Learning how to study the Bible effectively can be difficult at best. Let’s be honest, between work, school, kids, cleaning, church, running errands, etc. it seems impossible to fit in a big, complicated Bible study into your daily schedule. I lived with this kind of ideology for a long time (not to mention that I had no clue on how to study the Bible effectively) before God showed me that my Bible study doesn’t have to be big or complicated; there's a whole variety of different Bible study methods out there. In fact, there are several simple Bible studies that are both fun and effective! I’ve compiled a list of effective Bible study methods that will have you engaged with the Word of God and growing in faith every day!
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Studying the Bible VS Reading the Bible
Before diving into our different Bible study methods I want to take a moment to make a distinction between studying the Bible and simply reading the Bible. Reading the Bible is simply that- reading the Bible. Studying the Bible involves getting to really know the passage of scripture; examining the historical and cultural context, understanding what the meaning the author intended, applying this meaning to your daily life, etc. You can read the Bible and never learn a thing. This doesn't mean reading the Bible isn't valuable in the life of a Christian. Sometimes you need to just take some time and be in God's presence- a great way to do that is by reading His Word.
Why Study the Bible?
So, why even study the Bible? Why not just do some simple reading and then let preachers teach us the hard and important stuff?
The Bible Warns Us of False Doctrine
On several occasions the Bible warns of teachers spreading false doctrine.
2 Peter 3:16-18 (CSB) says,
He speaks about these things in all his letters. There are some matters that are hard to understand. The untaught and unstable will twist them to their own destruction, as they also do with the rest of scriptures. Therefore, dear friends, since you know this in advance, be on your guard, so that you are not led away by the error of lawless people and fall from your own stable position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity.”
There are always going to be people who misinterpret scripture accidentally or even purposefully twist scripture so that it means what they want it to mean. The only way you can protect yourself from being deceived by this is by knowing what scripture says for yourself; i.e. studying the Bible.
The Bible is Your Guide to Life
I know it's hard to believe that a book over 2,000 years old is relevant to your life today but it is. I promise you, no matter what you are dealing with in your life at the moment there is scripture that will help you get through it! Are you experiencing a tragedy and wondering why bad things happen? The Bible not only discusses this but how God will also bring good from the bad things that happen to us (Romans 8:28). Wondering how to serve God in your youth? 1 Timothy 4:12 gives step by step instructions on how to do exactly that. Whatever you're facing the Bible has the information you need to get through it.
The Bible Teaches You Who God Is
One of the biggest mistakes we make is thinking the Bible is a book about us; who we are, what we can do, etc. Really, the Bible is a book about God. Every single scripture reveals to us the essence of who God is.
John 1:1 (CSB) says,
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
This scripture shows that knowing the Word is to know God; to know Jesus! You cannot serve and live for someone you don't know and studying the Bible is how you can truly know God!
Now that we have discussed the difference between reading and studying the Bible and understand why we should study the Bible, let's dive into some effective Bible study methods.
Scripture Mapping is a really fun way to engage and learn from the Word of God. #biblestudy Click To Tweet
Effective Bible Study Methods #1: Scripture Mapping
Scripture Mapping is a really fun way to engage and learn from the Word of God. Though it sounds complicated, it's actually pretty simple. The overall idea is to take one or two scriptures and essentially dissect them. This method is really good for those who are wanting to learn how to study the Bible effectively because it's great for breaking down each verse and getting to the original meaning, studying the cultural and historical context, different translations of the same verse, etc. This method is also good for those who like to be more creative in their Bible studies. Most people use a variety of colored pens, markers, highlighters, etc. along with different arrows and shapes to denote each part of the scripture they're analyzing.
While there are several different ways to use the scripture mapping method, most include writing out the verse, highlighting sections or words that stand out to you, defining words you don't know the meaning to, looking up cross-references for the verse you are studying, and reading the verse in a couple different translations.
Effective Bible Study Methods #2: Bible Journaling
While Bible journaling isn't necessarily a new method of Bible study, it has started gaining popularity in the past few years. If you're a beginner to Bible journaling, it's pretty much learning and reflecting on a particular scripture or passage of scripture through painting, coloring, drawing, scrapbooking, and more. You can keep these journal entries in a notebook or there are even Bibles designed specifically for art journaling with wide margins and thicker pages. Don't worry if you aren't the most artistic person out there; Bible journaling is for everyone – even the artistically challenged (like me)!
Bible journaling is one of the different Bible study methods especially helpful if you are a visual learner. I am constantly amazed by the amount of scripture I can remember because my mind has associated the scripture with whatever image I journaled with it. Bible journaling also gives you the opportunity to simply be in God's presence. As I work in my journaling Bible I am able to focus 100% on God (which is a difficult task if you're scatter-brained like me).
Effective Bible Study Methods #3: Inductive Bible Study
The Inductive Bible study method is one of the simple Bible studies that is very rewarding. Essentially, it consists of three parts: observation, interpretation, and application and the goal is to use the actual scripture to learn and grow (inductive learning) rather than approaching scripture with preconceived notions and ideas that impact how/what we learn (deductive learning).
- Inductive Bible Study: Observation – The observation element of inductive Bible study asks what a particular scripture or passage of scripture has to say. This step is so important because people often read with their eyes and not their minds; meaning they don't process what they're reading. Making a list of observations in a separate notebook or even right in the margins of your Bible is a great way to enrich your Bible study and to make what you're reading actually stick!
- Inductive Bible Study: Interpretation – The second step of the inductive Bible study method is interpretation, which builds upon the first step, observation. Interpretation asks, “What does this passage of scripture mean?” which can only be answered accurately if one makes careful observations about what the passage of scripture is saying.
- Inductive Bible Study: Application – The application portion of the inductive Bible study method answers the question of how the particular passage you're studying can be applied to your everyday life. This portion of the inductive study method isn't necessarily the third “step” in the inductive method in the sense that you figure out how to apply it and then you're done. Application is an action; it is an everyday decision to apply the truth you have learned in scripture to your own life. This results in a transformed life and a deeper relationship with Jesus (Romans 12:2).
Effective Bible Study Methods #4: Topical Bible Study
Another one of our different Bible study methods is a topical Bible study. This is one of the effective Bible study methods that help you connect a single concept throughout the entire Bible. For example, if you felt compelled to do a study on love, you could use the concordance in your Bible or do a google search to find a list of scripture that is about love. You could then go through this scriptures one a day, or even one a week, to focus on its meaning and how you can apply it to your life. One of the cool things about this particular Bible study method is that you can use it along with another study method! If I were doing a topical study on courage and my verse for the day was Joshua 1:9, I could use the SOAP study method to analyze and learn from that particular verse.
How do you study the Bible? Check out these 5 effective Bible study methods that make if fun and easy to remember! #biblestudy Click To Tweet
Effective Bible Study Methods #5: Chapter Analysis
This is one of the simple Bible studies that I have grown to love! The chapter analysis Bible study method essentially has you read one book of the Bible at a time one chapter at a time. The beauty of this Bible study method is that it gives you the opportunity to really dig deep in each book of the Bible.
In 2017, I did a Bible reading plan that took me through the entire Bible in a year. I enjoyed this immensely but I didn't realize how much I miss out on until I began the chapter analysis Bible study method in 2018. By focusing on only one chapter each day I was able to really understand the historical/cultural context of each passage, understand what the author was trying to convey, and then take the time to really come up with a strategy to apply the passage of scripture of my life. It may be slow going but it's very rewarding!
Study Your Bible!
Overall, effective Bible study methods do not require you to spend 2+ hours reading scripture, referencing no less than 4 concordances, and a Hebrew-Greek dictionary. Really, all you need is to define the meaning of what you're reading, what the author was intending to say, and figure out how to apply that to your own life!
Have you tried any of these effective Bible study methods? What does your Bible study time look like? We'd love to hear from you! Leave us a comment below and let us know what Bible study methods work best for you.
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