Lingering in the Study of God’s Word: With Three Simple Questions

Don’t just say, “I read my Bible.” The devil knows the Bible by heart. He used it against Jesus. It’s about lingering there, loving the truth, and pleading with the Lord to open the eyes of your heart. (John Piper)

Though Bible Study is not a new Christian discipline, there are some refreshing contemporary resources available for helping women to study God’s Word. Innovative study guides and personalized methods flood the Christian world at a frequent and fast pace. After having read through many such resources myself, I simplified the information and compiled it in 3 basic questions I use in my own study: 

What does the text say?
So What does it all mean?
Now What am I going to do with all this?

What? {What does the text say?}

Observation Phase
The first step is to observe the text. You get close to it. You are examining the text’s foundation in order to discover its biblical facts. In this stage, you will be doing: reading, more reading, and reading some more of the same text.

Some things to look for in this stage:

  • Context: What is going on before and after our text? Where exactly does our text fit in the Big Story of the Bible?
  • Plot: Briefly summarize the events and actions in the text.
  • Characters: What people or groups does our text mention? 
  • Time: What references to time does our text mention? Any linear chronology followed? Any past or future events mentioned?
  • Place: What references to places does the text mention? Any other places in the world mentioned?
  • Commands: What direct imperatives can you find? 
  • Repetition: Any words or phrases, names or actions, behaviors or ideas repeated?
  • Figures of Speech: Any figurative language in the text? Highlight it.
  • Transition words: What bridges one paragraph/sentence to the other? (and, if, however, but, because, likewise, therefore…)
  • Lists: Does the author/text make several points in a row? Number them.
  • Obscure remarks: Are there passages/words/sentences/commands/statements you don’t understand? Add a question mark beside them.

Summarizing the text in a few sentences will help you get a better understanding of the text’s construction and main points.

Consult a dictionary for words you don’t understand. But also look up words that appear often in the text: you’d be surprised how much deeper you will begin to understand certain concepts. 

Read the text in other various translations. You can use the on-line Bible Gateway or simply google the textual reference and read it in various translations. 

Use the Blue Letter Bible app for doing a specific word search or studying the word’s original Hebrew/Greek origin. This app also gives you options for commentaries, audio sermons, and in-depth word definition.

So What? {What does the text mean?} 

Interpretation Phase
After carefully observing the text, we come up with facts that need to be put together into a coherent explanation of their meaning.
Note: You are not creating new meaning and new truths; you are discovering the objective, timeless truth already given to us by God.

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Why is this fact important?
  • What does it say about God/Jesus/Holy Spirit?
  • How does it better explain the Big Story?
  • Where does it fit in the story of God: Creation-Fall-Redemption-Restoration?
  • What biblical themes are developed?
  • What truths does the text state about man/sin/grace?
  • Where is Jesus in this passage? How does it point to Christ?

It’s important to remember that the Bible never contradicts itself. Therefore, ask yourself what other parts of the Bible support your conclusions. The more Bible you know, the more skilled you’ll become at interpreting single passages. 

Consult commentaries to help you in your interpretation, or published curriculums (articles, sermons, Bible Studies, books, etc.) on the text.  I personally love reading reliable and faithful extra-biblical support to help me in either deepening my own skills of interpretation, or simply to help me out when I don’t seem to make any progress on my own. Ligonier Ministries, The Gospel Coalition, Desiring God, Prince on Preaching, ERLC websites are some fantastic resources for finding trusting commentaries and tools for the books of the Bible.

Now What? {What do I do with this truth now?}

Application Phase
After carefully examining and interpreting the text, we are now looking for application of God’s truths in our lives. “During observation and interpretation phases, we sift through God’s Word. During application, God’s Word sifts through us” (Terry Powell).

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • How does this passage help me love God, (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit)?
  • What encouragement do these verses offer? What corrections and warnings?
  • What specific sins in my life does the text address? How does the text teach me to correct my sin?
  • What descriptions of God does the text expose? What contrasts does it draw to humanity? What similarities?
  • How does the text spur me onto to sharing the gospel?
  • What people/locations/events/memories come to mind as I study this?
  • How can this gospel truth transform my life today?
  • How do I best serve Jesus where my feet are?

Application questions are meant to channel truth from head to heart. They are personal and intimate, meant to reach and stir the woman within each one of us.

Interpretation without application is abortion of the Word of God” (Howard Hendricks). So, look for ways to connect God’s truths to your life.

By |January 17th, 2020|Categories: Blog, Featured|

About the Author:

Anca Martin is the wife of Todd, mother of 4 children, born and made in Eastern Europe. She loves running, reading, writing, coffee, books, dancing, international students, trips, adoption, and decorating.