Many Christians devote hours to reading and studying the Bible. However, they often leave these studies with more questions than answers. There are ways to approach bible study that will help you gain more understanding of God's Word and form a closer relationship with Him.
1. Read for Comprehension
There are ways to read the Bible so that you grasp a full meaning. The Bible is the only way to know what God's plans are for you and the world, so it's important to grasp this message with all of its nuances. Here are a few tips for improving your understanding of God's Word.
Look for context. Words alone can have multiple different meanings, so it is important to understand how they fit into the greater narrative. Focus on terms rather than individual words.
Pay attention to grammar and sentence structure. You have probably noticed that the Bible is divided into paragraphs, which each deal with a separate thought.
Look for a main idea. Words and phrases that are repeated often are more significant and usually hint at the main idea behind that paragraph. For example, 'love' is mentioned nine times in the thirteen verses of 1 Corinthians 13.
Note relationships between phrases. For example, Matthew 25:21 shows a cause and its effect: "Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things." Similarly, 2 Chronicles 7:14 describes a result of one's choices with an if/then statement. "If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land."
Find answers to your questions. Psalms 24:8 asks "Who is the King of glory?" and immediately answers "The Lord strong and mighty." Similarly Matthew 5:21 compares worldly wisdom to God's own words: "You have heard that it was said… but I say to you…”
Learn about different literary forms used in the Bible. There are three main literary forms found in Scripture: discourse as seen in the epistles, poetry as seen in the Psalms, and prose as seen in Old Testament and other history sections.
Note the mood. Each passage has a specific tone that should be taken into account. It's important to consider what the author was feeling and why they wrote the words in question.
Ask the four W's: who, what, where, and when. Knowing these essential facts about each verse is invaluable background. Who is involved in this verse? What is happening? Where is this occurring? When was this written?
2. Begin Forming an Interpretation
Once you have used your best comprehension skills to understand the passage in question thoroughly, you can form an interpretation. Interpretation is discovering the meaning of a passage, both in general and in your life. There are five clues, which are often called the five C's, which can guide you.
Context. Reading a verse in context means seeing the verse as it relates to the verses before and after it, as well as the other verses in that paragraph and chapter.
Cross-reference. There are many times when a confusing word or verse is used elsewhere in Scripture. While this is not always significant, it sometimes can help show a greater meaning or new interpretation.
Consultation. There are many commentaries and books about different issues within the Bible. These can help immensely with understanding a passage.
Cultural cues. The Bible was written in a different time, place, and culture. Understanding this cultural context can help to shed light on difficult verses.
Conclusion. Once you have considered these four issues, you can combine them and come to a conclusion about what the text truly means. In many cases, you can even find two or more different interpretations.
3. Apply This to Your Own Life
Application is the ultimate goal of Bible study. You can use the Word of God to be closer to God, obedient of His commands, more Christ-like, and wiser in making decisions. However, application is often the most difficult step in Bible study. Here are a few things to consider as you try to apply God's word to your own life.
How does this verse affect my relationship with God?
How does this verse affect my life and my decisions?
How can I use this information in my relationships with others?
How can I use this truth in responding to Satan and temptation?
These questions should help you to become applying your Bible studies to your life. As you try to do this, God will bless your studies and give you more wisdom. While God rewards those who attempt to learn His word, Bible studies are also their own reward. Remember many Christians have dedicated their lives to translating the Bible and many have lost their lives making sure the Bible was translated into English — never forget that and be grateful for having access to one.
Cary Byrd is the founder of ChristiansLikeMe.net, a free Christian social network that is dedicated to connecting people to Jesus Christ and others. He is also the president of eDrugSearch.com, a free price comparison engine for prescription drugs that helps consumers to get safe access to affordable medications.