How to Study the Bible More Effectively 

The secret of knowing how to study the Bible is no secret at all.  God tells me and you, “Do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is”  (Eph. 5.17).  Through the inspiration of the apostle Paul, a young preacher named Timothy is instructed to be diligent to present yourself approved of God rightly dividing the word of truth”  (2 Tim. 2.15).  It takes diligence to go to the Bible and seek out the will of God. 

     The Bible can be divided up into two categories. 

  • The milk of the word refers to those principles and ideas which are fundamental and fairly easy to grasp.  
  • The meat of the word or solid food refers to those principles and ideas which require a more mature level of knowledge.  

You learn from Hebrews 5 that you need to grow in knowledge and maturity rather than being stagnant in my understanding of the Bible.  Notice what the Hebrew writer says...

Hebrews 5.12-14:  “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.  For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.  But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil."


Do you want to know what the Bible says, but you don't know how to study the Bible?  With the right approach and the right tools, you can find the true meaning of a passage and what the passage means in your life.  



Suggestion #1 on How to Study the Bible
Be Inquisitive

There are a variety of ways that you can study the Bible.  One of the most popular ways of studying the Bible is by doing an inductive Bible study.  Whatever Bible study methods you choose to use, you need to approach your study with a specific mindset.


How to Study the Bible in Five Simple Steps

  1. Set time aside everyday to quietly read your Bible.  The best way to study the Bible is to start familiarizing yourself with it.  Personally, I use The Daily Bible by F. Lagard Smith.  The NIV Bible is organized chronologically and is divided up by date.  It usually takes me about 10-15 minutes to read for that day.  
  2. Do a word study.  Knowing the definitions of words, noting verb tenses (past, present, future), observing transitional words such as "therefore" will go a long way in making sense of a passage.
  3. Think about the context.  Why did the writer say what he said?  What is the overall subject being discussed?  Is the author writing to a specific group of individuals such as wives, husbands, parents?  Are you reading a verse that is right in the middle of a paragraph?  Looking at the flow of thought is important in getting a sense of the verse or chapter meaning.
  4. Meditate on the text.  It is easy to read the text to get the gist.  Don't just skim the page.  Read a little bit and then set the Bible down and think about what you just read.  Ask yourself, "How does this impact my life?"  "How can I invite these thoughts into my marriage, the way I conduct business, the way I treat my friends?  Meditate on the text and make it personal  (Ps. 1.2).  
  5. Pray.  James tells us that "if anyone lacks wisdom, let him ask God who gives to all liberally and without reproach"  (James 1.5).  Before you sit down with the Bible, take time to ask God to guide your studies.  Pray for wisdom that you will know how to not only understand, but apply what you learn to your life.  



In Acts 17, we find a group of individuals living in the city of Berea who serve as an example to us of how to study the Bible.  From the example of these noble Bereans, you will find three principles that will help you know how to study the Bible.  


The Bereans were Inquisitive

Acts 17.11:  These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.

Don’t miss what these Bereans did.  It doesn’t say that they rejected the word.  It doesn’t say that they rejected the word because it did not coincide with what they were raised to believe.  It does not say that they interpreted the word through the filter of their preconceived ideas.  It says that they received the word.

Regardless of your religious background, or level of your spirituality, you need to receive the word.  You need to sit down with the Bible and allow it to direct your thoughts, what you are to believe, and what you are to do.  How  you study the Bible and come to understand what it says should not be based on the way you have been raised, or what you have been taught.  How you study the Bible should be with a willingness to dismiss preconceived idea and just accept what the Bible says. 

The word “readiness” is translated from the Greek word “prothumos.”  Literally, the word means, “to breath hard towards.”  These Bereans received the word, and they did so with a mindset.  They received the word having a passion for what God says. 

That’s how you study the Bible.  You approach the Bible with a passion for wanting to know what God is saying.  

  • As you take the time to read your Bible every morning or evening, have a notepad and pen or pencil.  Write down questions or thoughts as they come to mind.  When you have the time, take those thoughts and do an in depth study.
  • If you engage in a Bible discussion with someone, make notes on what is discussed, scriptures that are used, so you can go home and dig into the Bible more deeply.
  • Circle key words or phrases.  You might come across something that might provoke a thought and send you in a direction of study.   Write it down for further study later.


What Can Help You Be More Inquisitive

Let's take what the Bereans did and apply to us.  How can you be more inquisitive?  By having a passion for what God says, and by receiving it, inviting the message into my life.  Here are some suggestions...

  • Open your Bible at the beginning of the week and have a pad of paper and a pencil, and write down the questions that come to your mind as you read.  Then when you are done, take those questions and begin a detailed search to answer those questions.
  • If you engage in a Bible discussion with someone, make notes on what is discussed, scriptures that are used, so you can go home and dig into the Bible more deeply.
  • Circle key words or phrases.  You might come across something that might provoke a thought and send you in a direction of study.   Write it down for further study later.

That’s how to study the Bible with a readiness of mind.  It is only when we are studying the Bible with a passion for knowing what God has to say that we will be able to grow in the knowledge of Christ, which is what we are commanded to do.  (2 Pet. 3.18) 


Suggestion #2 on How to Study the Bible
Use Study Aids

Acts 17.11:  "These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so."

In the original language, the word “search” is translated from the Greek word “anakrino.”  When you study that word closely, you have a word that literally means to “investigate up”. 

Have you ever lost your keys and you search the house, and after a while you say, “I have searched high and low”?  That’s the idea here.  It means to search thoroughly, leaving no stone unturned, looking in every nook and cranny.

That’s what these Bereans did.  These Bereans took the things that Paul said, took those thoughts to the Bible, and with an inquiring mindset because they had a passion for knowing what God said, they thoroughly searched the scriptures leaving no stone unturned and looking in every nook and cranny of the Bible to see if they were being told the truth. 

They searched the Scriptures.  How do you study the Bible?  You study the Bible!  There’s a novel idea!  If you want to know what God has to say, you go to His word.  Learn how to study the Bible and engage in an investigation of the Bible.

To help you know how to study the Bible, take advantage of the many Bible study helps that are available.  These aids will make searching the scriptures much easier.

Five "Must-Have" Bible Study Aids

  1. Commentaries:  These are books (often collection of books) that will break down the verses and tell you what they believe the writer means.
  2. Lexicons:  There are a variety of different Bible Lexicons (dictionaries) that will define the words as they were understood in the original language of the Bible.
  3. Concordance:  This is quite a useful tool.  If you look up the word "love" (for example), it will tell you all the verses where the word "love" is found in the Bible.
  4. Study Bible:  Study Bibles are a great all-in-one resource.  They will contain along with the Bible text, an explanation of the text, various notes, cross-references, dictionary, maps, along with other things.  Each study Bible is different and does not have comprehensive information.  But it is a good place to get a quick overview.
  5. Parallel Bible:  A parallel Bible is a Bible that has several different versions side by side.  This will help you get a sense of the text by seeing how different versions of the Bible translate it.     

There is so much technology available today that makes studying the Bible so much easier and faster.  Today, you can get a computer program, enter in a word as a search term and it will show you all the different places that word is found in the Bible.

If you are willing to invest in Bible study software, there are hundreds of resources available at your fingertips.  There are three programs that I highly recommend.  

  1. E-Sword.  This is a program that you can download and use for free.  It has many useful features and can be a great help in studying the Bible.
  2. PC Study Bible.  This is the program that I have used for the past two decades.  The program has some incredible, in-depth tools such as concordance, commentaries, dictionary, and the Bible is several different version.  It has really helped take my study to the next level.
  3. Logos Bible Software.  I recently switched from PC Study Bible to Logos software.  I can look up a passage, and it immediately puts at my disposal the ability to do an exegetical study, a word study of both the English and original language, a passage study showing me cross references, important places, people, topics, and other information.  And this is just on the surface.  So far, it is the best Bible study software I have found.  

Sometimes it will be said, “I think”, or “I believe”, or “my take on the passage is”.  What you and I think about the Bible is irrelevant.  We need to search the scriptures.  Look at a passage, look at the meaning of the words, put the passage in its context, and follow the line of thought in the passage. 

I’m afraid that much of how to study the Bible is not really studying the Bible.  It is opinion study.  It is an exercise in searching out what others think the Bible says.

It is exciting when you know how to study the Bible, because you will actually be studying the Bible.  I went to a Bible class that another congregation was offering, and I sat there for an hour listening to the teacher and the students exchange their opinions.  Not one time did they ever crack open their Bibles.

These Bereans did not go around asking what everyone thought about what Paul said.  They searched the scriptures, and not just what somebody said about the scriptures.  (2 Tim. 3.16,17)




Suggestion #3 on How to Study the Bible
Don't be Afraid to Come to Conclusions

Acts 17.12:  "Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men."

This is very important, because we live in a time where society shuns the idea of absolute truth.  If there are conclusions to be drawn, some suggest that they are personal conclusions only.  They will say “for me, this mean…” 

You need to learn how to study the Bible with a passion for what God says, rather than settling on a personal opinion.  

This is a society which boldly proclaims, "I have the right to my opinion."  It is a society where you have your truth, and I have my truth, and my conclusions do not necessarily constitute the truth for anyone else except myself.  You have your belief system, and I have mine, and nobody has the right to impose their belief system on anyone else.  That is the way the world looks at it.

The Bereans did not do this.  They came to solid conclusions.  They inquisitively and thoroughly compared what Paul said with what the Bible said.   After they did so, the very next verse (Acts 17.12 above) begins with “Therefore”.  That’s a conclusion.

As a result of knowing how to study the Bible, they came to a conclusion, and that conclusion led them to believe.

When these Bereans were presented with the gospel, with an insatiable thirst for what God says, they thoroughly investigated the scriptures.  When they found from their study that Paul was speaking the truth, they said, "we need to do something."  They accepted the facts, trusted in the facts, and obeyed the commands.  In other words, they believed.

That’s how to study the Bible.

  • You need to have a hunger and thirst for righteousness  (Matt. 5.6).
  • To satisfy that hunger and thirst, you turn to the word of God  (Ps. 119.172).
  • You learn what He says.  You learn what He offers.  You learn what He requires.  And you humbly submit to doing what the Bible says you need to do.



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