A study Bible that has maps, time lines, concordance and cross-references is really useful. It’s helpful also to gradually build up a collection of reference books, such as a Bible dictionary, concordance, commentaries, etc, etc! There are many, many helpful books available.
Keeping a journal
Many people find it valuable to record in a notebook what they discover as they read the Bible. It’s a great way to review what you have been learning.
Meditating on the Bible
Meditating on the Bible is quite different from the common idea of ‘meditation’ that is often used these days. It is, rather, is a combination of reviewing, repeating, reflecting, thinking about, and applying God’s word to your life. There are many helps to meditate on God’s word, but a particularly helpful approach is:
- Take time to read a verse or a passage over and over until you understand it.
- Begin to memorize all or part of it.
- Listen – allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you through God’s word.
- Consider how it fits with the rest of the Bible and life in general.
- Think through what God is expressing through his word.
- Move onto application. Consider how the truth and power of the word of God should affect your behaviour.
Memorizing verses or passages
Psalm 119:11 says “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Memorization is a great habit to get into to make God’s word part of your life.
Reading systematically through the Bible
Reading through the Bible as a whole is a great experience. Some people appreciate a flexible approach – perhaps reading a couple of chapters from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament each day; others prefer to simply read through the Bible from start to finish. By reading 3 to 4 chapters a day, the Bible can be read in a year. Some people prefer to take longer, and so read less at a time. An alternative is to get hold of the Bible on CD and listen to it being read to you.
Studying a book
Look up details of the author, date and circumstances of writing. Read the book carefully, and then write an outline that shows the flow of the main points that are made in each chapter. This way you’ll get a ‘skeleton’ of what is being taught. Trace through particular themes (for example in John’s gospel, read through the book and underline references to ‘life’, ‘light’ or ‘truth’.)
Studying a passage
The following is a helpful approach if you want to study a passage in greater depth:
- Write down where the passage fits into the whole book
- Summarise the overriding message of the passage
- Write down what each verse says
- Check out other parts of the Bible which also teach on this point.
- Ask “what do I need to do about what I have learnt?”
Doing a word study
- Choose your word. (e.g. hope, wisdom, truth)
- Write down the dictionary definition and the definition of the original word (from a concordance or a word study book.)
- Check out where this word occurs in the Bible. Use your concordance again.
- Read through these verses and record insights you get from how the word is used in different contexts.
- Ask God to show you what you need to do as a result of this study.
- Find a verse that sums up the word’s meaning and memorize it.
Studying a Bible person
e.g. Daniel, Mary
- Select the person you want to study.
- Make a list of all the references about that person.
- Make a chronological outline.
- Identify some character qualities.
- What did this person discover about God?
- Summarize the main lesson(s) from the person’s life.
- Apply this to your own life.
(With thanks to Testwood Baptist Church, from which this article has been largely taken)