Worship had ended, fellowship had begun. All around the church, families and singles where catching up with one another, laughing, crying, celebrating, praying, asking for prayer, smiling at one another’s kids, caring for one another and being cared for themselves, and one young man turned to me and asked first a question about the Christian life and then, “How do you study the Bible?” So, there it is, the question and the context.
“How Do You Study The Bible”
My answer to this question in different depending on the type of study that I am doing.
I am always moving in the direction of MORE exposure to the big picture, the longer narrative of the Bible. For that reason, in most years, I try to read the Bible through at least once, starting in January and ending in December. There are some years that I have managed to read the Bible twice, sometimes three times. Or the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice in the same year. Most months, in addition, I read the book of Psalms through (generally 5 Psalms a day). I sometimes fall behind but the yearly and monthly goal helps to keep me both on pace and thoroughly immersed in the word of God.
But my friend’s question had a follow up. “What are you studying right now?”
Well, right now I am studying the Gospel of John. My first step in the process is a close reading. By close reading, I mean that I am reading it slowly and marking key words and assigning a summary title to each chapter. For this particular time through I am using The New Inductive Study Bible (NASB). Sometimes it is good to follow the counsel of others that you respect to freshen up your own approach to study. In this case, I am following the counsel of the editors of the Study Bible. They give some suggestions and leave all the discoveries to the student. The images below are from the notes in the The New Inductive Bible. The text of this Bible has zero editor notes, paragraph or chapter titles. All of that discovery is for you the reader and it makes for an excellent (true) study Bible.
So that is my answer for this year.
- I read for the big picture all year.
- I read the psalms and let the prayers of Israel inform all my prayers for all the issues and situations I face in life and ministry.
- And I am reading in the Gospel of John because I want to spend time at Jesus’s feet so that I can learn how to live passionately for and like Him.
- Finally, I will study in other ways in other books during the year but I will always be studying a gospel at least every other month because the life of Christ teaches me how I want to live my life.
A semi-retired guy like me has more time, and as a pastor, I had the time and the needs of my congregations to be long in the word so that I had something to give in their times of need. Most layman probably will not be able to study in the ways that I do but having some goal and plan is good for all of us whether it is as little as 5-15 minutes or as much as two hours.
If it is true (AND IT IS) that “man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4), it is unwise for any of us to attempt life without a daily intake of what we are to be living on.