This blog post is a continuation of the series discussing the excellent guidance for Bible study in the September/October 2019 issue of Bible Study Magazine. The first article is “One Precept at a Time” by Kay Arthur. While my synopsis is no substitute for reading her complete article, let me present the substance of her material. I will add some of my thoughts.
Kay says that she uses the inductive Bible study method because we are to live on every word that comes from the mouth of God per Deuteronomy 32:47 (ESV):
47 For it is no empty word for you, but your very life, and by this word you shall live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.”
God’s Word is everything we need to live per 2 Peter 1:3 (ESV):
3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,
She also points out that every believer can become a Bible student because of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, who is our teacher and our helper. I agree. So many believers sell themselves short, or in reality, they sell God short, when they say they can’t study. Or that they are not cut out for Bible study. While some folks have specific disabilities that inhibit some kinds of study, most do not. The truth of the matter is that people do what they want to do.
A summary of the way she studies the Bible is by the following steps.
First, begin Bible study with prayer. Through prayer, ask God to direct you to the book He wants you to study and for help to understand what it says. In my opinion, this is vital. Using what Pastor David Mathis wrote in his article “Four Prayers before Bible Reading” (desiringgod.org website), in my posts on July 19, 22, 24 and 29, 2019, I expanded on what to pray before encountering the Bible.
Second, the Bible student must read the book, either through or at least to the extent that he or she can determine the genre. Is it narrative, prophesy, or another kind of genre? The genre of a book helps with the interpretation of the text. The last article in this Bible Study Magazine series entitled “What Kind of Passage Is It?” sets out useful guidance for different genres.
Third, in reading the book, the student ought to look for repetition of words and phrases. She suggests the student should mark each repetition in some distinctive fashion (e.g., color, symbol. etc.) to make it easier to locate. Distinctive marking helps the student understand the structure of the book. The student must also be aware of the main characters, events, and time-related phrases that reveal sequences and the like. In my view, one’s Bible should not remain unmarked. A marked-up Bible shows that the owner has studied, digested, and ingested God’s Word. A marked-up Bible is a sign of a Bible student. One ought not to treat their Bible like they will re-gift it.
Fourth, to slow down one’s reading and to better understand the text, the student should ask the “5 W’s and an H” questions of the text: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? By asking and answering the 5W-H questions, the student can gain insight into what the text says. To read a complete book, one should take it chapter-by-chapter. For me, one of the best outcomes of using the Precept Bible study method is that I slowed down. Let me say that again; I slowed down. Too often, people want to speed through reading the Bible, and by doing so, miss much of what it says and teaches. S-L-O-W D-O-W-N!!!
Fifth, when words occur that may have a deeper meaning in the original languages, the student should consult word study resources. The article refers to the Logos Bible Software materials. I use Logos 8, and the materials to study the original languages are superb. If you do not have access to Logos materials, there are many free sources on the internet.
Sixth, because Scripture is the best commentary on Scripture, the student needs to cross-reference the text. It is valuable to learn what the same author says elsewhere or what other authors say about the same topic. Keep in mind that it is the same Holy Spirit that inspired all of Scripture. The Precept Inductive Study Bible (NASB95 translation) is a great Bible for cross-referencing.
Seventh, once the student has exhausted these steps, which comprises the “observation” step of the inductive method, he or she should try to determine the author’s original intended meaning to his original intended audience. In my view, this step is where it is vital to keep in mind the historical context. The student must remember that the author was not writing to an audience in the 21st Century, but at a specific point in history and to a particular audience. We must avoid at all costs reading and interpreting the text through our western 21st Century Christian eyes.
Eighth, once the student has determined the authorial intent, he or she should try to develop life applications. Kay writes:
I’ve always said that inductive study is not complete until I make application to my life.
Once a student identifies an application, then it is incumbent to APPLY those to their life. It is much easier to identify applications, and much more difficult to apply them to one’s life.
Ninth, after identifying life applications, the student should examine what others have done with the same text. One should consult commentaries because no one’s interpretation is infallible. She makes a valid point when she writes [emphasis in the original]:
While I observe Scripture alone, I don’t try to interpret it alone. I discover truth for myself, but not by myself.
It is beyond the scope of this blog post to address specific commentaries. The commentaries in the Logos Bible Software library are excellent.
Finally, she makes a great observation that ought to apply to each of us no matter our age or situation:
That is why at age 85 I am still going. Ecclesiastes tells us there is no retirement, no discharge, in the time of war (8:8). Knowing and studying his word prepares me for the front lines!
For your information, Ecclesiastes 8:8 (ESV) reads:
8 No man has power to retain the spirit, or power over the day of death. There is no discharge from war, nor will wickedness deliver those who are given to it.
We are in a battle, and we can never submit to a life of collecting seashells and playing softball.
Her article is a great read, and I suggest it to you. In the next blog post, I will discuss Peter Krol’s article “Receiving God’s Message for Us.”
Please send me any comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or use the comments feature of the blog.
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I am mindful of and respect the rights of other authors and/or publishers possess in their works. I thus try my best to not violate any copyright rights other authors and/or publishers possess in their works. The below copyright permission statement is the result of my best efforts to understand that limited usage or “fair use” is available and/or to secure direct permission for specific works. Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version) copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. Brief quotations from Kay Arthur’s article are considered to be “fair use.”