4 Basic Steps for Studying the Bible

Trillia Newbell
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Are you new to studying the Bible? Here are a few tips to help you get started. (These steps apply to studying any part of the Bible.)

Step #1: Read the Passage Straight Through in One Sitting

The Bible is the inspired Word of God (1 Cor. 2:12–13, 2 Tim. 3:16–17), but it is also a book! Therefore, I encourage you to begin your study of any part of the Bible by simply reading it that way—like a book. Feel free to write down certain themes you see, repeated words, and key terms, but don’t get bogged down in the details at first.

Step #2: Clarify the Context

Have you ever walked up to some friends talking or overheard a conversation that seemed off or even inappropriate? I have. Once I walked up to a conversation already in progress and heard a woman say she had thrown a cat out of a window. I was confused and upset. But I quickly discovered that in context her statement made sense. She had thrown a stuffed toy out of a window and down to a little girl.

What kind of context are we looking for when it comes to Bible study? For any book or passage, we need to consider:

  • Who wrote it?
  • When was it written?
  • Who was it written for (the audience)?
  • Why was it written (its purpose)?
  • What was going on with God’s people and the world in general when it was written?
  • How does it relate to other parts of God’s Word?

Step #3: Consider What the Passage Says—and What It Means

Once you have done those early steps, it’s time to look for the meaning. What is the actual sense of the text, and what is it saying to you? Often the meaning is clear, but sometimes you may need to reread, ponder, and maybe even look up the words before you have a clear sense of what it is saying.

“The Bible’s message is meant to be lived as well as read, so look closely for what God is telling you through His Word.”

This is a great time for cross-referencing. Cross-referencing, as the name implies, simply means comparing the passage you are studying to other passages in the Bible that can help you under- stand the meaning of the text. Looking at the text surrounding the verse you are reading also helps with both context and interpretation.

I always find it helpful to look for the gospel in the text—how it relates to Jesus and His saving work in the world. (Since the whole of God’s story points to Jesus, you can do this even with Old Testament texts.)

Step #4: Apply the Text to Your Life

The Bible’s message is meant to be lived as well as read, so look closely for what God is telling you through His Word. Sometimes the application will practically leap out on the page. Other times, you might have to live with the text, reflect on it, and pray about it. That’s okay. The more time you spend in the Word, relying on the Holy Spirit, the more you’ll find yourself turning to it for guidance.

For Further Reading:

If God Is for Us

by Trillia Newbell

What would change if you really understood all that God has done and is doing for you? Sure we know in our head that God is for us, that...

book cover for If God Is for Us