How To Effectively Study The Bible

So many translations!  So many books!  So many scriptures!  I know it can be overwhelming, but it can also be great fun.  If the Bible were to be made into a movie, it would be rated MA.  It is violent, sexual, and altogether not family friendly.  So why read it?  Why let our children read it?  I think the answer is simple.  Our kids are going to learn about these things from somewhere, why not let them learn about it from a source that is not condoning of these actions?  In other words; Would you rather have your kids learn about sex via BET or MTV? Or the Holy Bible?  I promise you that the light in which these actions are portrayed will be far nicer in the Word than in the booty shaking, gyrating, debauchery of modern television or movies.

How can we effectively study God’s Holy Word?  I believe there are four key points to discuss when studying the Bible.  As y0u are reading, you will no doubt have questions.  Follow these steps to find the answers.

First, ask yourself, “What does the scripture actually say?”

It is so easy for us to misinterpret due to a lack of attention to detail.  This is called “under-reading”.  It means that we just flippantly skim through the wording and assume we know what it means.  Often we miss key words that are clearly there, but easily overlooked.  Make sure to read the scripture carefully if you have concerns about it’s meaning.  The opposite problem is called “over-reading”.  This is where we impose our own beliefs and pre-conceived ideas about the subject at hand.  In other words, when the Bible tells us that Jesus turned water into wine, many people “over-read” and insert their own wording to somehow twist this idea that the wine was unfermented, thus not potent, or even worse, grape juice.  Don’t misunderstand, I am not condoning drinking.  I am however saying that the Bible clearly informs us that those who were drinking were drunk.

8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

Why would it be customary for one to serve the good wine first?  Simply because once the crowd was drunk off of the good wine, they would be satisfied drinking the junk the rest of the night because they wouldn’t know the difference.  To call this anything but alcoholic wine would be “over-reading”.  (Bare in mind, I am still firmly against drinking of any kind.  Also, remember that I am a sinner who needs forgiveness, – not a hypocrite (read yesterday’s blog if you are confused.) )

So the first way to study is to find out what the Scripture is ACTUALLY saying.

The second point is to ask what the scripture means.  This is important to contextual studying.  Before weighing your own questions against the scripture, discover what the author intended with the passage.  Research the social background and the historical evidence surrounding the scripture.  When Paul commands that no man should have long hair, was that because of a situation in the specific church he was writing to at the time?  Or should that command be taken to heart today?  If so, by that same token, should men and women sit on separate sides of the church?

The third question to ask is, what timeless lessons does the passage teach?  For example; although Paul’s request for the church of Ephesus to pray for him was intended for a specific place in history – it teaches a valuable lesson to all of us to be praying for our Pastors and leaders.

The fourth is, how should I respond to what God has said?  We believe that all scripture is God breathed.  So whatever is being said in the scripture is from God.  How should we respond to it?  Each time the answer will vary.  Sometimes the scripture tells us to repent of sin.  Other’s the command is to obey God.  There are many different things that scripture will reveal to us.  When studying, we must determine the purpose of the scripture in questions and determine how we are to react.

In any case, before questioning the validity of the scripture, or claiming that it contradicts another scripture, take into consideration that you may be over or under-reading, misinterpreting, or missing a key to historical context.  Never base any doctrine off of one religion, yet look for consistency within the texts to solidify your beliefs.



3 Comments Add yours

  1. Dan says:

    Amen. Great post. The only thing I would add is just as important (unless I under read, lol) to correctly studying the Bible, to study without prayer (as Pastor Tom Peters preached on regularly) is fruitless and dangerous. In his words (and it’s been many years since, but part of his message “one without the other will cause you to ‘blow up'”. Also, the internet is a powerful tool. It has it’s benefit’s and dangers. There are web sites with so called theologians who will explain (since in their eye’s we are incapable of learning for ourselves) what the word means. Some will say the Apocalypse has already happened. My question to this is, according to the Bible 1 thousand years of peace will come. Then by looking at history we have not had peace. Peace is not only a warless period. I believe peace also includes, no murder, no rape, ect. In other words mankind living in complete harmony as God intended. To look at history, man has fallen far short of God’s definition of peace. I interpret it as the peace that can only be found in heaven where love and worshiping the Creator exists.

    1. Sounds like you may be over reading the post! Hah. I agree that all studying should be done prayerfully, as with anything we do as Christians. The teaching of prayerful study is almost another subject all together because if everything we do in life isn’t done prayerfully then we are missing the point of our relationship with God. As far as dangerous? I’m not sure I’m willing to walk down that road. I don’t think there is anything dangerous, ever, about reading the Bible. It isn’t a mystic holy book. Its full of truths and general wisdom. The only one who it is dangerous to is the devil (and even then it’s only dangerous to him if it is practically applied to our lives).

      As for internet study. Although I commonly use the internet for reference, consider the early church who properly interpreted and translated it’s words without the internet. I’d say it’s more important to study the bible in small groups than trusting the internet which is so riddled with nonsense (such as your portion regarding the apocalypse having already occurred).

      1. Dan says:

        The word dangerous may have been the wrong word to use in fact I cam’t be sure what word Pastor Peters may have used, (although it may have been dangerous because he used the phrase “you will blow up”). Basically what he was saying (and I was trying, unsuccessfully I guess lol, that to only “read” and not “prayerfully study” what it is you have read can be dangerous) point being the End Time have already occurred and somehow we and history have missed it. The whole problem I have with this “theory” is there are so many prophecies that have not been fulfilled in order for it to have taken place. One of the most important is the rebuilding of Solomon’s Temple and the sacrifice of the blemish free red heffer (sp). These theologians either intentionally disregard these scriptures or because of not taking the time to pray and seek God’s wisdom they’ve (blown up) missed the boat. As Pastor Peters stressed you can’t do one without the other. To simply spend your life in study of the Bible without ever praying about it, or for a better term meditate on what you may not fully understand is “dangerous”. There were times I would read a scripture and not understand and later in the day driving my tow truck on 95 I would think (meditate in the meaning) that scripture. God with His faithfulness would give me the answer. I could have always made an immediate decision on what it meant (as some intellectuals do) and would have been way off base. I guess to put it in simple terms (which I probably could have done without all the previous wording) is do not just read and or study the Bible, pray and meditate (seeking God’s guidance) before coming to manly observations or conclusions of what you have just read. As for me saying (which I’m not sure I did) that the Internet is a dangerous place to seek guidance, let me correct any misunderstanding I may have caused. There are certainly places where you can find sound advice by prayerful Pastors (such as Pastor Peters and Pastor Bryan) who you know spend time in the word and love to pray. But there are also web sites that can be misleading to read and believe. In my case as you know (because of my inability to get across in writing (since I write as I think) can cause a person to read my post and say, WHAT? LOL.

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