the book is another kind of literature, list some facts about the situation.
- Write one or two ways this book will help you and ask God to change you in these ways.
Day Two: Book Overview continued
- Read/skim the book to find how it is organized. Is it according to leading persons? Events? Geography? Ideas? What chapters can be most naturally grouped together? On a simple chart show three or four major divisions of the book.
- Give a brief 3 or 4 word title to each major division.
- What is the theme of the book? Write it in a brief sentence on your chart. If there is a theme verse, write it.
- Reflect on your study. What do you see about God? Respond appropriately. (praise, obedience, trust, etc.)
- Make a list of observations on the passage. Make a few observations in each paragraph. Look for people, place, time, situation, atmosphere, and other facts within paragraphs. Note them on a chart. Find connections within para-graphs and draw lines connecting the parts of the connection on your chart of the passage.
- Write down your major impressions of the passage.
- What does this passage emphasize about the Lord? What difference does it make?
DAY FOUR: Passage Study continued
- Choose a short title for each paragraph.
- Find connections between the paragraphs and draw lines connecting the parts on a chart. Look for similarities, repetitions, contrasts, cause and effects, etc. linking the paragraphs. What is the significance or meaning of the major connections? Write your answers on a chart..
- What is the main truth of the passage–the writer’s main point? Integrate your major truths together into one statement.
- Do it! What is the main thing the Lord is saying to me through this passage? Is there a command to obey? An example to follow? What is it exactly? How can I practice it? Is there truth about God to respond to? (His greatness, holiness, love . . . leading to praise, confession, prayer, trust, prostration, etc. Is there a promise I can take for the situation I’m in? What conditions must I fulfill? What does the Lord promise? Memorize it.
Continue working through days 3 and 4 until you finish the book.
Relating the Parts to the Whole Book:
When you finish studying the parts/passages, go back and work through the whole flow of the book.
- How has the author divided the book? You want to understand how the author has structured the book. Adjust where you divided the book in your overview. Write your new divisions on a book structure chart.
- Then look for major connections which tie these sections together. List them on the book structure chart. Look for similarities, repetitions, contrasts, cause and effects, etc. linking the paragraphs. What is the significance or meaning of these major connections? These give you the major teaching of the book. What major truth is each connection teaching? How will you act on these truths?
- What is the main truth of the book? Integrate the major connections together into one theme. Put it into one sentence. Compare it with your initial theme statement. How does it compare with the theme stated in a Bible handbook? Most importantly, how will you integrate this into your life.
Related Bible Study Resource Forms to download and print: