Well-Watered Women, Part 3: Study The Word
Today we are in day 3 of our "Well-Watered Women" series on how to study the Bible! In the first day's post on being "In The Word" I shared how I spend time daily in the Scripture as well as a challenge for us to commit the first moments of our days to the Lord. Yesterday's post answered the question "Why The Word?" We unveiled some insecurities we have in coming to the Word of God and pointed to how we are to come to Scripture and how we are to go and take the message into the world. Today, we will talk about different ways we can study the Bible and break down Scripture!
Students Of The Word
Studying the Bible can seem like a daunting task if we come unprepared. Just like any other study in life, we have to work at it. R.C. Sproul pointed out our heart issue in his quote - "We fail in our duty to study God's Word not so much because it is difficult to understand, not so much because it is dull and boring, but because it is work. Our problem is not a lack of intelligence or a lack of passion. Our problem is that we are lazy." Every time I read that my pride hurts a little. Laziness truly is at the core of why I don't spend adequate time in the Word. There are so many things that daily call out for our attention, but only one thing that will last forever. Social media will fade away eventually, but the Bible never will. We must come to the Word of God hungry every single day for His truth. Jesus promised that those who "hunger and thirst for righteousness...shall be satisfied" (Matthew 5:6).
We must be students of the Word. The Bible is the textbook, the Holy Spirit is our teacher, and the subject is Jesus Christ. There is no other study on earth that will change your life. One problem that I have realized in my own life is that my "spiritual stomach" often gets full of the things of this world. It's like eating way too much cotton candy for supper. Will that really fill you up? Nope. It leaves you feeling sick and unsatisfied. When we fill up on the wrong things, every aspect in our life is affected. I noticed this last year when I spent way too much time on social media. In an effort to "encourage" others and gain inspiration through social media and blogs, I filled up my stomach with every other thing and was left disappointed and confused. I lacked vision because I was looking to the wrong sources. We need to retrain ourselves to hunger for what will last and fill us up! We need to feed on the "bread of life" and drink from the "living water" that is only found in Jesus Christ.
A Hearty Spiritual Appetite
Jesus gives us an amazing promise in John 6:35 - "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst." Notice those absolutes? He promises that those who come to Him will not hunger and those who believe in Him will never thirst. Scripture is full of absolutes! God doesn't do things halfway like we do. He doesn't make half-hearted promises and He never lies. (Read Numbers 23:19.) What He says is definite and absolute, therefore, we can read these words of Jesus knowing that when we come to Him, He fully satisfies. However, His promises don't end there! In verses 55-57 He explains even further -
"For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me."
If we don't read this in context, these words can be very confusing. Feed on Jesus' flesh? Drink Jesus' blood? Jesus isn't talking literally in this sense. He is referring to a spiritual feeding and drinking for our souls that are eternal. We must believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that He died on the cross and resurrected from the grave, and that the blood He shed was the final sacrifice that made atonement for you and me. We must feed our souls each day on the Word of God so that we know Jesus.
What is your spiritual appetite? In order for us to crave the things of God, we must put down the "cotton candy" of this world and trade it for the hearty meal of the Word of God that satisfies and sustains. We must taste and see of God's goodness by taking bites of Scripture everyday. In the following lesson, we are going to look at practical ways we can study the Word of God and eat from its satisfying truths!
One Bite At A Time
There are several ways that we can study Scripture each day. I am going to break them down here as well as give examples in a video below. As students of the Bible, we must have a plan and a purpose when we open up the Word. Methods like opening up the Bible and randomly pointing to a verse will never fully highlight the treasures in the Word. (Trust me, I have done this one too many times and ended up in some confusing verses!) When we systematically study God's Word, we see a full picture of the story of redemption.
Studying the Bible one book at a time is a great way to see the entire story of what the author is saying. Just as we saw yesterday, the Bible is not a strand of pearls, but rather a chain that is linked together. Every word is inspired and is profitable to us. Let's say you were going to study the book of Philippians. Here is a list of questions and steps you can take to go in depth about the book:
- Research the background - A lot of Bibles and study Bibles have an "introduction" before each book of the Bible. If yours doesn't, I suggest using Blue Letter Bible, Precept Austin, and Grace To You to find out reliable answers to these questions.
- Who is the author? (The Apostle Paul)
- Who was this book written to? ("To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi" v.1b)
- What is the context? (Paul is writing to the church in Philippi to thank them for a gift he received from the church. He tells them about his sufferings in prison and also expresses great joy that modem and more people were hearing about Christ - even if it was from those teaching the gospel with wrong motives. He challenges the church to live like Jesus and to empty themselves for the sake of the gospel. Click here to find a list of resources.)
- Notice key words - If you are studying a book like Philippians, you can read through the entire book before breaking it down verse-by-verse or by chapter. This will help you see the entire picture of what Paul is preaching.
- What is the main message of the chapter/book? What key words are repeated? I mark and highlight in my Bible. I learned this from looking through my Pawpaw's Bible. As I see words repeated, I circle them. I also circle absolutes like "all", "every", and "never."
- Look for phrases like "if/then," "therefore," and "but" and write down the connections and subjects of these sentences.
- Look for cross references - Usually in the middle section of your Bible you will see small verses written that correlate with the verses in the chapter. These verses show us where this Scripture, theme, or person is mentioned in the Word. Studying these verses will help you see the full picture of the context.
- Understand the meaning of the language - The Bible was not written in English. Because of this, it is good to look at the original meaning of the words.
- For example, the word for "love" in Greek can have 4 different meanings. For us to study which meaning is referenced in Scripture gives us a fuller understanding of what the passage is saying.
- I also love using the Amplified Bible when I study. I use the ESV version for my daily reading but often refer to the Amplified Bible for wording that gives a larger picture of the original language. This brings me to the next point.
- Read other translations of Scripture - The ESV, NASB, and NIV are the closest translations to the original language. However, other versions of the Bible can be referenced to give a fuller understanding of the passage.
- Two I often use are the Amplified Bible and The Message. I do not use The Message as my main reading because it is more of a "thought for thought" translation rather than a literal translation. But I love how it words certain texts!
- You can also the the "Discovery Bible Study" Method when you are studying Scripture. This method goes very in depth and you can read all the variations of how to do this study here. I often use the three main questions when I am reading:
- What does this passage say about God?
- What does this say about man/humanity?
- What does this say about obedience?
Topical Study / Study a Person
You can also study Scripture by topics, such as "grace" or "love," and by person. You can use the same methods above to study, but be sure to not pick verses out of context. Even in studying a person, study their surroundings and the context. Ask God to show you more of who Jesus is through your study.
Chronological Bible Study
It wasn't until later in college that I learned that the Bible was not written chronologically! The Bible is put together by categories of Scripture (we saw this in yesterday's post). I read through the Bible chronologically two years ago and it revolutionized my Bible reading. It helped me see all the events of the Bible in order as well as be able to place minor and major prophets in their right context. You can start this reading plan anytime! I highly recommend using Iva May's Chronological study if you desire to go really deep. She has a blog that has posts for every single day of reading that are incredible!
As we've seen today, the Bible is a wealth of treasure. The more we dig, the more treasure we find. Let's get our hands messy and dig for the treasure that lasts for eternity! You can read a verse a thousand times and still glean new truth from it because the words found in Scripture are "living and active" and they have the power to change us! Below is a video with examples of how to study the Bible as well as a worksheet you can download to use here: Well-Watered Women Handout, LLB Part Two
I would love to hear what you are studying and different methods that you use! Tomorrow we will be sharing different Bible study resources and books we have used and love as a team!