If you long to know God, if you yearn for a deep and abiding relationship with Jesus Christ, if you want to live the Christian life faithfully and know what God requires of you, it is essential do more than merely read the Bible and study what someone else has said about it. You must interact with God’s Word personally, absorbing its message and letting God engrave His truth on your heart and mind and life. That is the very heart of inductive study: seeing truth for yourself, discerning what it means, and applying that truth to your life. – Kay Arthur, How to Study Your Bible
Inductive Bible study is for anyone who desires a deeper understanding of God and His Word revealed through the Master Teacher, the Holy Spirit.
Inductive Bible study is a method of study that brings you directly to the Word of God apart from another’s understanding or interpretation of the text. The Bible is the primary resource you need. You learn to carefully observe the Word in context and take it apart so you have firsthand knowledge. Then, after you have discovered all you can on your own, you compare your observations with those of other godly men and women who have written about the Word down through the ages.
Inductive Bible study can be learned by young children as well as adults. It has been observed when teaching the Bible to children that they can memorize and repeat stories but they have not been taught how to discover answers to specific questions from God’s Word. They will wait for it to be explained to them. Personal discovery “sticks” much better than learning by rote. Teaching children this method prepares them for a lifetime of enjoying the Bible.
Inductive Bible study is personal but can also be experienced in groups. Because the Bible is the textbook, inductive study is an extremely flexible and assessable way to learn God’s Word.
Inductive study is a fairly easy way to dig deep into God’s Word. Once you have learned this method of study, you no longer are dependent on someone else to teach you. God’s Word is your guidebook for all of life, and inductive study gives you the key to understanding the guide.
Inductive Bible study involves three skills: observation, interpretation, and application.
Prayer is the missing element in Bible study. You are about to learn a very effective method of Bible study, but apart from the word of the Holy Spirit, that’s all it will be-a method.
As you study any passage of Scripture, train yourself to consistently ask: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? These questions are the building blocks of precise observation, which is essential for accurate interpretation.
A key word is one that is essential to the text. Often key words and phrases are repeated in order to convey the author’s point or purpose for writing. Example: In 1 Peter 1:5 some form of the word suffering is used three times.
Lists reveal truths and highlight important concepts.
Contrasts and comparisons use highly descriptive language to make it easier to remember what you’ve learned. Watch for the words “like” and “as.” Example: 1 Peter 5:2-3 contains a simple list regarding the role of an elder.
The relationship of events in time often sheds light on the true meaning of the text. Marking them will help you see the sequence of events and lead to accurate interpretation of Scripture.
The theme of a chapter will center on the main person, event, teaching, or subject of that section of Scripture. Themes are often revealed by reviewing the key words and lists you developed. Try to express the theme as briefly as possible, using words found in the text.
While observation leads to an accurate understanding of what the Word of God says, interpretation goes a step further and helps you understand what it means. As you seek to interpret the Bible accurately, the following guidelines will be helpful:
If you laid the solid foundation of observation, you will be prepared to consider each verse in the light of the surrounding verses, the book in which it is found, and the entire Word of God. As you study, ask yourself:
• Is my interpretation of a passage of Scripture consistent with the theme, purpose, and structure of the book in which it is found?
• Is it consistent with other Scripture about the same subject. Am I considering the historic and cultural context? Never take a Scripture out of its context to make it say what you want it to say. Discover what the author is saying; don’t add to his meaning.
When you know God’s Word thoroughly, you will not accept a teaching simply because someone has used one or two isolated verses to support it. You will be able to discern whether a teaching is biblical or not. Saturate yourself in the Word of God; it is your safeguard against wrong doctrine.
All Scripture is inspired by God. Therefore, Scripture will never contradict itself. Sometimes, however, you may find it difficult to reconcile two seemingly contradictory truths taught in Scripture, such as the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man. Don’t take a teaching to an extreme that God doesn’t. Simply humble your heart in faith and believe what God says, even if you can’t fully understand or reconcile it at the moment.
An obscure passage is one in which the meaning is not easily understood. Because these passages are difficult to understand even when proper principles of interpretation are used, they should not be used as a basis for establishing doctrine.
God spoke to us that we might know truth. Therefore, take the Word of God at face value in its natural, normal sense. Look first for the clear teaching of Scripture, not a hidden meaning. Understand and recognize figures of speech and interpret them accordingly. Also consider what is being said in the light of its literary style.
Always try to understand what the author had in mind when you interpret a portion of the Bible. Don’t twist verses to support a meaning that is not clearly taught. Unless the author of a particular book indicates that there is another meaning to what he says, let the passage speak for itself.
Think about how the truths you have seen can be applied to your life.
The first step in application is to find out what the Word of God says on any particular subject through accurate observation and correct interpretation of the text. Once you understand what the Word of God teaches, you are then obligated before God to accept that truth and to live by it.
Reproof exposes areas in your thinking and behavior that do not align with God’s Word. Reproof is finding out where you have thought wrongly or have not been doing what God says is right. The application of reproof is to accept it and agree with God, acknowledging where you are wrong in thought or in behavior.
Correction is the next step in application and often the most difficult. Many times correction comes by simply confessing and forsaking what is wrong. Other times God gives very definite steps to take. Paul reminds us in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”
For more information on growing in your relationship with Christ, contact Kathy Dority, Minister of Assimilation and Spiritual Care
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