“How to Study God's Word”Categories: hermeneutics, study
What methods should you follow when examining God’s word? How should you read it to get the most out of it, and how should you read it to truly understand what God’s actual intent is?
Much has been said and written on this subject, but I’d like to share some simple, practical pointers. Perhaps the following suggestions will ring true with you and help you in your discovery of the most blessed of all Books.
Read the Bible as You Would Other Books
The Bible is different from all other books because it comprises words not only written by men but also directed by the Holy Spirit. Thus, we understand it to be God-breathed: “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Tim. 3.16). “No prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1.20-21).
However, God communicates to us through men and uses methods of communication which are common to man. There is nothing mystical about reading His word; anyone may understand it. As Jesus told the Father, “You have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children” (Luke 10.21).
God has always communicated to man in the common language of man, so we do not need special university training before we can understand it.
Seek to Understand What the Author Was Saying to His Audience
If you started to read something by Aristotle or Shakespeare, you would know the man had written in a completely different time and culture. He uses words in a different way than you are used to. How will you understand him? You will need to study the man’s writings and perhaps other literature from his era to get a good feel for how he thinks and communicates.
It’s also helpful to understand the author’s audience. Was he writing to a friend, a foe, the public? Was he attempting to persuade, reprimand, instruct? Who received his work, and how would they have read it? This takes work, but it helps greatly to understand the whole communication.
Every author writes to be understood. Despite current trends in how to read books, the message of the book is not up to the reader. If you misunderstand what an author has to say, you have not rightly interpreted the book. No, everyone cannot have his own valid interpretation. We do the author a disservice and treat his work with contempt and ingratitude if we do not really attempt to pick up what he’s put down. That’s how I hope you are reading my article right now.
Find Instruction for Your Present Walk with God
The last step of solid study is application. The author is teaching something or relaying some message to his original audience. How does it connect and apply to me? Is there anything useful? When dealing with the word of God, there is always something useful because God’s word is living and active and deep beyond measure. For instance, once we understand what Paul was saying to the Colossian brethren, we can then ask, “Does God intend for me to follow this rule or this principle today? If so, how should this be worked out in my day?” It was addressed to specific Christians, but God preserved it for the future church to own and in some way follow.
Follow these three main steps in your Bible study:
- Observe: Read the Bible as you would other books
- Interpret: Seek to understand what the author was saying to his audience
- Apply: Find instruction for your present walk with God
God bless you as you plumb the depths of His sweet and powerful Book.