How to study the Bible
Let me share with you three simple questions that can help you better understand Scripture.
Here they are...
Let me give you an example of how this works.
- What does it say? (Observation)
- What does it mean? (Interpretation)
- How does it apply? (Application)
We'll use one verse from Acts 17 as the basis for our example.
When asking and answering these three questions context proves to be critical in gaining an accurate understanding of the passage. So let me help set the context. In the book of Acts, Luke (also the author of the Gospel of Luke) is writing the "rest of the story" regarding the Christian movement. By the time the events of Acts 17 occur nearly twenty years have passed since Jesus' death, resurrection and ascension. The apostle Paul has come on the scene and is functioning as the primary missionary to the Roman world. He has faced a myriad of difficulties both physically and spiritually. He has been released from prison (Acts 16) and is now being forced to leave another city (Thessalonica) because his life is being threatened (again). He arrives in Berea and as is his custom, goes to the Jewish synagogue to teach. Luke tells us, "Now the Bereans were of more noble charcter than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." (Acts 17:11, NIV).
- "Now the Bereans were of more noble charcter than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." (Acts 17:11, NIV)
So, let's now ask and answer these three questions.
1. What does it say?
When we ask this question we are seeking to uncover the FACTS.
Though there are a number of facts in this verse we will focus on just one for our example:
- "the Bereans were of more noble character"
2. What does it mean?
Now let's interpret the fact we have chosen. Again context is critical, it will lead us to understand what Luke is attempting to convey. We know from the context that "the Bereans were of more noble character" than the Thessalonians and the compliment Luke gives is a result of a set of actions the Bereans displayed ("for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day"). Generally speaking, actions are a result of internal character traits that have developed over time. Luke compliments the character he sees in the Bereans. And it is their actions that indicate the type of character they possess.
To answer the question that has been asked (What does it mean?) I need to take the fact that I have observed and turn it into a "principle" that I can apply.
For example, one lesson might be...
Again that is just one example, but with that example in mind let's move to the third and final question.
- "Actions are an indication of character."
3. How does it apply?
Now I want to take the principle I've listed and turn it into a question I can now apply.
One question I might ask myself is...
- "What type of character are my actions an indication of?"
Again, that's just one example, there are a host of others.
Now you give it a try.
*The above method of Bible study was first introduced to me by Dr. Howard Hendricks at Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, TX.