Today’s post is a big and important one: How I Study the Bible. Recently, over on my Instagram, I’ve been sharing some of my devotionals. And the response has been incredible! I’m so encouraged that so many of you desire to grow your relationship with God and dive deeper into His Word. Two weeks ago, I shared that my next “topic” on Instagram was going to be a few tips on how to study the Bible instead of only doing devotionals that jump around the entire Bible. Because so many of you were eager to learn more, I decided that content was bigger and longer than just an Instagram post, so I’ve made it into a blog post! This way, I can say everything I need to say on the topic without having to cut it short, and this post can serve as a resource I can point people to in the future!
In this Instagram post, I gave a simple way to “get your feet wet” when it comes to reading the Bible. I know it can be super intimidating knowing where to start and what to do, so I suggested finding a little devotional (I have some recommendations on my Currently Reading page), reading the corresponding verse for the day/chapter, using a study Bible to read the background and purpose of the entire book so you have context for what’s going on, and then reading the entire chapter that the devotion references. So, for example, if the devotional references Ephesians 4:29, you would read all of Ephesians 4 to dive deeper into the Bible and spend more time there.
While that method is useful for getting started with the Bible, it’s not studying the Bible. So today I wanted to share a few nuggets of knowledge I’ve learned, how I study the Bible, and provide you with some very helpful resources. My prayer is that this post would encourage you to spend time in the Word, make reading & studying the Bible less intimidating, and ultimately strengthen your relationship with Jesus!
How to Study the Bible
First, let me just say: I’m not an expert at this, and this list of ideas and resources is not exhaustive. There are SO many resources out there on this topic that are probably way better than mine. But this post is my humble attempt at breaking everything down so that reading your Bible will be doable… like, this week! I’ve also pointed you to other informative articles, videos, and books below in the “Helpful Resources” section if you want to go even deeper.
|| HELPFUL APPROACHES FOR STUDYING THE BIBLE ||
Below, I’ve listed 3 approaches that can help you study the Bible. While there are many, many more approaches out there, these are the ones that I’ve personally found to be the most beneficial. I’ve since combined a few of these to create my own study habits (given in the next section). Although I’ve created my own mismatched version of these, I wanted to give you these approaches in full so that you can make your own decisions and choose what’s best for your learning style!
CIA – comprehension, interpretation, & application || I acquired this method from our previous home church in Texas, The Village Church. They recently put out this “Know Your Bible” video, and it’s been one of the most helpful things I’ve ever listened to on this topic. It’s definitely worth the listen!
For this method, you’re reading for comprehension (What does the Bible say?), interpretation (What was the meaning when it was originally written?), and application (What do I do?). The video goes into much greater depth on these 3 ideas, so I’d highly recommend watching the video for yourself and taking notes.
3 questions to ask while reading: What does it say? What does it mean? How does it apply? || This one’s very similar to the one above, just a different way to remember it. I don’t recall where this approach came from (leave a comment if you do!), but it’s very basic yet extremely applicable. It can be broken down like this:
- What does it say? || What does the text literally say? Read it in your head, read it aloud, write it out. Act as though all you were doing is summarizing, to the best of your ability, what it says without adding any new information or opinions.
- What does it mean? || What did this text mean for the people of that time? What does it mean to us now? How should we be interpreting it? Who is God or Jesus in light of this?
- How does it apply? || How does this text apply to us? How does it apply to our church? Our relationships? Our world?
Tips from John Piper (from How to Go Deeper in Bible Study article on Desiring God) || This article is written to a 13-year-old which I love because that means it’s super simple and to the point. Piper gives a few easy ways to go deeper when studying (check out the article for detailed explanations):
- Read through the entire Bible
- Focus on one unit to go deeper (like a book or a chapter)
- Memorize it or write it out
- Invest in a good study Bible
- Pray! He uses the I.O.U.S. acrostic: Incline my heart to your testimonies, Open my eyes to see wonders in your word, Unite my heart to fear your name, Satisfy me with your steadfast love
|| HOW I PERSONALLY STUDY THE BIBLE ||
Below is the method for how I study the Bible. While there are tons of different methods out there for studying, this is what I’ve found to be most helpful! Also, I’m going to mention “my study Bible” often, so I wanted to let you know that I’m personally using the She Reads Truth Bible.
Plan it into my day || Every night before bed, I plan out a detailed schedule for the next day. And every day, the first thing on my schedule is my time in the Bible. I know everyone’s schedules are different, we’re in different life stages, etc., but if you’re not purposefully setting aside time to study the Bible, it’s simply not going to happen. We don’t just magically find 30-60 minutes of free time in our busy schedules. So it’s crucial that you set aside this time and protect it!
Gather study materials || When I study, I need my study Bible, my journal, a pen, and a highlighter. If I happen to have a commentary on the particular book I’m studying, I’ll grab that as well.
Create a comfortable, distraction-free space || I usually sit down at our dining table, but every so often the couch looks oh-so comfy, so I’ll set up there. As long as I have a space to lay out my items and eventually write (I’ll put a pillow in my lap if I’m on the couch), then I’m good to go. The phrase “distraction-free” are very important as well. For me, this means setting my phone elsewhere on silent, not having the TV on, and only listening to music without words (because I’ll end up listening to the words of the song instead of studying!).
Choose a book of the Bible to get started || Choosing a book can definitely be intimidating, but I have a few ideas for you. An easy place to start is by going through the book that your pastor is preaching on on Sundays. For example, our church recently started a sermon series on the Psalms, so that would be a perfect place for me to start. Not only will it add depth to what you hear on Sundays, but it sets up an opportunity for you to study with other people at your church. A few of my other favorite books to study when you’re first getting started are the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John), 1 John, Acts, Romans, or Psalms.
Pray || I ask God to focus my mind and delight my heart in what I’m about to read, and I ask the Holy Spirit to guide me into truth, convict me of sin, and cause spiritual growth that leads me towards Christ-likeness.
Get the background || If I’m starting a new book, I use my study Bible to go back and read the background, the message and purpose, and review any maps or timelines to get a clear picture of what’s going on in this book before jumping in.
Follow my reading plan || There are tons of different methods for reading, but I use my study Bible’s reading plan for each book. It breaks every book into smaller, easy-to-read sections by week. This allows me to keep a healthy pace without feeling overwhelmed with too much text.
When I read the section for that day (i.e., Matthew 1-2), I read it all the way through without stopping to take notes or highlight. If possible, I also try to read it aloud because it causes me to slow down a bit instead of speed-reading.
Study and take notes || After I’ve read the section all the way through, I go back to the beginning, open up my journal, grab my pen and highlighter, and read it again, taking notes. I listed some fabulous guiding questions in my “Helpful Approaches for Studying the Bible” section above, but I’ve compacted those concepts into my favorites. My studying, questioning, and answering goes as such:
- Who/What/When/Where/Why: Who’s speaking and who’s being spoken to? What’s the subject? What comes before & after this passage? What’s the literary form/structure (narrative, poem, letter, etc)? When is this? Where are they? Why is this passage in the Bible (purpose)?
- What did it mean when it was originally written? Is it literal or figurative? In what ways is this still culturally relevant? What is the timeless principle? If the interpretation is unclear, is there somewhere else in Scripture I can go to give clarity?
- What does this passage say about God’s character? How is Jesus/the cross/the gospel the hero of this passage or chapter?
To break it down practically, I usually take about half a page of my journal for the Who/What/When/Where/Why and another half a page for the interpretation. Along the way, I’ll highlight key verses in my Bible or write notes out in the margins.
Go deeper with corresponding verses || Once again, my study Bible has a “Going Deeper ” section that lists more verses from around the Bible that bring more truth or depth to what I just read. I love reading these verses simply to see how all of Scripture is tied together!
Application/Meditation || The final step in my Bible study time is application or meditation. I say “or” because it’s not always both. There are a few things I’ve learned along the way in regards to application and meditation that I’d love to share:
Application is absolutely important. We’re called to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22). If there’s an opportunity for us to apply something we’ve studied that day, we need to be obedient to that calling and create a plan to apply it. Application of God’s Word is obedience, and our obedience glorifies God and brings us joy. With that in mind, if I’m able to find an application in what I’ve read that day, I use a new page of my journal to reflect on these questions:
- How does this text apply to me? How does it apply to the church? My relationships? The world?
Meditation is also equally as important. While application is good, I’d caution us to remember that the Bible shouldn’t turn into a to-do list of commands where every passage we read is turned into an action we must apply in order to please God. And, side note: For anyone that’s intimidated by the word “meditation”, don’t worry, I was too. It simply means dwelling on God’s Word and preaching it to yourself. So a big part of meditation is memorization – because how can you meditate on something if you don’t even know what it says? When we meditate and reflect on what we’re reading, we get to know the character of God, we better understand His grace, it leads us to worship, and it causes joyful application. And if we know the Word of God well, truth seeps into our souls, captures our thoughts, and spills into our choices and actions.
So, whenever there’s a key passage of Scripture in my Bible study that day, there are a few ways that I meditate/reflect/worship:
- Write out the verse to memorize it
- Restate the verse in a different way
- Write a prayer to God in response to the verse
|| HELPFUL RESOURCES ||
- She Reads Truth Bible (my study Bible)
- ESV Study Bible (Jay’s study Bible that I steal occasionally)
- Women of the Word by Jen Wilken || Y’all – SO GOOD! It addresses the wrong ways we approach Scripture and provides valuable ways to study
- The Village Church’s “Know Your Bible” discussion || Like I mentioned above, this is the best resources I’ve found on the topic so far!
- “How to Read and Study the Bible“, LifeWay
- “How to Study the Bible Effectively“, Cru || Lengthy, but so worth the read!
One of my favorite things about social media is my ability to interact with you! As often as possible, I try to pose a question that’s related to my upcoming blog post so that I can include y’all’s answers in this little “social media responses” section.
So, for this post, I asked my Instagram followers to share any helpful tips they have or that they’ve learned in regards to studying the Bible. Here are a few popular, easy-to-apply answers:
- Four questions as you read: What does this passage reveal about God for which I can thank/praise Him? What does this reveal about my sin and failure that I can confess to God and others? How does Jesus fulfill where I fail, and what does the cross change about my circumstances? How am I empowered to go out and live in light of this text?
- There were tons of journaling ideas! Some of them included: 1) Splitting the paper in half, writing a key verse or section on one half, and writing responses/observations on the other half. 2) Use the journal to write out a key verse from your reading that day to dwell on/memorize. 3) Write out the passage/key verses and observations on the top half of the page, and use the bottom half to write a prayer in response to what you’ve read/written.
- Use My WORDsearch Bible to look up the origins of words and where else it’s used in Scripture.
Thank you guys so much for sharing your tips with me! I hope others will benefit from them too!
If you found my “How I Study the Bible” post informative or encouraging, would you be so kind to pin it to a board on your Pinterest?
Thanks so much for reading my “How I Study the Bible” post! A lot of time, research, and prayer went into it, so I hope it can bless you or encourage you in some way. If you have anything to say – a piece of encouragement, more studying tips, or anything else – I’d love to hear from you in the comments! Happy studying!