Is there a proper way to study the Bible?
There are many methods of studying the Bible, but what is the proper way? First, it is important in any kind of Bible study to ask its heavenly author for wisdom when we study it (James 1). We do not depend only on our human wisdom, but seek to understand God's intended purposes in His revealed words.
We should always seek to understand a passage or verse of Scripture within its larger context. In other words, it is not wise to pick a single verse and interpret it without looking at the surrounding context to understand the larger purpose involved in the particular teaching.
Part of understanding the context is understanding the original message of the passage. We can ask questions like, who was Jesus speaking to in the synagogue? Why was His reference to the Sabbath important? Why did some people seek to put Him to death as the result of His teaching? Asking such questions about the original setting of the account can help better understand the importance of key teachings.
Bible study can be enhanced through the study of related passages. The Protestant Reformers often taught that a person should interpret Scripture with Scripture. The idea is that God's Word is consistent and that other places that speak on the same topic in the Bible can bring further understanding to a topic. For example, many passages in the Book of Hebrews relate to Old Testament teachings. Studying these related passages can enrich study and application of the New Testament principles.
Bible study can also be improved in community with others. This can include study with other people as well as with other resources. We have access to the greatest scholarship in history on the issues the Bible discusses and can learn much from those who have gone before us. We can also challenge and encourage one another as we study in a group setting, whether with one person, with a small group, in a classroom, or as a congregation.
Bible study should include an aspect of application. The Bible is not designed only to inform us; it is designed to transform us. First Corinthians 13:2 teaches, "And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing." All of the knowledge in the world will not help us if we do not seek to live out the love of God in our lives.
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