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10 Top Tips for God-Centered Bible Study

Updated: Mar 21

Disclaimer: This article is for anyone who has ever been confused by something they read in the Bible. If you have unlocked all of the “secrets” of the Bible, then you can skip this article.


The Bible is the greatest book in human history.


What other text has had such an influence on society, spirituality, culture, politics, philosophy, etc.? None. Even individuals who are not Christians read the Bible to see how it has had such an impact on human history. It is a book worth studying.


However, WE are Christians, so the Bible is more than just a book to study. It is the authoritative text for our worldview—it literally shapes the way that we choose to experience life. Therefore, for US, it is not just a book to study, but also a guide to our temporal journey through life.





The Challenge of Bible Study


Yet, even though we’ve been told in church that the Bible is authoritative, a shocking 6% of American Christians actually hold a Biblical worldview…that’s only ~19.8 million Christians in America (out of 225 million who self-identify as Christian). Source: Dr. Tracy Munsil, “American Worldview Inventory 2023,” Arizona Christian University.


I believe that is because we have been well trained to listen—and trust—other individuals’ interpretations of Scripture. What we have not been trained to do is study the Bible for ourselves—or, to not study the Bible in a way that allows it to transform us into the image of Christ that we have been called to.


For many Christians, the Sunday sermon leaves more questions than answers. Or, the various denominational approaches to interpreting Scripture have only made it more confusing to discern which is accurate, trustworthy, and Good. If the people of God are not equipped to read the word of God, then they will only become more dependent on “the experts”—which does not help the Church “attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).


One should not have to spend thousands of dollars attending seminary just to learn how to read the Bible. Scripture is clear that this is a responsibility of the Church, to whom God has given gifted teachers for the purpose of instructing and equipping the Body to read, understand, and apply the word of God in our lives. So, why are we not teaching the Body of Christ how to study the Bible?




Tips for a God-centered Bible study


A good Bible study does not have to be complicated. It really only consists of three key ingredients: reading the text, understanding the text, and applying the text. Yet, the trick is learning how to stir these ingredients together to produce a lovely meal that is nourishing to the soul.


There are several articles on the web that can teach you about inductive Bible Study and each of these three ingredients. Therefore, my purpose in the following section is not to talk about the ingredients, but rather to give a seasoned "cook’s" advice on how to get the most out of each ingredient.


Tips for Reading


  1. The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to humanity. While creation helps us see there must be a creator, it is the Bible that tells us the creator God is YHWH. Therefore, when we read, we should ask, “What does this passage reveal about God?" (his nature, character, and relation to his creation)

  2. The Bible is a story, so read the story! Every passage in the Bible helps advance the “plot” from the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:8) to the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:1-8). Therefore, as we read, we should ask, “How does this passage fit into the overarching Biblical story? Yes…even Leviticus serves a purpose in the story, so read it!

  3. Try to read everything in its context. Too often we narrow into the “familiar” passages and ignore everything the Biblical authors were saying around those verses. At a minimum, we should read entire paragraphs, not just individual verses. Ideally, we're reading the book in its entirety before we start digging into "interpretation." This is a very important step to help us get to “understanding” the text.

  4. Try to read as if it’s the first time. Allow yourself to go slow and absorb all of the details the author is providing. Since the Bible is a story, these details were provided to the original audience for a reason, or to help connect the dots to something that had happened previously in the story. Again, this is important to helping us gain an “understanding” of the text.

Tips for Understanding


  1. Start with what you’ve observed in your reading. Allow those observations to represent factual statements about what the Bible is saying; e.g. “I observe that God created the earth.”

  2. Next, think about who the author would have been writing to (their audience), and why the author chose to share this information with them. If we can answer these questions, it can help us to follow the author’s message (i.e. "argument") throughout the entire book. Example: Paul doesn’t spend all of Galatians talking about the Law to then take a quick commercial break to tell us about the fruit of the Spirit. Therefore, we need to read Galatians 5:22-23 in the context of everything Paul is saying and ask ourselves, “How does the fruit of the Spirit contribute to what Paul is telling the Galatians about not being deceived into following the Law?”

    1. How do our observations help us to identify the message the author intended for his audience?

    2. Why was it important for the author’s audience to receive that message?

  3. Leave your theology out of it. If you’ve grown up in church, you’ve probably heard a pastor’s interpretation of a passage hundreds of times. While we should listen to our teachers, and listen to their insights, we need to also be able to let the Bible speak for itself. We should be capable enough in our study of the word to validate everything we’re being taught in light of the truth of Scripture.

Tips for Application


  1. Despite what we've heard, not everything in the Bible is applicable to you today. We need to be discerning enough to differentiate a message that was intended for an Israelite that lived four thousand years ago, and what is still relevant to us today. The trick is understanding the moral behind the message. Example: you probably don’t need to let strangers glean from your field (Leviticus 23:22), but what can that ancient Israelite law teach us about looking after those in need within our communities?

  2. Most importantly, we have to learn to submit ourselves to this understanding. As we study the Bible and gain understanding, it must convict us to look inside ourselves and see a need for transformation. Transformation is a sign of repentance and humility (i.e. wisdom). Wisdom should help us to realize our deep need for God’s compassion and grace. God's compassion and grace should inspire us to share the good news of his mercy with everyone!

  3. Lastly, we have to study in community. We, together, are the Body of Christ. This is why it's so important to make Bible study a central part of your small group time. Application is not just about you and your “walk” with Jesus, but how we as a community of Believers help each other (through the unity of the Holy Spirit) to mature into the fullness of Christ, who is the head of our Body (Ephesians 5:23).


 


    AUTHOR

Nate Munson

Nate Munson is a Bible teacher and small group leader from Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, who loves helping God's people take their study of scripture to the next level. Nate is married to Emily, and God has blessed them with three beautiful daughters. It is Nate and Emily's great joy to watch their girls grow in their love for the Lord.

Nate is a ThM student at Dallas Theological Seminary, where his studies in Bible exposition and exegesis are preparing him to help equip and encourage the Church so that the word of Christ will dwell richly in the body of believers.





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