How to Study the Bible for Beginners
Studying the Bible can be intimidating. Part of my job as a pastor is studying the Bible every week so I can teach it to our students and studying it is still intimidating to me. It is difficult reading a book that is set in a different culture, time period, and language other than our own. Studying the Bible is kind of like digging a hole. When you dig a deep hole, it is tough. It takes work and the deeper you go, it can get even harder. But it is all worth it when you find buried treasure. Studying the Bible is digging for treasure when you know it's right beneath you. There’s no guessing about it. When you put in the work to dig, you will find treasure.
But let me tell you what treasure does not mean. Treasure does not mean feeling good for the day. It does not mean getting a little spiritual boost to start the day off right. Treasure is a deeper, fuller, more high-resolution picture of the character of God. Some days it won’t feel good at all. Some days it will be difficult. Other days will be joyful beyond measure. But the point of Bible study is gain a robust picture of who God is so that we can know Him intimately and love him more deeply.
Jen Wilkin, a Bible teacher at the Village Church in Flowermound, Texas, describes attitudes approaching Bible study like a debit card vs a savings account. She says this:
“Think of Bible study as a savings account rather than a debit card. Rather than viewing it as a declining balance you draw on to fill an immediate need, allow it to have a cumulative effect over weeks, months, and years. You may not reach understanding of a passage or be able to apply it well after one day's exposure to it. That's okay. Keep making deposits into your account, trusting that in God's perfect timing he will illuminate the meaning and usefulness of what you've studied, compounding its worth. What if the passage you study today is preparing you for a trial ten years from now? Study faithfully now, trusting that nothing is wasted, whether your study time resolves neatly in thirty minutes or not.”
So are you ready to start digging?
The reason I’m writing this now is that many of you may have extra time during our present quarantine. For some of you there couldn’t be a better time to grow in study of God’s Word! Now more than ever we need to run to His words and not our own.
I’m writing this post for those who currently have not made Bible Study a habit or have never really learned how to do it before. Below, I’d like to provide you with a simple methodology to get you going. Once you have grown in this method, it is an easy transition to dive into the inductive Bible study method. This is something you can look up online or ask me about!
For now, I’d like to show you a method called the Swedish method. I have taken the following method and quote from David Helm’s book, “One-to-one Bible Reading”.
Here are the steps in the method:
2. Light Bulb
3. Question Mark
It is important to start and end with prayer because you must remember this is about a relationship with God! The opening prayer may be as simple as “God, please help me to understand and apply your Word. Amen.” The closing prayer can be praying about what you just read or whatever may be on your heart!
But you may be wondering what steps 2 through 4 are. Here is how Helm describes them:
“A light bulb: anything that shines out in the passage and draws attention; it can be something important, or something that particularly strikes the reader.”
“A question mark: anything that is hard to understand; something that the reader would like to be able to ask the author about.”
“An arrow: anything that applies personally to the reader’s life.”
“The reader” in these quotes is you.
Read the passage. Write down a few light bulbs you see in it. Then, write down a few question marks. Lastly, write down whatever arrows you can find.
This is simple but will help you to begin to study and dwell on the meaning of the text in front of you. You can even get creative and print the section of the scripture and then draw these things right next to where you see them.
I hope this is helpful in starting a habit of life long Bible Study. And I hope this encourages you to abide and dwell in the presence of your Heavenly Father.
I am happy to talk with you about this or answer any questions that you have.