The Bible says, “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” 1 Pet 3:15 And how can we ever do that without study?
At this point the Bible Study we’ll focus on is based on how it applies to the things we believe, what we’ll stand for, and the choices we make each day. We can also prepare topical Bible Studies if enough people tell us they’d like that.
# 1) Get the Big Picture First
Before considering different ways of studying the Bible it’s a good idea to get the big picture first. How do we do that? By reading it all the way through while asking ourselves, “What does this tell me about God?”
One of the biggest benefits you’ll get by reading the Bible completely through is you’ll see how God relates to people over an extended period of time. I always tell people to reserve judgement about what they read, and not to be impatient when they come across parts that are hard to understand. Things become a lot clearer when the Bible is taken as a whole.
This is the exact way Jesus did it when He appeared to the men on the road to Emmaus after He’d been crucified, and had risen from the dead. The Scriptures say, “And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” Luke 24:27
This means that Jesus, rather than turning to a couple of “proof texts” to explain the events which had occurred in Jerusalem to Cleopas and his friend – took them on a broad tour through the entire Bible.
It says, “beginning at Moses and all the prophets” He expounded to them …”
Let’s see – Moses wrote Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy and possibly Job. Add in “all the prophets” and you’ve got most of the Old Testament (the NT hadn’t been written yet). This is saying Jesus gave a Bible study on a certain topic (His birth, life, death and resurrection) which took Him through most of the Bible which was in existence at that time.
TAKEAWAY TIP # 1: A great way to go through the Bible – whether you’ve read it before or not – is to get a chronological, one-year Bible. This type of Bible makes it much easier to read through because it’s broken down into daily readings. That’s the 1-year part.
Also, by getting one which is chronological it takes the events from start to finish in the order in which they occurred. Many people aren’t aware that the Bible isn’t compiled in the exact order in which the events occurred. The chronological comes as close as possible to exact order, with some speculation about the exact time of certain books, e.g., Job.
The second thing that makes it easier is the translations. There are 2 versions of a Chronological, 1 Year Bible. They are the New Living Translation (NLT) and the New International Version (NIV). I much prefer the New Living Translation because it reads like a story and makes it really easy to stick with it. I’ve gone through the NLT twice this way and thoroughly enjoyed it each time.
# 2) Get the Right Mindset
Another aspect of “Getting the Big Picture” is having the right mindset before you begin your study. Doing this takes an understanding of what makes the Bible different from any other book … so let’s look at that.
Here are a few interesting facts about the Bible that make it unlike any other book in human history:
First, the Bible claims to have been inspired by our Creator – think about that!!! (more on this below)
- It was written over a period of 1500 years
- It had 40 different authors
- The authors were from 19 different occupations
- It contains history, poetry, drama, & prophecy – all telling the same story from start to finish
- The Bible tells us who we are, i.e., where we came from; why we’re here; and where we’re going
- Unlike other books of antiquity the Bible records the true record of it’s heroes and it’s nation. It’s honest about their defeats when they happen and it openly discloses the faults of it’s heroes. Again, this is different from other books of antiquity, which “doctored” their stories, covered up their defeats, and ‘deified’ their heroes
INSPIRED BY YOUR CREATOR
Before going on I’d like to elaborate on the first point I made above – the claim of inspiration.
The Bible claims it was inspired by God, i.e., the One who made us. Rather than take it for granted wrap your mind around that for a second then ask yourself -
Q. What if that’s true? What if the Bible really is a communication to us from our Creator? Wouldn’t that have profound implications?
A. I believe it would.
Here are some fascinating quotes I’ve taken from Isaiah chapters 45 & 46. What’s amazing about them is they claim to be God Himself speaking to us in the first person. Did you catch that? God Himself speaking! The Bible, several times in Isaiah chapters 40-46, is filled with incredible claims. It claims our Creator is speaking. I’ve gleaned just a few to give you a sample of what’s said in these chapters:
“Thus says the Lord who made you, And formed you from the womb, who will help you.” Isa 44:2
“I am the Lord, and there is no other; There is no God besides Me.” Isa 45:5
“I have made the earth, And created man on it. I … My hands … stretched out the heavens, and all their host I have commanded.” Isa 45:12
“Look to Me and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself; The word has gone out of my mouth in righteousness, And shall not return, That to Me every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess.” Isa 45:22,23
TAKEAWAY TIP #2: We lead busy lives and it’s so easy to treat the Bible as an ordinary book, or to view its reading or study as a routine task we’ve obligated ourselves to do. So here’s a tip … Before you begin get the right mindset.
Stop and think about the book you’re about to open. Before you open it, say a short prayer to God and ask Him to guide you in your understanding. Use God’s Word as the focal point of your prayer.
For example, in Isaiah 55:11 God’s Word says, “My word shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and prosper in the thing for which it was sent”. Ask Him to accomplish in your life exactly what He wants His word to accomplish, and to prosper His word in your life for the exact purpose for which He sent it. That’s how you make the Word the focal point of your prayers. You’re praying for what He said in the text to happen in your life.
So one way you can do a topical study through Scripture is to compile a list of texts referring to your topic.
In the above example I used God’s Word as a topic, so, if you wanted to get creative and dig a little deeper you could go through the Bible and compile a list of texts on God’s Word. There are TONS of them you can use but here’s a few for starters: Mt 4:4; Prov 2:1-6; Ps 119:49-50, 67, 81, & 130.
Besides all the great Scripture you’ll be learning and applying in your life this can help keep you from feeling daily Bible study is too routine.
# 3) Get Objections Out of the Way
Sometimes when I mention studying the Bible people will raise objections. Here’s a few of them, which I’ll follow afterwards with suggestions on to deal with them:
- The Bible’s too intimidating
- It doesn’t make sense to me
- No one knows what’s right, that’s why there’s so many different denominations
- The Bible isn’t relevant to our culture today
- and many more …
TAKEAWAY TIP #3: Deal with any objections you may have to studying the Bible.
Write down any thoughts you’re having that can affect you in a negative way, then think them through. For example, here’s a few responses to the objections listed above.
“The Bible’s too intimidating”. That’s ok! We feel intimidated about a lot of things we do when we’re first getting started. Did you feel intimidated the first time you drove a car? Had to give a speech in school? Asked a girl out on a date (or agreed to one if you’re a gal)?
“It doesn’t make sense to me”. Hmmm. Did chemistry make sense the first time you attended? Or algebra? Or a foreign language you learned? Of course not! The Bible is like everything else. The more you spend time with it the more sense it’ll start making to you.
“No one knows what’s right, that’s why there’s so many different denominations.” You’re right, there are a lot of denominations. But you don’t need to join them all. Nor do you need perfect understanding. What’s more important than that is having a right heart and a right spirit. Just concentrate on what does seem right, and stack the odds in your favor by going on the weight of evidence.
For example. Let’s say I want to know what happens when a person dies. I can take a Bible concordance (basically an index) and trace my topic through all of Scripture. If I find 30 texts on my topic, and 24 of them are saying one thing, but 6 of them seem to be saying something else, I can go by the weight of evidence and feel safe going with the 24, and use them to try to better understand what the other 6 are saying in their context.
One reason for so many denominations is people not using the weight of evidence to formulate a doctrine, but going on maybe 1-6 texts on a topic while either being ignorant of or ignoring everything else.
“The Bible isn’t relevant to our culture today.” Really? When was it ever relevant? Just joking (kind of) but think about it like this … there always has been, and always will be, a tension between the ways of God and the culture around us. The Bible says, “Come out from among them and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing”. 2 Cor. 6:17. It also says, “we are strangers and pilgrims on this earth” 1 Pet. 2:11 And, “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” Rom 12:2 While cultures are different principles will always remain the same. As will the tension between the church and the world (just as it is for the individual – see Gal 5:17 “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh“)
God bless everyone,
p.s. I hope you feel you got some good tips on how to study the Bible. If so, be sure to comment below and share your input. If you have any personal questions about Bible study or becoming a Christian please contact me using the contact form in the right sidebar.
A Biblical Definition of the Gospel:
If you wanted to use your Bible to explain to someone what the gospel is – where would you look? Probably the most quoted verse in Scripture is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”
As beautiful and as full of meaning as that verse is – that’s not the Scripture I would turn to. Although a good case can be made that it does teach the gospel. And I’d probably agree with that. In fact, there are many texts which could be used – because the Bible has plenty of good news! But there’s one Scripture which is my favorite when it comes to describing (and understanding) the gospel. And it’s one I love to think about. It’s Romans 1:16
Romans 1:16 comes right out and says, “this is the gospel” Let’s look at it together, and then dissect it. It says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes …”
Interesting. In this passage Paul is saying so many things – which we’ll break down in a second. For now though notice this text is definitely claiming to define what the gospel is. Would you agree with that? Paul says he’s not ashamed of the gospel. And then he tells us what it is. He says, “for it is the power of God unto salvation.” Is that how you would explain the gospel? Would you define it as “the power of God”? What is Paul telling us here?
The Power of God
What is power?
What do you think of, when you think of ‘power’? Do you think of military might? Do you think of superior strength, or control? A lot of it depends on context, doesn’t it? It certainly does in the examples I just gave. Yet in the definition I like there’s a common denominator which applies no matter how it’s being used, and no matter what the context is. And that’s this:
Power is the ability to produce an effect.
Think about that for a moment. All power results in being able to produce the outcome you want, regardless of the situation. That is power, isn’t it? Having the ability to acquire or produce what you want means you have power over it. You have the ability to make it happen.
Now, applying this definition to our text we could paraphrase the text so far to be saying the gospel is “the ability of God to produce an effect”.
The ability to produce an effect. Hmmm.
So what effect is the gospel producing?
It says, “unto salvation.” Which means so far that the “gospel”, is the GOOD NEWS that God has the ability to produce salvation. Our next logical question would be to ask -
What is “Salvation?”
What a promise! I like that, don’t you? Can you imagine not only being set free from the penalty of sin – but also from it’s power over us? Amazing, isn’t it?
And for any who might be thinking they can never be free from sins power over them I would remind them of who the verse says has the power … God!
That’s the good news. That it’s not our power – it’s God’s!
The difficulty any Christian has in living a victorious Christian life is when they’re trying to supply the power (ability) through their own efforts. Although there’s a lot I could say about that – think of it like this – if you did have the ability to produce a sinless life using your own power then you wouldn’t need a Savior. But if you’re a Christian you became one because you recognized somewhere along the line that you were a sinner who needed saving. And that saving comes to us as a gift. It has to, if we are to have it, because we could never earn it through our own works.
Who does the Bible say is set free from sin’s penalty and power?
Everyone who believes!
Wow. The good news keeps getting better and better.
How to Make the Gospel Real
Would you like to know a way you can experience more of God’s power in your life? Let’s start by looking at our “gospel text” one more time, completely paraphrased with our new understanding:
Paul says, essentially, “I am not ashamed of the good news of Jesus Christ! For it is the ability of God to set me free from the power and the penalty of sin, if and when I believe.”
Isn’t that encouraging?
Faith is like a muscle, the more we use it, the stronger it gets.
So if the gospel is God’s power put forth to save man, and if it produces freedom in everyone who believes, it stands to reason that the greater faith a person has, the more they will experience the power of the gospel.
Isn’t that true?
That means that one of the keys is to have greater faith.
Faith in the Power of God
As our heavenly Father, nothing pleases God more than to have His children come to Him in faith. Meaning God loves it when we trust Him and believe His Word! Do you realize whenever we doubt Him, we’re saying we don’t trust Him to do what He says He’ll do?
How much would it help if, when we felt weak, we took our focus off ourselves and shifted it onto a new focus – a focus on God’s ability to do what He says?
If we wanted to have more faith in the power of God – where would we look? i.e., Where in all the world do we see the greatest evidence of God’s power (i.e., His ability)?
In creation! What God has created displays His power – day after day, and night after night.
Psalm 19:1 says “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork.”
Who hasn’t looked up at a sky full of stars, and marveled at the strength and wisdom of the One who put them there?
The text goes on to say, “Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge. Their is no speech or language where their voice isn’t heard!” Ps. 19:2
What David is telling us here is that “day unto day (the heavens) utter speech” – in other words the heavens speak to us – of God’s glory, wisdom and power. And “night unto night reveals knowledge” – again of the wisdom and power of a God who could create such an amazing display of glory as that which we see in the heavens.
And this is universal speech and knowledge! It says, “There is no speech or language where their voice isn’t heard.”
Now get this … using this passage, Paul reasons in Romans 10:14-18 that through the heavens the gospel had been preached to the Jews (connect vs. 15,17 & 18)!
Therefore, going right along with my premise that our faith grows as we observe the power of God in His creation, (and as we contemplate His great handiwork), Paul says that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” vs. 17.
But look what word of God he’s talking about … he makes that statement right in the middle of his reasoning that the gospel is being preached by the heavens!
Connect Your Need to God’s Power
So here is the sum of the matter …
If God is faithful and true, that means He will keep His promises to us.
In Scripture God has promised to completely save us from the penalty and power of sin – in Christ. That’s the gospel, or good news.
If we’re NOT experiencing victory over sin in our lives it can mean only one of two things. Either God is unfaithful to His word, or, we don’t have enough trust in His abilities. Remember, the gospel is God’s power to save … for everyone who believes. Rom 1:16
(NOTE: Actually a 3rd option could be that we’re often happy to be saved from sins penalty, but not nearly as interested in being saved from it’s power over our lives, i.e., we like sinning)
But if we truly desire to live for God, and we want the freedom He promises us from the power of sin, we will behold His great wisdom and power in the things which He has created, and we’ll trust Him. That is, once we realize that it’s the same power at work in creation, now at work in our redemption (Redemption is our “re-creation”, it’s the same power that created us – now being put forth to save us!) – we’ll know that what He has said, He’s also able to do. See 2 Cor 5:17, “If any man be in Christ he is a new creation. Old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new.”
Again – if we are a new creation in Christ that means God is exercising His creative power in our behalf – which is infinite i.e., when we believe and trust in Him to do it. God honors our will, and He will not take away our freedom to co-operate with Him or reject Him … the choice is ours.
So, if anyone ever asks you what the gospel is, you can now answer with confidence that it’s “the good news that God has the ability, through Christ, to completely save us from the power and penalty of sin, if we’ll believe it through faith!”
And that, my friend, is good news!
The Entire Bible Is About Jesus
One of my favorite methods of Bible study is the topical method. And my favorite topic to study is Jesus – because He is the central figure of all Scripture.
In fact, if it hadn’t have been for Jesus there wouldn’t even be a Bible. How do I know that? Easy. Just listen to Jesus Himself …
Jesus said to the Jews of His day (before there was a New Testament), “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.” (see John 5:39).
Jesus is also speaking to us in this passage. And what He’s telling us is the old testament Scriptures testify of Him. Were you aware of that?
Thoughts About Jesus in the Old Testament
This leads us to an important question … have you found Jesus in the Old Testament?
Remember on the road to Emmaus when Jesus joined Cleopas and his friend, two believers who were walking home from Jerusalem after the crucifixion. They were extremely discouraged, and had given up hope for the future, because they (like everyone else) thought when Christ was crucified His ministry was over.
But what did Jesus do?
The Bible says, “beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” Luke 24:27
Did you catch that?
Beginning at Moses.
That’s Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy for sure, and possibly Job which were written by Moses.
So beginning there, “and all the prophets” – he “expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself“. All the prophets would be Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Micah, Joel, Zechariah et al.
And what about the Psalmist? Psalms 22,23 & 24 have been called the crucifixion, burial and resurrection Psalms.
Psalm 22, the crucifixion Psalm – “My God, My God – why have You forsaken Me?” (vs 1) “They pierced My hands and My feet” (verse 16), “They divide My garments among them and for My clothing they cast lots”. (verse 18) … [NOTE: actually the whole chapter but you get the point]
Psalm 23, the burial: “Yeah though I walk through the shadow of the valley of death I will fear no evil”.
Psalm 24, the resurrection and inaugural in heaven when He ascended to the Father, “Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, ye everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in.” (verse 7)
And we haven’t even scratched the surface!
We’ve got the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53; the prophecies of His birth and mission Isa. 9:6,7 and 61:1-3.
We could go on and on with Micah, the sanctuary in the wilderness, Solomon’s temple, the cloud by day and pillar of smoke at night, the Creator in Genesis – etc., etc., etc.
A Topical Study of Christ
While we can easily find Jesus’s footprints all through the Bible (and should) there’s no better source for learning about Jesus than from Jesus Himself!
One of my favorite ideas of how to systematically study about Jesus is to use the 4 gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
Did you know there are 89 chapters on the 4 gospels? That makes for a beautiful way to study the life of Christ 4 times a year.
If a person read one chapter a day they’d go through the gospels once each quarter. If they started over each quarter they’d go through the entire life of Jesus and all He taught 4 times a year.
A way to help retain what was read would be to read a chapter each morning, and then at night before bed to write in their own words what they got out of that chapter.
Obviously this is just one technique – what are some thoughts about Jesus and how to study His life you’ve found?
Share your ideas in the comment section below …