175: Three Ways to Study the Bible
Do you long to read the Bible and be able to understand it for yourself without the aid of commentaries or other Bible studies? Do you feel that your quiet time with the Lord could be more meaningful?
If you answered yes to either of these questions, I totally understand. I have had the desire to go deeper into Bible study for several years. It’s one of the reasons I chose to start pursuing a seminary degree last fall. I want to know the Bible inside and out as best as I can.
I would guess, though, that you may not know how to study the Bible to get the most out of it. So, in episode 175, I will share with you three things you can do now to begin diving deeper into God’s Word.
I think I’m safe to say that those of us who call ourselves Christians want to read and know the Bible. But understanding the Bible is not always an easy task.
It is a task, though, that we should strive to take on and improve on as we go through our life. I don’t think we’ll ever know everything there is to know about the Bible in our lifetime. There is just so much to unpack in the Scriptures.
But we can do our part to read it consistently, get to know it, and begin interpreting and applying it to our lives.
Thanks to social media, there is a tendency to rely on single verses shared to base our theology on regarding any given subject. We have to guard against this because often, verses are taken out of context and don’t always necessarily mean what we think they mean on their own.
The Importance of Reading the Bible
Taking seminary classes these last few months has increased my desire to know the Bible better and handle it accurately. One of my professors shared an example of why it’s important to read the Bible as a whole and to understand the overall big picture, as well as how different passages inform other passages.
He said it was like reading any other book or piece of literature. You wouldn’t start in the middle of the book and expect to know what the story was all about or the author’s intent with the book. You could probably figure out a few things, but you would miss some foundational information by not starting at the beginning.
He said the same is true of the Bible. When we jump around from place to place in our reading, we can’t always discern where what we are reading fits in with the whole story of the Bible. So as daunting as this may sound, it is important to read all of the Bible.
Because as he said, and as I’ve shared with you before, the only way to know the Bible is to read the Bible a lot. And we don’t read it just for the sake of knowledge. Yes, we want to know what the Bible says and how it applies to us, and how we live our lives. But the most important result of reading the Bible well is to know God and who he is, and what he has done for us.
Reading the Bible to Know God Better
About 12-15 years ago, I participated in a book study at my church with some other women. We were reading the book by Shaunti Feldhahn called “For Women Only.” This book gives great insight into how we can relate to our husbands better. She shared a lot of information about how men think, how they tend to act in certain situations, and how they express their beliefs. It was very eye-opening, to say the least. By the time I read this book, I had been married for at least 10 years. I wish I had known all of this information sooner because it could have helped me to communicate with my husband better.
She also wrote a book for husbands called “For Men Only.” And this book did the same for men. It gave them insight into the female mind and life to help them communicate better. So I did what any good wife would do. I bought the book for husbands, read it, and highlighted the parts that really resonated with me. And then I gave it to him and said, “If you would just read this book, you would know me so much better and be able to meet my needs and communicate with me better.”
And I kid you not, right after I said that to him, I felt the Lord saying to me, “Jennifer, this is how I feel about you reading the Bible. If you would read it more often, you would find out more about me and how I want you to live your life.” That was an eye-opening experience. Since then, my focus on reading the Bible has been more on getting to know God better rather than trying to figure out what the Bible has to say about me.
Three Ways to Study the Bible
1. Realize You Have the Ability to Read and Understand the Bible.
I think a lot of times, we feel like seminary graduates or people who have studied the Bible for a long time are the only ones who can truly understand the Bible. But that is not the case at all. Yes, the more we read and study it, the more we will understand it. But everyone has to start somewhere. So this first step in going deeper is to pray and tell God your desire to know Him through His Word better and ask Him to help you in this practice.
A verse that speaks to us being able to understand and live out what the Bible says is from James 1:21. It says, “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” This verse tells us that as believers, God has implanted in us his revealed truth. We have the capacity to be able to read and understand what it says. God is not trying to hide the meaning from us.
So take heart if reading and understanding the Bible feels daunting. With the Lord’s help, you can go deeper into God’s Word.
2. Take Advantage of the Resources in a Study Bible.
This is different from using commentaries. Study Bibles have great resources that help you understand who wrote the book, who were they writing to, the book’s main theme, some of the cultural issues of the day, and many other things that will help you frame your reading in the proper context.
While I feel that we can read and understand the Bible without any aids, I do feel there is great value in learning more about each book itself so that you can begin to see why certain issues were talked about and why different commands were given.
3. Read the Whole Bible.
Reading the Bible as a whole is the best way to begin to understand it and apply it. So instead of reading short passages each day from different places in the Bible, I would suggest starting with Genesis, that you make your way through the entire Bible. And I’m not saying do this in one year. This could be a multi-year pursuit. I would also suggest finding a chronological reading plan because it really helps put the events of the Old Testament into perspective. When you read the prophets along with the books that were written at the time they prophesy, you will be better able to understand them.
Also, I want to say that when I’m talking about going deeper into the Bible, I’m not necessarily talking about doing this during your quiet time. You can do that, but it would probably take you longer to do so. I’m not trying to add to your already busy life, but going deeper requires a little more concentration and effort than just reading a devotional. So, find a time that works for you.