How To:

Learn more about how to study the Bible

A few years ago at a conference, I heard Jen Wilkin say the following and it forever changed the way I look at Bible study:

“We cannot be content being curators of other people’s opinions about a book we can’t be bothered to read ourselves.”

Jen Wilkin

I realized my entire Christian life I had been a librarian, curating other people’s thoughts and beliefs and study findings and not digging in for myself. That’s when I began learning to study for myself, relying on the promise Jesus gave in his final meal with his disciples:

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

John 14:26

I began learning to study what’s called “inductively” – which is really a fancy word for study Scripture with my own mind and heart first, trusting the Holy Spirit to guide me.

I’ve learned that good Bible Study is rooted in asking the right questions of Scripture, so the plan I use has four simple questions.

As my passion to study God’s Word grew, so did my passion to help other women do the same. Below you’ll find video from the previous How To: Workshops plus a downloadable guide.

Video 1 – How To: Study the Bible

This video covers: The Why, The Method, The Key, and the Four Basic Questions to ask during Bible Study.

Video 2 – How To: What Does This Say?

This video covers the first question in Bible Study: What does this say? It’s important to set the right lens with context and summary before we can move on to understanding what a passage means.

Video 3 – How To: What Does This Say About God?

This is second question I ask during Bible study, and it’s perhaps been the most transformational aspect of my study time. We often come with a self-centered approach to Scripture, But the Bible is a book about God, not us. And His character is written on every page. In this How To: Workshop, Erin Warren unfolds why it’s important to ask this question, how we can shift to a God-centered perspective when studying, and how to apply God’s character in truth.

The Plan

Start with Context:

It’s important to remember that while the Bible was written for us and is applicable to our lives today (Hebrews 4:12), we were not the original audience. It is a book not written in modern America, but in the ancient Middle East. If we do not first answer some key questions to understand the context, we cannot properly understand the passage and its intent. This will help set the lens through which we will study. When I begin studying a book of the Bible, there are a few questions I typically ask. This helps me to understand the context.

  • Who wrote the book?
  • What do you know about the author and his background?
  • When was it written?
  • To whom was it written?
  • Which genre is this book?
  • What is going on in history during this time?

Four Simple Questions:

I realized that one of my downfalls when attempting to read and study the Bible for myself was that I didn’t know which questions to ask. Many of the methods I tried were either too open or too rigid. Asking four simple questions provided just the right amount of structure and flexibility that I needed. I want to release you from thinking this has to look a certain way – it doesn’t. Basically: Are you showing up? Are you changing? Are you connected? Does that make you want to keep showing up? If you answer yes to all of these, then you’re on the right track! Here is a brief overview of each question:

1. What does this say?

Before we can interpret scripture, we need to know what’s going on in the passage. Some methods would call this “Observation” or the “Aim of the Passage”. 

  • Write a 1-2 sentence summary of what the passage is about – no interpretation, just the facts.
  • Answer the questions: Who? What? Where? When?
  • Are there any repeated words or phrases? 
  • Are there any transitional words (therefore, so, but, and, etc.)?

2. What does this say about God?

This to me has been the most transformative question to ask during Bible study. This book is not about us; it’s about God. His character and name are written on every page. Before we can understand our response, we must know Who He is.

  • What characteristics of God do I see in this passage?
  • What names of God? (His names speak to His character)
  • I include Jesus in this as well: What does this passage tell us about Jesus?
  • Each chapter, complete the sentence “Because God ________ , I can ________.”

3. What does this mean?

PRAY. PRAY. PRAY. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in this. Using context, the summary and other observations you have made, begin to be a detective. Remember the lens through which you are looking. Yes, this takes work, but it’s worth doing!

  • Read the passage in multiple translations. What differences do you see?
  • Use Scripture to interpret Scripture: What other passages in Scripture are related to this one? (These are called cross references)
  • Look up words in the English dictionary.
  • Read a trusted commentary or study Bible.
  • Research the original language (remember, the Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek).
  • Use different color pens to keep track of your thoughts, different commentaries, original language, etc.

4. What should I do in response?

Our Bible Study should change us. John 17:17 says “Sanctify them in truth; your word is truth.” Sanctify is a big churchy word that means to purify or to make holy. It’s the act of separating ourselves from the actions of our flesh and dedicating more of our lives and actions to God. God’s Word has a purpose in our lives (Isaiah 55:10-11) and we shouldn’t stop at knowing its meaning. Instead, we should respond:

  • Is there an action you need to take?
  • A conversation you need to have?
  • A moment of worship? 
  • Something you should let go? 
  • A Word you need to carry with you and meditate on?
  • Write out a prayer.
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