through His Word
By Katy Kauffman
The adventure continues! Today let’s look at the last three steps of the Bible study method that we began in my last post. I encourage you to try this on your own, printing out Philippians 1 or your favorite chapter of the Bible.
So here we go with the last three steps. Remember to pray before you begin studying the Bible, no matter what step you’re on!
Step #5: Contrasts and Comparisons
Sometimes treasures in Scripture come into sharper focus when we look for what’s different in a chapter and what’s alike. You can easily find contrasts by looking for the word but, and you can find comparisons by looking for like or as. Word pictures are also comparisons, such as when Jesus says in John 10 that He is the good shepherd. (He didn’t herd actual sheep, but shepherd is a picture of one of His roles toward God’s children.) I draw lightning over a contrast and a c in a circle over comparisons. Notice the lightning rods above the contrasts in the picture.
Step #6: Definitions and Commentaries
Definitions are our friends. Sometimes looking up just one definition makes the whole passage come alive. Not only do we “get it”—we understand what the Bible is saying—but we understand how it relates to life and relationships and makes them better.
Make a list of words you’d like to find definitions for, and write down questions you have about the verses. I recommend these dictionaries and commentaries: Strong’s Lexicon for definitions and the commentaries on Power Bible, such as those written by Matthew Henry, Albert Barnes, and Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown. You can also find help on the Blue Letter Bible website.
Scripture won’t contradict Scripture, and if an explanation in a commentary seems fishy, ask God for guidance to know whether it is the correct interpretation. You can also ask a trusted friend or teacher for help. Remember the context of the passage you’re studying (what the whole passage is talking about) and what the passage meant to the original readers. As you seek to understand God’s Word, God will help you to study it and live it out. Write the most helpful definitions and notes on your worktext like this.
Step #7: Application Statements
Now it all comes together! Divide your chapter into paragraphs, either by grouping verses together that talk about the same subject or by using the paragraph divisions in your Bible. Then look at any instructions that are in the chapter, and see if they relate to the chapter theme you wrote down in Step 4.
My tentative theme for Philippians 1 was: Preach Christ. The instruction (that I missed the first time around) is in verses 27-28 (NKJV): “Let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ...stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” So that instruction supports my original theme of Chapter 1. Paul is encouraging them to work together to preach the gospel.
Now I want to adjust my chapter theme to this: Strive together for the gospel’s progress. Then I can see how each section fits into that idea of unity and preaching (or proclaiming) the gospel.
So based on what you’ve studied in a chapter—what’s repeated, what’s commanded, your first theme for the chapter, and so forth—use the words of Scripture and the insights from the tools to write an application statement for the chapter and for each of its paragraphs. You may come back two months later and think of something different, but for now, write down what God shows you and lays on your heart.
At the end of your study, when your application statements are exactly like you want them, write them on your worktext like this.
My application for Philippians 1 is:
Chapter 1: Strive together for the gospel’s progress.
v.1-8 Rejoice in fellow workers for the gospel.
v.9-11 Pray for them.
v.12-18 Speak the word boldly without fear.
v.19-21 Magnify Christ by your life or death.
v.22-26 Live to enrich each other’s progress and joy of faith.
v.27-30 Let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ.
God blesses us when we take the time to study His Word. I don’t know how many times I have studied a book of the Bible at the exact time I needed it in my life. God seems to time studying a book of the Bible perfectly for what I’m going through, and studying like this keeps me close to God and in His Word. The joy of personal discovery and the treasures that we find give us stability through life’s ups and downs and guide us.
If you have comments or questions about any of the steps, please leave them below. Maybe you have another way to study the Bible that has worked for you. This coming Friday I will share a more streamlined way to study, something I learned from one of my favorite pastors.
Then next Tuesday, I will use these tools on my favorite chapter in the Bible—Psalm 107.
Happy studying. Happy discovering!
© Copyright 2014 by Katy Kauffmanpersonal Bible study, How to Study the Bible: The Tools, Steps 5-7, Katy Kauffman, Lighthouse Bible Studies