- Word study– use your Strong’s to discover the original meaning of the word in question. How does that differ with current usage? Does that affect your understanding of the Scripture? Where else is this word used? What does this teach you?
- Topical– find the references in Strong’s to this topic and write down all the related passages. Don’t forget to look up synonyms or other forms of the word/ phrase you’re studying. Write down the verses in a notebook/ journal and include your thoughts on what new you’ve learned, how this is different from your previous understanding, or how you’re going to change to more faithfully live.
- Deep reading– study through a book from beginning to end, don’t just read it. One easy way to do this is highlight key words. You can select key words for just that book, chapter or for the Bible as a whole. For example, a key word in the fourth chapter of John’s first letter is “love.” Highlight all forms of that word and you’ll be able to look back and see a definite emphasis. In the book of Acts, “Jesus” and “the name of Jesus” are key words. In the whole Bible, “heart,” “love,” “promise,” and “word of God” are examples of key words to highlight. Also, look up words in Strong’s that you may not understand or that could mean different things. Consult commentaries or Bible dictionaries for explanations of customs and daily life for the time-period you’re studying– this could greatly help your understanding of a passage. For example, learning about the use of walls around cities in ancient times may help you understand or appreciate better the account of the destruction of Jericho.
- Bible marking– taught to me by Kathy Pollard, this is a way to keep a chain reference of Scriptures in your Bible. This will be especially helpful for times when you will be studying with others on a certain topic. two examples she gave me are: can a person with a “sinful past” receive the salvation of God, and “Why” did Jesus die?
- Comparison study– is a very interesting study. One example is to compare the letters of John to what he wrote in his Gospel account. You’ll begin to see repeated phrases and concepts learned from Jesus. Compare the events of Paul’s life as read in Acts with his letters. What happened in Philippi and who did he meet there? Then compare that information to what he wrote to them in Philippians. Compare Ephesians and Colossians– what do they have in common? Compare 2 Peter with Jude– what do they have in common? Compare Kings and Chronicles– where do they overlap? What more can we learn about an event or person by looking at both books?
Essentials to remember when studying
- Speaker– God records the words of sinful men in His Bible. We must be careful to know who the speaker in the passage we’re reading is. For example, in the Old Testament, false prophets are sometimes quoted before a true and inspired prophet will speak. In the book of Job, large passages are quotes from his friends. Not paying attention to the speaker can lead to great misunderstandings.
- Background– what is the social context of what is happening? What events or conversations led up to the discussion or events in the passage in question? Jesus’ comments to the adulterous woman make sense when you know how she was found and dragged to Him and the motives behind those who put her there (John 8). Also, part of that background is the law she had broken from Leviticus 20:10. What part of that law were those men ignoring?
- Setting– where and when is the scripture set? Who are the people involved? In what time period are the events taking place?
- Context– all of these are elements of “context.” The context of a passage is essential to your understanding. For example, when Jesus told the thief on the cross that he would be in Paradise, the context tells us that this was likely a repentant man speaking to the Son of God who had power to forgive sins– still under the Old Law. Out of context, it is a passage that is used by people who believe that baptism is not the way to receive forgiveness of sins. In Matthew 6:19, Jesus warns us not to store up treasures on earth. Right? No; to look at the full context carried out into the next verse we see that He is merely emphasizing the importance of spiritual treasure over earthly treasure.
Finally, read your Bible, pray every day and you’ll grow, grow, grow!
By Sandi Smith
Sandi was raised a preacher’s kid in Illinois. She now homeschools her four children in Fort Worth, TX with her husband of 18 years, Joe. Sandi loves teaching ladies’ Bible classes, and is a regular instructor for the Preacher Wives ProgramWives’ Program at the Brown Trail School of Preaching.