You can gain a lot of information from studying the Bible, but if you do not move from information to obedience, you will not grow and your study of the Bible will be of no real benefit to you. Here are some important guidelines to use when you want to study the Bible.
- By far the best way to study the Bible is to do it with a group.
- Too often, people go to commentaries and all sorts of “tools” to help them understand passages. To simply read the Bible and ask the Holy Spirit to teach you and to reveal to you the basic and deep things in a passage, will normally be enough for daily devotionals and group Bible Studies. Rely on the Holy Spirit to teach you and help you discover the depths of the Word. There is a place for commentaries, books etc., but do not consult them too quickly. Let the Holy Spirit be your teacher and counsellor. It is, after all, through his inspiration and guidance that the Bible was written.
- Too much of our general reading and studying of the Bible is information-based. The ultimate goal of reading and studying the Bible, and discovering what God wants to reveal to us, is obedience. We need to move from information-based Bible study to obedience-based Bible study.
A few practical ways to read the Bible
- What does this passage say?
- Why do you think this passage is in the Bible?
- What acts of obedience is the Holy Spirit asking of you from this passage?
- Read the passage.
- Re-read the passage. If you are studying the Bible as a group, let someone else read it a second time.
- First question: What does this passage say about God? What do you learn about God?
- Second question: What do you learn about people. What does the Word tell you about man?
- Third question: How can and must you practically obey what you have discovered in this passage?
- Read the passage.
- What do you learn about God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit?
- What sins are mentioned that you need to avoid or confess?
- What godly examples do you find here, and what are they teaching you?
- What commands are given to obey?
- What promises do you find in this passage?
- Is there anything that you do not understand? Bring the question to God and ask him to give you the answer in his own time. In the meantime, obey what you already understand.
- Pray about what you have learned.
- Which things do you need to obey?
The most important principle
To go from information to obedience, you have to ask: What is the Holy Spirit saying or prompting me to do as a result of what I have discovered. A very simple way to define what you are going to do is to put it in an “I will…” statement. An “I will…” statement is simply saying: I will… visit a particular person, take a meal to someone, ask forgiveness for something that I have done, make a coffee appointment with someone and share how I became a Christian (not preaching – just witnessing), tell someone what Jesus did for me, encourage someone who is suffering and hurting, build a friendship relationship, etc. There are many things that the Spirit of God will lead you to do or not do in the future.
Remember: Obedience, not information!
If the Holy Spirit shows you a spiritual principle, like trusting God more, living a holy life, calling you to a deeper surrender, you need to answer the following questions:
- How will this look practically in your life?
- What must you do or not do?
- If the Spirit shows you something to do, do it within 48 hours whenever possible.
- Share with someone else what the Spirit said to you so that the person can hold you accountable. If you do the Bible study as a group, the group becomes the accountability network.