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How I Study the Bible

May 8, 2024 | Riley Weaver

Meeno Simons was born in the Netherlands in 1496. He grew up on a dairy farm but in his twenties became a Catholic priest. Surprisingly, he accomplished this without ever opening a Bible. Why? He was worried it would confuse him. Thankfully, Simons eventually opened the Bible and studied it deeply. This changed his life and led him to become a radical Protestant preacher. [1]

This true story may sound ridiculous to us, but I believe that many of us have similar feelings to Simons. What keeps us from reading our Bibles? There are difficult and confusing things in the Bible. The Bible also confronts our sin and makes us uncomfortable.  Some of us simply do not like to read. These are just a few of the many things that can hold us back. 

If you asked ten people how to study the Bible, you would get eleven different answers. Thankfully, there is not an equation for Bible study. It’s not one size fits all. My number one piece of advice on studying the Bible is finding what works best for you. Do whatever makes you most likely to open your Bible.

I have studied the Bible in many ways in different seasons of my life. I have read through the Bible in a year. (To do this, you can follow a Bible reading plan or simply read three Old Testament chapters and one New Testament chapter per day.) I have used Bible study books. At times when I just was not interested in reading, I listened to a Bible audiobook while driving. I have summarized portions of the Bible in my own words. I have memorized chapters and verses from the Bible.

If you were to ask me my favorite way to study the Bible, I would say topical studies. This method takes more time, but I learn the most from it and simply enjoy it.

 Here is what I do: I choose a topic. This could be something I am interested in or a question that I have. This could be something I am struggling with. After choosing the topic, I choose which part of the Bible to study that topic in. For instance, I could choose to investigate what the whole Bible has to say about angels (its less than you might think) or what the Gospels have to say about money.

Last year, I did a study on prayer in the Gospels. I wanted to know what prayer meant to Jesus. Here are some of the key things that I learned:

  • Jesus was constantly surrounded by people, but he was intentional about getting away to pray. Mark 1:35 says, “Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” Luke 5:16 says, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
  • Location was important to Jesus when he prayed. Luke 6:12 and 9:28 tell us that Jesus often went to mountains to pray.
  • Jesus did not pray for lost people. Instead, he prayed that his followers would be faithful. In Matthew 9:37-38, Jesus says, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” In John 17:20-21, Jesus prays, “I pray also for those who will believe in me through [the apostles’] message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me." 

Another type of topical study you can do is a character study. It is important to remember that the Bible is a work of literature and therefore, it’s important to see how characters develop throughout the stories.

When I was in college, I did a character study in the Gospel of Matthew. In this Gospel, there are three main groups of characters: the disciples, the Jewish religious leaders (like the Pharisees) and the crowds. Each of these groups totally misses who Jesus is. The disciples--the people closest to Jesus--never really understand him. The Jewish religious leaders--the people who are supposed to understand the will of God--are the ones responsible for killing Jesus, and the crowds turn on him before he is crucified. However, there are two people, a Roman centurion (Matthew 8:5-13) and a Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:21-28), who Jesus says have “great faith.” These Gentiles, the people that were least likely to understand Jesus by the world’s standards, were the ones who had the greatest faith. There’s a lot that we can learn from that.

If you want to try a topical study, I recommend starting small. Choose one topic in one book of the Bible; for example, prayer or baptism would be good studies in Acts. If you want to study a character, read through the life of David. His life is a warning of how power corrupts, among other things. Or you could study Barnabas in the New Testament--he’s an excellent example of how be a mentor.

 Here's one more tip: use You can read through the Bible on this website and you can also quickly search through books or even the whole Bible by searching key words.

Once again, study the Bible in the way that works best for you. Challenge yourself occasionally to try a different way of studying or reading. As you explore different methods, I hope you learn more about and ultimately deepen your relationship with God.



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