Simple question to start your week off: How do you study God’s Word? If you are a Christian, I expect you do study the Bible, otherwise your faith is going to grow quite weak. So, my question is not “Do you study the Word,” rather, “How do you study the Word?”
This may not be a simple question after all. But, really, you should have a plan for when you study the Bible. So, maybe the question is simple, but the answer might not be. In fact, there is no exact answer that I am searching for here. I am not asking an objective question like “How do you study the Bible?” (Emphasis on “do”). I am asking a subjective question, “How do you study the Bible?” (Emphasis on “you”). That should make the answer to my question vary from person to person! Yet, there are still a few basics that most people should stick to as they study God’s Word. Here are a few that I can come up with this morning.
The “when” of studying the Bible is always going to be different for each person. One person may have a busy 10 hour day of work that only allows them a few openings in the day to read. So, they might choose to read early in the morning before work, during a coffee break or lunch, or when they finally get home. Another person may have a rather flexible day, which might allow them to set a specific time each day that they will study their Bible or if they are not so organized they may choose a random time each day.
For me, mornings work best. My wife and I are working our way through D.A. Carson’s two-volume devotional series For the Love of God each morning. Both volumes have a Bible reading plan (based on the M’Cheyne Bible reading plan) that will in the course of a year guide the reader through the New Testament once (if just using one volume of the devotional) or twice (if both volumes are used), through the Psalms once or twice depending on if you use both volumes or not, and through the Old Testament once in a year. My wife and I have elected to go through each volume in a year. Last year, we made it through volume one. When we started reading it was almost mid-summer, but we were able to start in Joshua and end the year with 2 Chronicles and in the New Testament we started in Acts and made it through Revelation. This year we picked up in Ezra and again in Acts, but I am sure we will get to the Gospels by the end of the year.
This has been a great opportunity for my wife and me to start our days off “right”. Before we go to work we make sure we are fed with the Word and Carson’s devotional each morning provides interesting conversation starters! I highly recommend it to you!
The “where” of studying will also be different for each person. Some can only study in the darkest recesses of their home while others can study the Word whilst a party of elephants dances around them! Depending on what you do when you study you may prefer a more quiet and calm setting over the distractions that come around too much noise. Either way, there really isn’t a wrong place to study.
For me, I study with my wife at the breakfast table or on the couch before work. When I study alone, I am usually in my office with the door closed and there has to be silence for me to read!
What tools do you use to study? Again, this varies for everybody. Some love to highlight their Bibles while others are afraid they might call forth God’s lightning should they touch sacred Scripture in such a way. Some use a notebook to jot down interesting thoughts while others might write in the margins of their Bible. Some carry around heavy commentaries to look for additional thoughts on confusing passages while others avoid commentaries like the plague. If one has studied the original biblical languages (Hebrew and Greek) they might choose to read the passage first in the original language before relying on the English. Perhaps some will even use two or three English translations to understand the text better if time allows. Again, the list could go on and on with the number of tools available today.
For me, I like to read my ESV first (not the Study Bible), then I try to make as many observations as I can and then move to interpreting the passage through analytical questions. I also love to us Logos Bible Software, which although cost me a pretty penny, has a bounty of additional tools for me to use in my study. I am sure there are other tools I use, but these are at the foundation.
So, how do you study the Bible? I could list more basics to Bible study, but I think these three get to the root of study Scripture in a productive way. Feel free to list some of your “basics” when you study the Bible. Perhaps it will trigger my mind to think of more later!