Studying the Bible is one of the Eight Relationships with the Word of God that every believer should develop. There are various approaches to Bible study including devotional, topical or doctrinal, word studies, and character studies and others. My personal favorite and the subject of this article is the “expository” (some call it textual) approach. In a way includes all of the above. It is my contention that each individual book was inspired of God as a unit to be studied in its setting and then compared with other passages. The depth of one's study may be determined by one's own time and resource limitations but everyone can be involved in this type of study. Through the years I have had the opportunity to read books, articles and have conversations with others that have help me with my own Bible studies. I am grateful for what others have taught me and for the opportunity to share some of it with you. The “Success” Bible Study Method uses a memory technique that briefly outlines the elements of study. It will aid you in having a fulfilling Bible Study experience. You can keep it close by your side until it becomes second nature. It is drawn from the experience of many Bible teachers and students. Here is the “Success” method:
Shape of the Passage. This is a natural outline that grows out of reading a particular passage many times. I recommend that you read the passage at least seven times. If it is a large passage try to determine the paragraph breakdowns and divide the passage up. “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.” Psalm 12:6. Once you have done this try to outline its natural structure.
Example: Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the man
that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly,
nor standeth in the way of sinners,
nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
1. Here we see key words, like blessed, counsel, way, seat, scornful. Define each. (Word studies)
2. Next we see progressive actions: Walk, Stand, Sit
3. Then we see negative companions: ungodly, sinners, scornful
Uplifting Thoughts. Is the passage speaking to your heart? Someone has said, “If the passage does not speak to you, beware of speaking to others about it.” God have given His Spirit to guide us into truth. “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth:” John 16:13. Pray for God to teach you. This is the purpose of devotion.
Example: Psalm 1:1 “Blessedness, i.e. happiness and prosperity (definition from our earlier word studies) comes to the person who avoids negative influences.”
Context and Comparison. In this part read the entire chapter and/or surrounding paragraphs to get a feeling for the overall picture of what is happening in relation to a verse. In addition, compare other passages from other parts of the Bible. [A good cross-reference Bible is indispensable in this matter along with a Bible Concordance like the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (available in book form or through websites like the blueletterbible.org that I recommend.)] There is no better thing to interpret the Bible than the Bible itself. “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” 1 Corinthians 2:13.
Example: We look at other verses for other things that bring us blessings. “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” Psalm 32:1
Central Idea of the Text. We learn in school that every paragraph should have a central idea. This is true in the Bible as well. With this study method we do not want to superimpose an idea on the text but let the Bible speak for itself. The apostle Paul dealt with this problem in 2 Corinthians 4:2 when he said, “But (we) have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.”
Example: I can remember hearing a teacher teach on a particular subject, read a verse of scripture, and then basically say, “This proves...!” When I read the passage for myself I noted immediately that the teacher was saying one thing and the passage another. This is known as a “proof text.” It is an attempt to support an idea by reading a passage that seems to teach a particular truth, but doesn't. 1 Corinthians 15:52 “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” From this passage we can say, “The resurrection of the dead will be instantaneous, at the sound of the last trumpet and the dead will be incorruptible.” We can not say that this passage teaches that we will be raised before the tribulation, will be in the heavens for seven years and then return for the thousand year reign. Those facts may be true but this passage does not teach them. “Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” Proverbs 30:6. “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.” Deuteronomy 4:2.
Examples to Follow. As disciples of Christ we are given the stories of Scripture to aid us in following the good example of those who have lived before us and refusing to live bad examples. “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” Romans 15:4. “Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.” Romans 12:9.
Example: “Even those men that did bring up the evil report upon the land, died by the plague before the LORD. But Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of the men that went to search the land, lived still.” Numbers 14:37-38.
Sins to Avoid or Confess. Sin is present in all of us. As we read the scriptures we should come before God in genuine confession and cleansing every time the Spirit reveals our need. God delights in using clean vessels. “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work.” 2 Timothy 2:19, 21. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9.
Example: “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.” Ezekiel 16:49-50. These sins listed were present in Sodom and are sometimes present in us. It is a call to confession and cleansing. Let us not neglect to keep a clear conscience.
Strategies for Action. We should never approach the study of God's word without the express purpose of living His Word. “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” James 1:22. “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:20-21.
Example: “For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem.” Romans 15:26. Many a great ministry opportunity has been presented by such passages and we do well to plan strategies to carry out these with the power of the Spirit. “Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea:” Acts 11:29.
Next time you study the scriptures I encourage you to take the steps outlined here and see what God would have you learn. Make notes and after studying the passage be careful to share what you have learned with others. Hopefully this method of Bible Study will be a blessing to you.
O Magnify the LORD with me!