How do I get something out of the Bible without using study tools?
There are two skills I suggest learning for improving your Bible study: how to read Scripture and how to observe. When mastered, these skills will help you unlock Scriptural truths.
Reading the Bible is unlike anything else because it is a book unlike anything else. Here are five ways to get the most out of your Bible reading.
1. Approach it as if for the first time.
Several things can help with this. Try to use an unmarked text without study notes. Markings and notes can be distracting or hinder fresh insights. Try using a different translation, which can help you see things with fresh eyes and bring out nuances in the text. Websites like biblegateway.com or youversion.com provide many free Bible versions. Try reading aloud or listening to audio Bibles—you will notice things you didn’t realize were there.
2. Read slowly with a questioning, engaged, and active mind.
In order to get the most out of a passage ask Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How? continually. It takes time to read and ask these questions but they are the questions that unearth meaning.
3. Read a passage repeatedly.
Emphasize different words as you read different passages. Mull them over. Read with a view to discovering the main idea the author was trying to convey.
4. Read prayerfully.
It is the Spirit of God who opens our hearts and minds to understand. A prayerful mind asking God’s Spirit to open your spiritual eyes to truth is essential to Bible reading and study.
5. Read purposefully.
Don’t just pick random passages. Instead work systematically through a book. In addition to your slow reading, read through the book at least once in one sitting. This will help you discover the big picture, themes, and purpose of each book.
Aside from learning how to read Scripture we need to learn how to observe Scripture. The two go together. Learning to observe is necessary because there is no other writing like the Bible.
In observing Scripture we need to think like a detective searching for clues. It is the art of paying attention to the details. Here are five tips for learning to observe Scripture.
1. Notice the context before and after the passage.
Context is a key determiner of understanding what is being said. Observing context helps determine factors that impact meaning, such as geographic location, time frame, people involved, and reasons for the writing. Without understanding the context we cannot understand what the author was trying to say.
2. Take note of things that are emphasized and recurring.
Things like words, phrases, themes, or word-patterns are clues that, when collected, help render meaning.
3. Watch for related ideas.
Are there contrasting ideas signalled by words like but and however? Are there sequential ideas signalled by words like therefore or then? Are there any figures of speech like simile, metaphor, and hyperbole? Many times it is these little words we miss that are so important.
Throughout the process of reading and observing we need to be analyzing. Ask, “Why is this important?” “How does this connect to what I already know?” and “Why do I want to remember this?” By doing this every time you get into Scripture your base of knowledge will increase and relating Scripture to Scripture will unlock even more biblical insight.
5. Write down questions and observations.
Jotting down ideas is a good way to keep our minds fully engaged and clarify our thinking. You can also write down other verses that relate to what you are reading. And keeping your notes as a reference for comparison to other passages you study will provide even more benefit to your overall understanding of God’s Word.
Learning to read and observe Scripture aren’t all that is needed for getting something out of the Bible, but it’s a good place to start.
I hope this helps.