Growing your faith is a process. Spiritual growth happens as we learn principles from Bible study, put them into practice, and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us moment by moment in the real-life, day-to-day situations we find ourselves.
God has chosen to communicate to us through His Word, and it is a wonderful privilege to get to know Him through the Bible. God’s Word gives us light, understanding, encouragement, correction, and power over temptation. Yet many of us struggle to understand what we read or know exactly how we should interpret God’s Word. For some, it becomes dry and lifeless, rather than the pursuit of truth and guidance.
Today, I want to inspire you to open the Bible and let the Word of Life speak to your heart.
“Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.”Psalm 119:18, ESV
There are two ways we can approach the Bible:
First, we can go wide by reading it devotionally. What I mean by this is that we read through the whole Bible to get the big picture view. How does it all fit together? What is the overall story that God is communicating to us from Genesis to Revelation?
If you have never read the entire Bible, I highly recommend this approach. Part of interpretation is understanding how a particular passage fits into that metanarrative. For example, Hebrews does not make much sense without the context of the Old Testament sacrificial system.
The GROWTH Bible Study Method
Second, we can go deep by studying the Bible. This is the approach I want to address today. There are many ways to study the Bible and tons of information out there. What I want to share today is a practical approach to Bible study that anyone can do.
I call it the GROWTH Bible study method, just to make it easy to remember. But these are widely-known principles taught by biblical scholars.
GROWTH stands for Gather, Read, Observe, Wait, Think, and Hold.
In this first step, gather as much background information as possible on the book of the Bible you are studying. The historical and cultural context is essential for sound interpretation. A good study Bible will have this information in the introduction to the book. (Here’s one I recommend.)
Ask the following questions:
- Who wrote it?
- What do you know about the author?
- To whom were they writing?
- What were the historical events and time period surrounding it?
- What was the author’s purpose to the original audience?
- What was their culture like?
- What is the genre (category) of the book (historical narrative, prophecy, poetry, letter)?
- What do you know about this particular genre?
- Where does this book fit into the overall message of the Bible?
Read the book straight through from beginning to end without marking or taking notes. Try reading it in several different translations if possible. The NIV and the ESV are good translations for Bible study.
Take note of key words, repeated words or phrases, and any lists or comparisons. Write down any questions you have. At this stage, you just want to ask, “What does it say?” You are looking for the plain meaning of the passage in its context. Try not to approach the Word with preconceived ideas about what the passage says but with fresh eyes to observe it in its own time and culture.
Don’t try to find all the answers to your questions yet. Don’t look at study notes or consult commentaries or cross-references. Just sit prayerfully with the text itself and take it in.
Now you want to seek to understand what the text means. What did the author intend to communicate to the original audience in their original context? What is the difference between them and you today? What are the similarities? What principle can you find that is not bound by time or culture and is consistent with the rest of Scripture?
Your study Bible will include cross-references for consideration, usually found at the bottom of the page or in the middle of two columns of text. There are other passages in the Bible that give further information related to the passage you are studying.
Always let Scripture interpret Scripture. For instance, if you are unsure about the meaning of a verse, consider the other related verses before reaching a conclusion. Then summarize the passage in your own words, taking note of how the passage fits into the metanarrative of Creation, the Fall, Redemption, and Restoration).
Ask the following questions:
- What does this tell me about God and His character?
- What does this tell me about people in general?
Last, you want to hold to God’s truths for your life through application. Ask the following questions:
- Is there a truth I need to apply?
- A sin I need to confess?
- A promise to believe?
- A command to follow?
- How does it apply to the church in general?
- How does God want me to respond?
- What practical steps can I take to apply what I have learned?
Going through these steps will help you read the Bible in its historical-cultural and literary context, which is essential for sound interpretation and application.
Bible Study for Life
I pray that you find delight in God and His Word as you study its meaning and apply it to your life.
“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”Psalm 119:103, ESV
Want a guide to take you through this interpretive process? Get Seek Him Daily: A 40-Day Journal for Spiritual Growth, available now on Amazon.
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