“Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.”  II Timothy 2:15

How to effectively study the Bible

      It has been said that the only true education is self education.
Self education is that which we have learned through personal experience, and thus know first hand to be true. First hand inquiry and discovery are necessary components in the learning process for all the arts and sciences.

      As ancient as knowledge itself, self education has been proven the most effective method of study for millenia. Applied to the inspired Word of God, it is an especially powerful tool in “rightly dividing the Word of truth.”

      Instead of relying upon commentaries or Bible teachers to decipher the meaning of the text, the Inductive Bible Study (IBS) method equips the believer to discover for themselves both the understanding and the application of any given passage of scripture. A scientific approach to the study of the Scripture, the Inductive method utilizes three basic principles of classical self education:
  • It begins with what you see: Observation
  • It follows with an Interpretation of what you see
  • It then demands an Application
The inductive method attempts to discover the facts of a text through careful observation and then draw some interpretation of these facts to understand what the writer meant. The third step is to make applications first in a general way and move to more personal application. This inductive method is known, in short, sometimes as the OIA Method.

The inductive method is analytical. The student must examine the smallest details down to the punctuation. The structure of the literature becomes of paramount importance. We must learn where paragraphs, sentences, and topics begin and end.

The inductive method is re-creative. This implies a rediscovery of what the authors intended to say. Realizing what the authors meant for the people to understand when hearing it for the first time.

What do I see?

      Observation moves from the general to the specific, investigating the facts in a passage. Good observations are the key to good inductive Bible study.

      If this step is not done with great care, the rest of study will be weak. Remember that we are only interested in what the text says, not what we think.

Observe the entire passage.
Getting an overview. Read the text carefully. You may even read and re-read the text until it becomes so familiar that parts of it are committed to memory. Howard G. and William D.Hendricks in Living By The Book emphasize the need to develop good reading skills. The following are ten strategies to first-rate reading:
  • Read thoughtfully
  • Read repeatedly
  • Read patiently
  • Read selectively
  • Read prayerfully
  • Read imaginatively
  • Read meditatively
  • Read purposefully
  • Read accusatively
  • Read telescopically
Record your first impressions. 

Record the major facts. 
  • Who?
  • What?
  • Where?
  • When?
  • Why?
  • How?

Observe the structure of the passage.
Finding the structure
  • Make a basic outline of the text.
  • Mark the primary elements of the text.
Observe the details of the passage
Look at the major facts and ask questions about the text.

Who? Who are the characters mentioned in the text and, if possible to ascertain, what is their relationship to each other?

What? What are the key truths or happenings?

Where? The geography and location of the events in the passage are important.

When? The time sequence of the events. Also, if the time in reference to world history can be identified this will be helpful.

What does it mean?

      Interpretation is the science of discovering the author’s original meaning as he wrote the Scripture under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The questions asked in order to accurately interpret the passage are important.

Further research questions are asked concerning:
Who? The characters.
What? The key truths or happenings.
Where? The geography and location of the events.
When? The time sequence of the events.
Why? The purpose of the text.
  • The reader’s need
  • The writer’s message
The answers for interpretation questions are: Recording an answer to the general question previously asked who, what, where, when, and why. Looking at other aspects of the passage.
  • Study the content of the passage. What is in the passage itself without regard to the rest of the text.
  • Examine the context of the passage. What has taken place before and after this passage in regards to the overall text. Remember there are different types of context that we must be concerned with. These may not be a concern at our first analysis of the text. Some of these are:
  1. Literary
  2. Historical
  3. Cultural
  4. Geographical
  5. Theological
  • Compare with other Scripture.
  • Consulting resource books such as: commentaries, Bible dictionaries, and lexicons is the last step in interpretation.
Drawing a conclusion is now needed at this point.

Summary of Interpretation
Finding the elements in a passage or book is difficult. It is an exercise that requires careful study and prayer. Bear in mind, that you will be drawing conclusions based on all that you've studied before. The more text you study inductively, the greater your field of interpretation becomes.

How should I respond?

Application involves two steps
  • How the truths discovered should affect your behavior.
  • Putting those same truths into practice in our daily lives.
Examine yourself
  • Look for application in the light of your own personal life.
Relate the passage to your life
  • Summarize truths that seem to apply to you.
  • Decide if they have some timely and lasting value.
  • Look for ways that the text applies to your daily life and to the lives of others.
Meditate on the passage
  • Pick out the passage or verse that speaks to your heart and that would have a lasting benefit to you and to others.
  • Memorize the significant verses.
Practice what you have learned
  • Write down several points of interest that can be put into practice in your daily life.
The grass withers,
the flower fades,
But the word of
our God stands forever.
Isaiah 40:8

Unlocking Inductive Bible Study Secrets 
Understanding The Literary Forms And The Inductive Techniques

The Bible is written using three literary forms:
  • Story Forms (Narratives)
  • Instructional and Exhortive Forms (Epistles)
  • Poetic, Parable, and the Prophetic Revelation Forms
Story Form Examples
Historical accounts of events in such books as:
  • The Gospels
  • Acts
  • Genesis
  • Exodus
  • Leviticus
  • Numbers
  • The records of the Old Testament Kings
The Main Features of the Story Forms 
  • People
  • Places
  • Events
  • Emotions
Basic Tools For Observing The Story Forms 
  • Ask: Who, What, When, Where, How
  • Retell the event in your own words
  • Find the relationship between the people
  • Try to feel the emotions
  • Place yourself in the shoes of each person
  • Ask yourself what do you... see? feel? think?
Instructional and Exhortive Form Examples
The logical development of a subject in books such as:
  • Paul's Epistles
  • Peter's Epistles
  • John's Epistles
  • James
  • Jude
  • Some accounts of Jesus' teachings
The Main Features of the Instructional Forms 
  • Ideas
  • Words
  • Verbs
  • Objects
  • Arrangements of the passage
Keys for Observing the Instructional Forms
Outline the development of the ideas in the passage.
Note things like repeated words.
Look for:
  • Comparisons
  • Contrasts
  • Transition words such as: therefore, because, for, but, etc.
Poetic Form Examples
Non-literal language
Figurative language
The arrangement of ideas into patterns.
The use of symbols to express the idea, such as in:
  • Psalms
  • Proverbs
  • Job
The Main Features of the Poetic Forms
  • Symbolism
  • Parallels
  • Analogies
Keys for Observing Poetic Forms
  • Determine the type of parallelism used by the poet.
  • Make a basic outline of the passage.
  • Look for all the different figurative language.
  • Note the things that are repetitive.
Keys For Interpretation
Attempt to determine what the passage meant to the people who originally heard it.
  • What does the author mean to make him write this way?
  • What does he see?
  • What does he feel?
  • What does he think?
  • Why does he write this?
  • What would it have meant to the people who had heard it in Biblical time and culture?
Keys for Application
  • Appeal to the Holy Spirit for teaching.
  • Apply the main point to your life.
  • Is there an example I should follow?
  • Is there a sin I should forsake?
  • Is there an error I should forsake?
  • Is there a promise I should obey?
  • Is there a command I should obey?
So what?
  • What do I plan to do about it?
  • What difference will this make in my life?
  • What plans can I make?
  • What will I do?
  • How will I do it?

Adapted from The “Inductive Bible Study Method Workshop” by Pastor John Michaels of “Send the Message” ministries.

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