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Tips for Effective Bible Study

Updated on July 30, 2019
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Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. (Psalm 119:105)

Not Studying the Bible

Some people don't like reading and studying the Bible because they do not know how. There are some very simplified rules and guidelines to follow that will not only make studying the Bible easy but fun as well.

Take a look at the guidelines below and see which ones will work for you.

Methods of Bible Study

1. Study the Bible by books. Select a short book to read. There are several books of only one chapter such as Obadiah, Philemon and Jude.

2. Do a character study. There are about 2,930 different people in the Bible. Read everything the Bible has to offer about their lives. Study the background of the characters you are reading about. You will find many interesting things that will surely help you with your Bible study.

3. Do a topical study. One of the best ways to learn about God is to study what God said about a given subject. Examine every reference made about faith, idolatry, repentance, sacrifices, tithes, prayer, praise and other topics.

4. Do a prophecy study. Go through the Bible and see how many prophecies have been fulfilled and those yet to happen.

5. Do a word study. The meaning of a word as you know it today might not be the meaning the author intended at the time of his writing. In order words, you must know what the Bible MEANT before you can understand what it MEANS.

6. Do a study dealing with your particular need. See what the Bible has to say about what you are dealing with. It might be healing, finances, addiction, love, forgiveness, or any other need you are experiencing at the time.

Tips to Help You Understand the Bible

ONE STORY: Remember, the Bible is one story of the Jewish nation. Students of the Bible learn how God was involved in the lives of biblical people such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We travel with them through the exodus into the Promised Land where we learn their laws and the problems they encountered because of their disobedience.

If the Exodus and things relating to the Exodus were taken out of the Bible, there wouldn’t be much Bible left because even the New Testament writings refer to the Exodus a lot.

CUSTOMS: The Bible is loaded with custom after custom and we must understand the custom in order to understand what the writer is telling us.

Psalm 119:105 is a good example of a custom that is easy to understand. The scripture says, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” You might think this is just a good thing to say, but actually, it is based on a custom.

It used to get so hot during the day that most workers began their day early in the morning when it was still dark. Therefore, they tied a lantern around their ankles so they could have their hands free to work. Even so, they could see only one step ahead of them. That’s why the psalmist used the metaphor by saying, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”

NAMES: Did you know that names are important to God? Whenever he changed someone, He gave them a new name. Abram was changed to Abraham, and every time he heard his name it was a reminder that he would become the father of many nations.

Sarah laughed when she was told she would have a son in her old age. Therefore, Isaac’s name means “laughter.”

After Jacob wrestled with God, his name was changed to Israel to remind him of that event.

Moses was so named because he was “drawn out of the water.” So when a name is mentioned in the Bible look closely in that same verse and often you can find the meaning of the name. Check out what Jabez’s name means in 1 Chronicles 4:9.

WORD STUDY: A word in one part of the Bible might mean something else in another part of the Bible. In fact, Paul used the word “elder” in the first part of 1 Timothy 5:17 to mean an overseer in the church, but in the same scripture, he used “elder” to mean older people.

Another good example is the word “stronghold.” Upon first hearing it, you might think it means something that keeps you in bondage. But if you read it in the Old Testament you will see that a stronghold is a place of protection or a hiding place. When David was being chased by Saul, he escaped to a stronghold.

PLACEMENT OF WORDS: Say what the Bible says the way it says it. For example, the Bible says Noah was a just man, but to say Noah was just a man has an entirely different meaning. So do not rearrange words in scriptures.

The specific word given to someone in the Bible might not be a specific word for you. When Joshua entered the Promised Land, God told him to march around the walls seven times and the walls came tumbling down. God told Joshua to do it. That is not a Rhema word for you. God could, but it is unlikely that God would tell you to walk around the walls of Jericho. Joshua did it because that was a specific word for him.

Another example that people use to substantiate their drinking wine is to say that Paul said to drink wine. Yes, he did, but he told Timothy to drink wine for his stomach because the water was bad. So, if you want to drink wine, do it, and you don’t have to try to justify it by saying the Bible told you to do it because it didn’t.

PARADOXES: A paradox is a statement that seems to contradict itself. For instance, the Bible tells us to give that we may receive. It tells us to die in order to live. It tells us to humble ourselves in order to be exalted.

PARABLES: Know that a parable in the Bible is a story to teach a lesson and not a real occurrence. There are three parables in Luke 15. There are many other parables in the Bible; especially in the Gospels.

PROOFTEXT: No scripture stands alone. Look for cross-references to other scriptures. This is called proof-texting. Many Old Testament references are in the New Testament. Jesus quoted Old Testament scriptures and so did Paul.

REPETITIONS: Pay attention when things are repeated such as Paul saying “Rejoice and again I say rejoice.” If something needs to be emphasized, it will be repeated.

COMPLETE SCRIPTURES: Read the passage from the beginning to the end in order to understand the context. So many times people take part of a scripture to fit their needs. For example, they often quote Romans 8:28 as “All things work together.” That is not what the scripture says. It says, “And we know that all things work together to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

People misquote Philippians 3:14 when they say, “I press toward the prize.” That is not what Paul said. He said, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” If you press, know what you are pressing toward according to the scripture.

FIRSTS: Whenever something happens first, it sets the precedence for what continues to happen. For instance, the first miracle of Jesus is recorded in John 2.

The book of Genesis has a lot of firsts since it is the book of beginnings: the first man, the first woman, the first murder, the first sin, and a lot of other firsts. We were first called Christians at Antioch in the book of Acts.

LASTS: Notice several times in the Bible something is recorded as the last time something happened. In the book of Acts, straws were drawn to confirm the disciple to replace Judas. That was the last time drawing straws happened in the Bible.

ONLYS: Remember onlys in the Bible. For example, the only time Jesus stood up after His ascension was when Stephen was stoned and Jesus welcomed him. Acts 7:55 clearly states that “Jesus stood.”

THE TEXT: Read and explain ONLY what you see in the text instead of putting your spin on it. Do not change the wording. For example, John 11:35 says, “Jesus wept.” The meaning is not the same if you say, “Jesus cried” or “Jesus sobbed.”

Jesus wept is the shortest verse in the Bible (John 11:35)
Jesus wept is the shortest verse in the Bible (John 11:35)

One Final Thing

Remember that the Bible is the only book you can read and the author is always present!

If you don’t understand something when you are studying the Bible, ask God to reveal to you those things He wants you to know. And then pray Psalm 119:18 that says, “Open thou mine eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.”


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