Principles of Bible Study
by Bobby Bruno 3/29/2014 / Bible Studies
Using the principles of effective, inductive bible study gives us the tools we need to not only understand exactly what scripture is telling us, but also to apply the lessons we learn while gleaning the scriptures for the truth they contain from God's own heart. The principles I will be talking about give us a step by step process to follow so that we may know what God has in His heart to tell us about Himself, ourselves, and the world around us. These six principles are taken from "Life Changing Bible Study" (2009) written by Matt Friedeman and Lisa Friedeman Ausley.
The first step in effective, inductive bible study is to begin with having a good talk with God (pg. 21). There is no better way to begin a conversation than by speaking. God wants us to know Him, but God will wait for us to initiate the conversation. God wants us to speak freely to Him about everything, especially when we are going to study His Word, for only He knows the true meaning of every word He had written down by men He trusted to do the job right, men full of the Holy Spirit. We begin this conversation through heart-felt prayer to make the connection between God and us complete. Now, with His help, we can begin to understand the scriptures before us. In my time of prayer before studying God's word, I ask Him for His wisdom to understand clearly what He wants me to know about the section of scripture I am focusing on. With wisdom, I also ask for the discernment to understand what the author is saying in his time and language of the culture of his day. When I pray, I find that I see what God sees, and it excites me to know the mind of God for that moment.
The next step is to get the big picture (pg. 22). When we focus on just one verse of scripture, we tend to lose the meaning of what God is trying to convey to us. I once heard it said that you cannot just open the Bible to a verse and understand its meaning without looking at the verses around it. There is a joke that tells of someone opening up the Bible to the verse that says "And then Judas hung himself," and then proceeded to another verse that said "Go and do likewise." Taken out of context, these verses are deadly. But, taken in context, they speak of a troubled soul whose guilt cost him his life. By getting the big picture, we can guarantee that we have the whole story in context, and then can make a rational decision on what God is trying to tell us it means. The books of the Bible were written as whole parts. Paul's writings weren't written over years, they were written in one sitting because he had a message to give to those he was trying to reach with the Gospel. If you read the end of a novel just to see who committed the crime, you will not learn whether the criminal did it out of pure evil, or if there were other circumstances involved in making him do what he is accused of doing, such as love, compassion, or any other emotion that may show that the criminal was acting out of a sincere heart. Read the entire book or section to get the complete picture and background behind why the words were written for those who were intended to hear it.
Another principle to follow is to read it in the Bible first before you trust a man to tell you what the Bible says (pg. 23). We have to remember that man is not trustworthy when it comes the things of God. We did not create the universe or ourselves, so how can we know how best to take care of ourselves? We have to remember that not everything that is written about Christianity or the Bible was written by actual, true, born-again believers, who have given Jesus Christ their lives. There are many books written by those who say they know God, but do not. I once read a book called "The Good Book" by an author named Peter Gomes. At first the book did very well in discussing the Bible as the Word of God. But, as I read more, I began to sense in his words that something about him was a little off. When I got to the middle of the book, Mr. Gomes announced that he was, in fact, a homosexual man, which explained some of what I was reading. I have nothing against homosexuals, just their lifestyle, but God says that homosexuality is an abomination, so how can Mr.Gomes write about the Bile as if he knows God, since he was still active in his culture? Man can too easily distort the Word of God: that is why we have so many denominations and groups that say they have cornered the market on knowing the real god of the universe. Only God can give us the wisdom to understand His own words to us.
This next principle can be called No Slang Permitted (pg. 24). In the world of Bible translation, we have two concepts: the way of the truth, or the way of the para-truth. The way of truth is a Bible that has been translated directly from the language it was originally written in in the Bible's case, historically, these are Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. How can we rightly discern the Word of God unless we have it from the languages God Himself ordained them to be written in? Direct translations are translated word for word from the original languages. Paraphrased bibles are translated in a thought for thought mode where each translated scripture is not based on the idea of what the scripture is saying, but on what the translator believes it is saying. In his book "Dictionary of Hermeneutics," James D. Hernando tells us that "The challenge of paraphrasing is to retain the sense the author intended in words that are understood by the contemporary reader" (pg. 31). Only direct translations can give us the whole meaning of the original authors intended, both spiritually and culturally. The only paraphrase that I like to use from time to time is The Message, because I just like to see scripture in the language that I speak today.
In our Bible study time we must be willing to work hard so that we don't miss out on anything God wants to tell us through His Word (pg. 24). We must be willing to glean every ounce of meaning and application out of everything we study. We can't just read a portion of the Bible and think that we have all the answers and meanings. From time to time, we must go to other helps to help us understand what the author of the scripture wanted us to realize, such as a topical bible, a concordance, or a volume on biblical word study. Today, there are numerous web-sites that you can utilize that will help you find the true meaning of every word in the Bible. But, as stated above, go to God first and then use these tools as a way to increase your understanding of the Bible. I have two Bible software programs that I use in my study. These contain all I need to rightly divide the Word of God, so that I can apply His principles to my life, and then show others how to do so, too.
Then, finally, when it comes to studying the Bible, there is no end in sight (pg. 25). Inductive Bible study is not the only way to study your Bible. There are many books on how to study your Bible that go into other principles that help you glean every meaning out of God's Word. But, first and foremost, we must rely on God Himself to help us on our way. He will guide you to other sources that He knows will edify and encourage you to know that the meaning you get from scripture is His meaning. Trust God to see you through every word of the Bible and you will them know the mind of God in all His wisdom and ways.
Friedeman M., Friedeman Ausley L. (2009). Life changing bible study. Wilmore, KY: Francis Asbury Press.
Hernando, J. D. (2005). Dictionary of hermeneutics. Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House.
Bobby Bruno was saved 15 years ago in a way that left him no doubt that Jesus wanted him to reach others with His great and abounding love. He started writing at the age of 12 and hasn't stopped since. He achieved Associates Degree in Biblical Studies from Ohio Christian University in early 2014.