through His Word
By Katy Kauffman
Since the Bible is a treasure and its principles are relevant to everyday life, what tools can we use to study the Bible for ourselves? The tools I want to share with you are easy to use because you look for things, such as the main characters and repeated words in a chapter. I am a visual learner, so along with explaining what to do, I’ll show you. Today we have Steps 1-4 and on Thursday Steps 5-7. With each step, there is a picture illustrating that tool. Here we go!
Step #1: Pray!
Before you begin studying Scripture, focus your mind and heart on God. Ask Him to guide you and show you the truths and application that He has placed there. Depend on His Spirit to teach you, because He’s the best. (No illustration needed here.) :)
Step #2: Print
When I study a book of the Bible, I print out Scripture so I can mark on it. Because I am very visual, this helps me to see the repeated elements of a chapter and to remember the things I learn by writing them next to the verses. I use a Bible software called Power Bible to copy and paste Scripture into Word, and then I print it. You can also use the Blue Letter Bible online to do this, which is free and provides instructions. We call Scripture printed out like this a “worktext.” Philippians Chapter 1 is our example chapter, so here’s what it looks like printed out. (I use the New King James Version.) →
Step #3: Mark Key People
Now it’s time for colored pencils or markers! I use crayons because I can color on top of a word and still see it. (You’ll see what I mean later.) First, I mark the three persons of God: God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Every time I see God’s name or a reference to the Father, I draw a red triangle above it. When I see Jesus’ name, I draw a red cross. And for the Holy Spirit, a red S. Don’t forget to mark pronouns He and Him.
Marking every mention of God helps you to see how a chapter talks about Him and what it is emphasizing about Him. Take note of God’s names in the chapter, and underline them in red. Is there any description of God that is unique or repeated? Also, what is God doing or saying in the chapter? This is how my worktext looks with the persons of God marked and the names underlined.
Then I mark the other main characters of the chapter. For Paul’s epistles, I give Paul a purple P and the church or person he is writing to a blue u.
Notice Paul’s encouragement, instructions, and warnings to his readers. I draw a green box around commands to help me see them better. (There is one in v.27-28 in Philippians 1.)
Step #4: Mark Repeated Words
This is my favorite part. It’s like you’re on a treasure hunt with God. Repeated words help us to see what God is emphasizing in a chapter. As you read, look for words that are repeated, and mark them in a special way. In John 15, the word abide is repeated as Jesus talks about abiding in God and His words abiding in us. In Philippians 1, the words preaching and gospel are repeated as Paul talks about preaching Christ and the word of God. I drew a teal box around preach, preached, and speak. Then I circled gospel and word with yellow and colored it in. Notice that I included words that are synonyms.
The words that are repeated the most may point you to the chapter’s theme. Look at the most repeated words, and write down a tentative theme that you can change later as your understanding grows. In Philippians 1, the words suffer, chains, joy, and rejoice are also repeated. I’m beginning to see that Paul is suffering for the gospel, but he still has joy. Although he is in prison and some people are preaching Christ to spite him, he rejoices that Christ is preached. My tentative theme for now is simple, but it’s something to build on: Preach Christ.
You can spread out looking for key people and repeated words over a few days so you’re not overwhelmed. This process causes you to read Scripture again and again, and that lays the groundwork for adding layers of understanding. God uses this process of personal discovery to show you the treasures of His Word. This turns “reading” into adventure.
This Thursday, I will post the next three steps, so stay tuned! The adventure isn’t over yet.
© Copyright 2014 by Katy Kauffmanpersonal Bible study, quiet time, How to Study the Bible: The Tools, Steps 1-4, Katy Kauffman, Lighthouse Bible Studies