The Plan and Purpose of Bible Study

Dan Lenington on February 18, 2014


Is Bible study something you do or something you attend? Perhaps you have attended a Bible study or you do regularly, but if you don't know how to do Bible study for yourself, you are depending on others to feed you spiritually. Each of us must learn to physically feed ourselves if we will mature, and the same is true with spiritual maturity. Bible study is a skill to develop, but the purpose of Bible study must always be kept in clear focus. Bible study is not merely for the purpose of increasing our knowledge (which often promotes pride 1 Cor. 8:1). Instead, it is meant to change our conduct so that we might have better fellowship with God enjoying Him all day long. Unfortunately, we are often content to amass great stores of Bible facts without learning how it should be applied and implemented into our life. Let me share six steps to awesome Bible study and the chance to reinvigorate your time with God.

First, evaluate the time you already spend with God. Is it regular? Is it exciting? Is it profitable? Is it changing you life? If you missed your time with God, does it affect how you day goes? If not, you are probably not getting the spiritual nourishment you need whether you realize it or not. I heard a quote by a famous concert pianist once which stated that when he didn't practice one day, he knew. When he didn't practice for two days, the critics knew. When he didn't practice for three days, everyone knew. The same should be true for our time with God each day. If it isn't, we aren't growing through our Bible study and something must change. So on to the next step.

Second, observe what is going on in the passage you are reading. Take time to ask good questions that will demand time spent finding the answers. Instead, of merely asking who, what, when, where, ask deeper, probing questions. Ask who is, what did, why did, what if, how did, could this, or what is the meaning type questions. we must go beyond merely noting facts to investigating details. This type of questioning will reveal more information to better understand the motives and mechanics of a passage of Scripture. This understanding will help us make better application.

Third, investigate the answers to the deeper questions you have started asking. Critical to this step is the finding of parallel passages and cross references. I highly recommend the Reese Chronological Bible and a good Harmony of the Gospels (such as Baker's). A good study Bible can also provide you with parallel passages which will fill in details not found in a certain text. Scripture is the best commentary on itself, and it will give you invaluable details to fill in the gaps and answer the questions posed by careful observation of a text. Good commentaries can also be a great help. Individual book commentaries are often deeper than whole Bible commentaries. Always remember, though, that these are merely man's thoughts not God's Words.

Fourth, interpret the passage according to the rules of grammar, style, syntax, and context. Although some feel that allegorizing a passage will produce greater spiritual knowledge, the speculative conclusions found by using this method of interpretation must be considered suspect. Why? because the mind of the interpreter has become the final authority in forming application for conduct rather than Scripture itself. Likewise, there is no way to test the conclusions of the interpreter if he is allowed to produce an interpretation with no rules to guide it. Some commentaries use this allegorical method of interpretation to make great logical leaps which must be discarded. Context is king in Bible interpretation.

Fifth, apply the lessons of the passage you your own life. According to 2 Peter 1:3, Scripture gives us "all things that pertain unto life and godliness." In other words, it tells us everything we need to know to live life and be pleasing to God. However, transfering the knowledge we gain through Bible study into Bible truths ready for personal application can be a challenge. One difficulty is understanding the cultural context of a passage. This can be overcome through strong investigation and interpretation skills. Always remember that these were real people in real situations with real feelings. A second difficulty is building a bridge to our culture and situation. To overcome this, put yourself in a similar situation with a modern context. Then, compare your natural response to the biblical response. Seek to emulate those who are honored and avoid being like those who aren't.    

Finally, implement the applications you have discovered into your life. This is where the proverbial rubber meets the road. If you can observe, investigate, interpret and apply very well, but you don't make practical changes in your lifestyle, you have failed. James 1:22-25 says this lifestyle is being a hearer of the Word only but not a doer of the Word. You know what should change, but you make no changes. This habit will deceive you into thinking you are spiritually mature when you are actually very anemic spiritually. Remember, the point of Bible study is not to increase your knowledge but to change your conduct.

Maybe you've noticed that it would take a substantial amount of time to put these steps into action. Well, you're right. But by comparison, how much time do we spend eating in a day? Perhaps 2 hours with all the snacks included. Is not our spiritual health more critical than our physical appetite? If we have a poor physical appetite we are usually not well. The same is true for our spiritual appetite. I challenge you to observe Mary's costly gift of love to Christ in Matt. 26:6-13. She honored Christ with an extravagant gift, her best and most costly possession. The prime way we can honor Christ is to give Him the best of our most valuable possession, our time. Please consider giving Him a substantial gift of quality time to spend just with Him singing His praises and studying His Word so that you might become more like Him and enjoy Him all day long!