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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

How to Study the Bible

How do you study the Bible?
That question can be asked in two different ways depending on the emphasis.

How do you study the Bible?
As in, what's your favorite way to approach study? Do you like chapter and verse by verse study or do you prefer following a Bible study plan like reading through the Bible in a year?


HOW do you study the Bible?
As in, I don't know where to get started. The Bible is overwhelming. I don't even know where to begin.
The last question is really what I wanted to talk about.  Mark and I discussed this a long time because I thought his opinion would be valuable. 

I decided to write this post because I recently had a discussion with a good friend who felt frustrated with Bible study.  Many people want to study the Bible but feel intimidated and they don't know where to start.

Don't be afraid. 

One of my favorite verses reminds me that we can seek all the answers we need in the Bible.

2 Timothy 3: 16-17 (ESV)

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

What a good place to start! 

It's important to understand that the purpose of the Bible, Old Testament and New Testament, is to guide us to Jesus Christ. The Bible explains God's will for our lives and how we can obtain salvation through Jesus Christ.  

Focus of the Old Testament
The Old Testament and old law was written to God's chosen people the Jews (Israelites or Hebrews).  God made several covenants (agreements) with his chosen people in the Old Testament.  There's a pattern in the Old Testament of them sinning and turning away from God, God punishing them and bringing them back to repentance.  The Old Testament is also full of prophecy about the coming Messiah--Jesus Christ.  

Focus of the New Testament
The New Testament focuses on Jesus Christ.  The Gospels explain how Jesus came to Earth as a man and was rejected by the Jews.  Jesus fulfilled the old law but did not set up a kingdom on earth as the Jews expected.  His death, burial and resurrection was the perfect sacrifice allowing all who obey his commands to have forgiveness of sin.  Jesus' followers the disciples preached and taught all of Jesus' commandments.

So with all that said...where should you begin your study.

If I had limited Bible knowledge, then I'd start by reading Genesis and Exodus, which are the first two books in the Old Testament.

If I wanted to start in the New Testament, I'd start with the Gospels or "good news" explaining the life of Jesus. There's one Gospel, but it's told in 4 different ways. We all can learn from the Bible, but keep in mind when studying the gospels that each is geared toward a specific group. Matthew to a Jewish audience; Mark to a non-Jewish, Roman audience; Luke to non-Jews or Gentiles, and John with no specific audience. The Gospel of John reads differently in style than Matthew, Mark or Luke.  I'd probably start with Mark because it's concise and to the point.

After the Gospels, I might move on to Acts. It explains the establishment and history of the early Church, ministry of the apostles, and gives details about the lives of early Christians.

 Many of the books in the New Testament are epistles or letters to specific churches or individuals. There are also letters to specific people or written by specific individuals.  For example,  Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Hebrews, 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus, Philemon, James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1, 2, & 3 John and Jude.  Each letter addresses certain concerns or problems in the church and issues in the lives of Christians.  The letters also praise positive things they are doing and offer encouragement for Christian living.  The letters to the individuals give specific instructions concerning certain topics.  Revelation is a little harder for me to explain because it's prophecy.

If I finished the Gospels and completed reading Acts, I might read Hebrews to better understand the Old Covenant and New Covenant. If you have an understanding of that, then so much more of the Bible makes sense or at least it did for me. If I completed Hebrews, then I'd read James next and then Romans.

Often times people randomly open the Bible and expect to find the answers.  The Bible has everything we need to know, especially for those who are seeking and searching, but it's good to start your study of the Bible thoughtfully and with a purpose rather than just a random approach.  The following list will be helpful when you start your study of the Bible.

Things to keep in mind when studying the Bible.
#1 Consider context
#2 Have a plan
#3 Be dedicated
#4 Use common sense, reasoning and good judgment
#5 Be open to what it says
#6  It's okay to have questions, keep searching the Bible for the answers. 
#7  Remember the Bible doesn't contradict itself so if something is confusing keep studying.  It will make sense.

If you become frustrated, please don't give up.  Continue your study and keep following the suggestions above.  

My email is redbirdblue29 (at) gmail (dot) com if you have any questions, I'd be happy to try to answer them to the best of my understanding. Also you can leave a comment and I can reply back to it.

I hope you are encouraged in your efforts to study and understand the Bible.  

Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart


  1. Well said! I hope many people are encouraged and charged to read their Bibles more because of this!

  2. Nice post, Michele! I especially like your comment that the Bible does not contradict itself. So very true. Sometimes when I come across seemingly 'contradictory' statements that mess with my brain, I decide that if I cannot grasp it (or it causes me too much anger or frustration), that it will all be explained to me, just not on this side of heaven. And further study may expose the answer as well.

  3. I totally appreciate this, it has definitely shade some light for me and has totally encouraged me.

    Thank you.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing. Im encouraged and motivated to start studying my Bible in a more organized way. God Bless you


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