You wake up in the morning to the sound of your alarm ringing on your nightstand. Your eyes open groggily, and you stretch your legs after a night of sleep. A new day is beginning, and while your body may still feel tired, it's time to get going. As you lift yourself out of bed, brush your teeth, and get dressed–you remember. Today's the day you're going to attempt to read and study a book of the Bible on your own. There is no study guide from church or store-bought Bible study from your favorite teacher awaiting you. It's just you, your Bible, a notebook, and a pen. However, as you sit down to begin your study, you wonder, "Where do I even begin?"
It is very common to feel overwhelmed when beginning to study a book of the Bible on your own without the help of secondary resources. While Bible study guides and booklets can be amazing tools to help guide us in our time with Scripture (we sell many of them at the Daily Grace Co.), it's important to understand how to do the whole process yourself. The more familiar you are with how to study a book of the Bible, the less intimidating it will be to open your Bible in the first place.
However, it is important to understand that there are many ways to study your Bible in depth. And, methods and strategies look different depending on the person. What works for one person may not work very well for you. The one thing all believers in Jesus have in common is that we are each called to have God's Word dwell richly inside of us (Colossians 3:16). Our devotion to Scripture must be great because every believer will always be in great need of Scripture. This is why we put together a list of seven things that can get you started with studying the Bible independently.
So let's dive in!
- Start Well
For any book of the Bible you read, it is wise to start your time with prayer. In your own strength and power, you will not be able to grasp all of the glorious truths of the text, but God has placed His Spirit within you. The Holy Spirit will teach you and guide you as you read and learn the particular book of the Bible you are studying (John 15:26-27). Ask God to help you understand! He will answer this prayer because you are asking Him to give you something He delights in giving to His children (1 Corinthians 2:12).
- Ask the right questions
If you received a random letter in the mail, you would automatically have questions about where it came from and what the author's intended purpose was. But so often, we jump into the books of the Bible without any thought of the context of when and where it is set. And these are not random pieces of writing. They comprise the most important book we will ever read! So before you read the book you are going to study, try and answer the following questions. (A commentary will be necessary since you will not know all of the answers on your own and they are not always found in the text.)
- Who wrote the book?
- Who was the original audience?
- When was it written?
- What was the purpose of the book?
- What is the genre of the book?
- Read the entire book repetitively
One of the easiest ways to understand a book of the Bible is to read it repetitively. I think this is the best way to begin your study of any book of the Bible, so you may want to take the first week before you begin to study in depth just to read. Journal your first thoughts and reactions to the text as you do so, but mostly just take it in. Smaller books are easier to read in one sitting, so you could potentially read a New Testament letter or Old Testament prophet all the way through. Then, repeat the process every day. If you are studying a larger book, why not give yourself more time to read repetitively and study? Break up the book into sections and read the first section repetitively for a week. Then study it in depth. Repeat the process with the remaining sections of the book.
- Use the right resources
Having the right resources for an in-depth study is essential. Some of the resources I recommend are:
- A printed copy of the text from a site like www.biblegateway.com –this way, you can freely annotate and mark up the text.
- Other Bible translations to compare passages.
- A few commentaries of the book you are studying.
- You probably need to write
There is a place and time for just reading, but study usually means some form of writing so that you retain and comprehend the passage. You can choose to write in a journal, your copy of the text, or a workbook. I recommend having a journal to jot notes in as you study. These notes can be about anything you are learning and what the Lord is teaching you through the passage. The Be Still Journal from the Daily Grace Co. is a great option as it gives you prompts for how to respond to what you're reading.
- Give yourself time
As tempting as it is to rush through a book of the Bible, take time to read and enjoy the current book you are studying. I have known some people who take a whole year to study one chapter of the Bible. No expectations are placed on you to get through a certain amount of books of the Bible every year. These are only expectations you place on yourself. Keep the main thing the main thing and learn to treasure God's Word! The goal is to reach the end of your study of a particular book and have that book become a part of you. If you're having trouble remembering all that's in the book at the end of your study, you probably want to spend more time with the text. Again–don't rush it! Enjoy it!
- Finish well
As you finish, decide what you can do to make sure you remember this book in the future. How can you finish your study in a memorable way and respond well to what the book says? Consider taking a week before you complete your study to read through the book again and remember all you have learned. It might be helpful to make a journal entry with your big takeaways from each book. Maybe answer the following questions as well:
- How did this book point me to Christ?
- What did I learn about God as I studied this book?
- How should I live in light of what I learned about God?
- What is a sentence I would use to describe the overall purpose of this book?
We hope these tips are helpful to you as you study! The Word of God is a treasure, and it only gets sweeter the more time you spend with it! If you are interested in learning more about Bible study, our Search the Word study would be another great resource to dive into! The Daily Grace Co. Podcast also covers the topic of Bible study in multiple episodes! One you could start with is Episode 29, where Joanna and Stefanie discuss studying Scripture with your heart and mind.