Dr. Willis Newman, Esmeralda Newman, bible-teaching-about.com

Bible Study Method

The Need for Bible Study

The Bible teaching about Christian Bible study is clear and always important. Take Paul, for example. He wrote that Christians should be diligent and accurate in Bible study, because it is inspired by God, and is our roadmap for living (2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16, 17). 

Even Jesus got in on the act, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Bible study is vitally important. Don’t you agree? I do.

How does one do Bible study? I wrote an essay about the Bible (link) for more background, but here I outline an easy system for Bible study. For lack of another name, I call it the OIA method: Observation, Interpretation, and Application. The invention is really not mine, because it has been used for years. 

Depending on the Holy Spirit, and with practice, patience, prayer and perseverance, this plan will become a durable and effective tool as you dig out Bible truths that will make a rich impact on your life. It has mine. 

As we walk through this process, I will illustrate Bible study with a familiar verse, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Observation is Step One

Step one in the Christian Bible teaching about Bible study is to determine what the passage actually says. Read the larger context to get the general overview, then hone in on your selected passage for the details. Write down the facts, people, writer, and readers. 

Using a Bible dictionary or commentary, find the cultural, historical, and geographical background. Isolate the purpose and theme of the writer, and the principles he was trying to communicate to his readers. Detect the occasion that prompted the writing. Carefully trace the thought progression. 

In plain, normal, straight forward language, what does the passage literally say? Apply who, what, why, where, when, and how questions. 

Let’s look at our sample verse. The Apostle John is the writer, people in general are the readers, and John wrote the Gospel so that people might be saved (John 20:30-31). The immediate context is a compelling conversation between a powerful Jesus and a puzzled Jewish theologian, Nicodemus. Their topic is how to gain eternal life and be saved. 

Looking at the plain grammatical construction, “God” is the subject of the sentence, and “giving His Son” is the main action. God’s motive is His love for humanity. The result of this “gift” is that eternal life, not punishment, may be given to all who believe.

Digging Deeper

By comparing Scripture with Scripture, maybe with a Bible concordance, you discover that God’s Son is Jesus Christ. The “giving” refers to Christ’s Atonement: His death, burial and resurrection from the dead. This act paid sin’s penalty and obtained eternal life for all who believe. 

With a Bible dictionary you can define three important words: believe, perish, and eternal life. I recommend Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words for word studies in the original language.

  • Believe is more than just mental agreement. It means to trust, commit, stick to, cling to, and is illustrated in the context by an Old Testament story (John 3:14, 15; cf. Numbers 21:4-9).  
  • Eternal life means everlasting. It is personally knowing and experiencing God, and residing forgiven and forever in the presence of God (John 17:3). 
  • Perish means a final destiny of ruin, described as the wrath of God abiding on the one who refuses to believe (John 3:26). Other Scripture tells us that the place of eternal ruin is hell (Cf. Revelation 20:10-15; Matthew 25:46).

From our Bible teaching about Bible study, we have determined the plain, straightforward words of the passage.  Now for the next step.

Interpretation is Step Two

Step two in the Christian Bible teaching about Bible study is discovering what the passage actually means. Look for the major theme – the big idea. Locate the spiritual truth the writer is communicating to his readers. Determine what the passage teaches us about God, and how He relates to you and me.  Check for doctrines, metaphors, symbols, and figures of speech. 

The key things to extract from the text are the eternal, abiding principles that remain constant and absolute in all cultures and history. Separate out those elements that relate only to that time and culture, but not to us today. 

Can you find several principles from our Bible study illustration? Here are some. First, God loves us. Second, all humanity needs salvation. Third, God has provided salvation. Fourth, salvation is obtained by faith. Fifth, salvation involves escaping eternal punishment, and gaining eternal life – like escaping the hungry lunge of a shark by climbing safely onto the deck of a rescue boat. 

The content of our faith is personally trusting Christ’s Atonement to abolish our sin’s penalty and gain us eternal life.

As a safeguard, it is wise to check our interpretations with other teachings of the Bible to see if they agree. A good book on Bible doctrine, or a commentary, will help. As a final point, for any verse, there is one true interpretation, but there can be many applications.  Now for step three.

Application is Step Three

Step three of the Christian Bible teaching about Bible study is personal application. Prayer can help detect the true needs in our life. Conduct an honest appraisal of your life in light of the Bible to identify areas of needed growth (1 Corinthians 11:28; 2 Corinthians 13:5). I find this process to sometimes be painful, but always productive.

Application is connecting the truths you have learned into your personal life. The secret is understanding, faith, and obedience in the power of the Holy Spirit. You understand the Bible and believe it to be true. Then, you act until new habits are formed, and your devotion to Christ increases. This Bible study method will help you.

Guiding Questions

  1. Are there attitudes for me to change?
  2. Are there sins for me to confess?
  3. Are there actions I need to take or cease?
  4. Are there promises I can claim, or commands to obey?
  5. Is there instruction or encouragement on my relationships of life?
  6. Are there things from the Bible study that help my defects of my character?
  7. Is there hope and encouragement for any disappointments and failures in life?
  8. What does it tell me about God, theology and the next life?
  9. What does it teach about my priorities in life?
  10. What does the Bible study teach me about right and wrong?
  11. Are there examples to follow?

The Main Morsel

As a final exercise, wrap up your Bible study by asking what is the main lesson you received? What stood out to you the most? Why did it stand out? What does it mean to you personally?

Now that you have learned the Bible teaching about Bible study, the following exercise will give you practice. 

Take a sheet of paper so you will have more room to write, and apply the OIA method.

SCRIPTURE ANALYSIS

OBSERVATION, INTERPRETATION, APPLICATION

Student name: _______________________        Scripture: Ephesians 2:8, 9

1. OBSERVATION: What does it say?

2. INTERPRETATION: What does it mean?

3. APPLICATION: What does it mean to me?

MAIN MORSEL: The main lesson I learned from this study.

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