by Carter Brinkley, Student Minister
Have you ever opened up your Bible to read, but then realized you have no idea what you are reading or what it means? I have! Feelings of confusion and inadequacy that sometimes come when we read Scripture can prevent us from having a regular and faithful time of personal Bible study.
So how do we develop an understanding of how to study Scripture? This is a question we have been asking particularly often in student ministry at Hernando Baptist. Middle and high school students, like all of us, have a great need to read and understand God’s Word. One of the primary ways we have been seeking to do this is through weeknight student Bible studies. Since last Spring, students have been meeting across Hernando during the week to study the Scriptures together in a way that makes it accessible and comprehensible to them.
We do not use any curriculum or study material when we meet; we use our Bibles and a uniform set of questions. I call this the “African Bible study” because I saw it used very effectively in making disciples when I was working with church planting missionaries in Botswana. You may have heard a similar approach referred to as the “SWORD Method” here in the States. Either way, I believe this is a very effective way to study the Bible regardless of what part you are reading or what level of biblical understanding you have.
Here are the basic questions we ask in our student Bible studies:
1.) What does this say about God?
I think it is crucial to ask this question about every part of Scripture because, ultimately, the whole message of Scripture is a revelation of who God is. Apart from God’s Word, there is no reliable way to understand His character, desires, and will.
2.) What does this say about man?
Who does God say we are? The Bible has so much to say about how God made us and what our purpose is. What does this passage say about my meaning and purpose? What does it tell me about how my mind and my heart operate?
3.) What does this say about the Christian life?
These days we make a lot of assumptions about how Christians should live and what we should care about. However, as we read Scripture, we may find many of those assumptions to be missing the mark of what the Christian life is really about. Some of the things we focus on--like being liberal or conservative--actually have very little to do with representing Christ on earth. Our lives should be much more focused on making disciples, upholding God’s law, and glorifying our Savior Jesus in all that we do!
4.) What does this say about worship/prayer?
Worship and prayer are not natural or automatic for any of us. Scripture has much to say about how we should worship and what we should pray about. Answering this question as we read through each book of the Bible can be an illuminating experience for our worship and prayer lives.
5.) How can I apply this to my life?
It is important to end personal or group Bible study with a definitive application of Scripture to our lives. James 1:23 says that a person who reads the Word and does not do what it says is like a man who looks at himself in a mirror and immediately forgets what he looks like. How often I have done this when reading Scripture!
I think our personal applications are more effective when we are more specific about them. For instance, after reading Ephesians chapter 5, I might conclude that I should love my wife more. But I will be much more likely to put that passage to use in my life if I conclude that I could show her sacrificial love by helping her to clean the house when I get home from work, even if I’m tired.
This is not the only way to study the Bible, but it is extremely helpful for believers at any level of age, knowledge, or maturity. There are many more questions that can be equally helpful in studying the Bible as well [ex: Is there a sin to avoid? Is there a command to obey? What does this say about salvation?].
If you are having a difficult time understanding Scripture, you are not unintelligent, unspiritual, or alone! Curriculum and study materials can be very helpful, but sometimes it is most helpful to simply ask the right questions. I hope this helps.
What are some resources or methods you use to study Scripture? Share in the comments!