What Bible study method do you use? Do you feel confident when you open your Bible or a bit unsure? You can approach God’s Word with confidence that you can understand it and with anticipation knowing God will teach you something about Himself.
Although there are numerous good systems for studying Scripture, all of the correct ways will have one goal in common – to discover what God originally meant when He wrote it and how He wants to apply His truths to an individual’s life today. There are infinite ways God may apply a passage to our lives, but only ONE original meaning. The simple inductive Bible study method I share below is essentially what I do every day when I open my Bible, whether I have a few minutes or a big chunk of time. (See also “Only Have 15 Minutes for a Quiet Time?”)
There are some general guidelines to keep in mind in order to properly understand any passage. For instance, we must recognize the biblical genre and the context of the passage. And, to keep the proper perspective, we must always keep in mind that God’s Word is first and foremost about God. (For more info, see “Are You Reading the Bible All Wrong?”)
The 4 R Bible study method is a basic way to dig a little deeper into any biblical passage. Although they can enhance your study, you don’t need extra tools or resources. All you need is your Bible and a humble, teachable attitude. The “R” repetition makes it easy to remember! You can literally take it anywhere! (Click here to get a printable PDF of the 4 R Bible study method.)
My “Deep Rooted” devotional book series is formatted around the 4 R Bible study method. Find out more about “Deep Rooted: Growing through the Gospel of Mark” or “Deep Rooted: Growing through the Book of Acts.”
4 R Bible Study Method
- Have a plan– A reading plan will help with consistency and context, cutting down on frustration with your daily time with God. It’s always easier to begin reading if you know where you’ll be reading when you open your Bible. (I have several free Bible reading plans right here on my site. Check out the Free Resources page! And… If you’d like some structure, encouragement and accountability in your daily Bible reading, check out my Facebook group, “Reading the Bible Together.”)
- Read prayerfully– Before you begin, ask God to teach you. Ask Him to open your mind and heart to not only understand what you’re reading, but also to be willing to apply His truth to your life. Keep praying while you read! Ask God questions about what you’re reading. He wants you to understand.
- Read multiple times– God’s Word is packed with wonderful things. It’s easy to miss details and even deep spiritual truth with just one reading. Choose a Bible reading plan that has daily readings manageable enough to give you time to read the passage two or three times.
- Read in different translations – If you have time, reading in different translations will also increase understanding. (Also see “Why are there so many Bible Translations?” and “3 Steps to Help You Choose a New Bible.”)
2. RECORD (Observation step)
Please don’t ask what the Scripture “means to you.” (Major pet peeve by the way…) Every Scripture passage in the Bible has ONE meaning – what God meant when the Scripture was first written. Our goal in this step is to carefully observe the text and record what we find. To see what the passage says. (Side note: Before you begin observing, make sure you understand the context of the passage. If you aren’t sure what this mean, check out this post: “4 Things to Consider for Biblical Context.”)
Things to Record
Although you may not find every one of the following in every passage, here are some things you should look for in each passage:
- Truths about God– The Bible is first and foremost a book about God. He is everywhere – in every passage, on every page. It may be blatant or subtle, but He will be there. Looks for truths about His nature, His character, His ways, and His purposes.
- Key Words & Phrases– Repetition in God’s Word is not accidental. If you see words and phrases repeated, take note. God is trying to point to something important.
- Important facts – Mark any facts you see in the passage that will help you understand what’s happening. Things like people, places, numbers can be key to comprehension.
- Commands – The Bible is full of commands. Some are one-time commands for specific individuals at a specific time. Others are for all God’s people for all time. For instance, “love one another” is applicable to us today!
- Spiritual principles– There will be a lot of overlap here with “truths about God.” However, eternal spiritual principles impact our daily lives. For instance, Psalm 1 teaches that those who meditate constantly on God’s Word will thrive spiritually and live fruitful lives for God’s Kingdom.
- Contrasts, comparisons, & word picture – All these literary devices shed light on the spiritual truths in the passage. Therefore, making a list or a table could help your comprehension.
(See “10 Observation Tips“ for a longer list!) Depending on your preference, you can mark these in your Bible, takes notes in a journal, or record them in some other way. I use a journaling Bible with an extra-wide, lined journaling column. I make study notes there and I use a highlighting system to help me observe the passage. (For more on my highlighting method see “Bible Highlighting for More Effective Study.”)
3. REFLECT (Interpretation step)
Although God’s Word has endless application, there is just one meaning. Look back over your recorded observations to help you recognize and understand God’s original meaning of the passage. (In some Bible study methods, this step is referred to as “interpretation.”) As you reflect on your observations, also consider how things like the context, literary genre, and the main story of the Bible impacts the meaning. (For more help see “4 Tips to Help You Understand the Bible.“)
4. RESPOND (Application step)
Knowledge of God’s Word is never the end game. Application that leads to spiritual transformation is always our goal. So, once we’ve read and understood, let’s ask God to show us how to apply these truths to our lives. The acronym PROBE can help us apply these truths to our lives:
- Prayer – Is there something in the passage I can pray for myself or others?
- Repentance – Is there a sin or area of disobedience I need to confess and turned away from?
- Obedience – Is there an action I need to take or a decision I need to make?
- Believe – Is there something I need to believe about God?
- Express – Is there a praise or thanksgiving I need to voice to God?
What’s your favorite way to study the Bible?