What is the greatest evangelistic tool you can give a person? What about the greatest discipleship tool? The greatest missions tool? In addition to the local church, I believe that Bible Study is the greatest tool we could offer any Christian. Even a skim through Psalm 119 would make this much clear. Yet, how intentionally do we train our students to read the Bible for themselves and with others?
Sure, we hope that we are modeling a Biblical approach to studying the Bible in our teaching, but we cannot expect students to intentionally learn what we do not intentionally teach—certainly not then be able to teach it to others!
To aid in this, we have developed a 7-step method for studying the Bible (7Cs). One step (or one C) can be taken each day to provide a full week of studying a passage with increasing depth.
We've created a PDF booklet that you can download free of charge, or you can read below for a little more detailed explanation of each step. May God be glorified as you study the Bible for yourself and with others!
Prayerfully read the Bible passage.
Examine the passage surroundings.
Find the big idea of the passage.
See how the passage points to Jesus.
Listen to the passage’s imperatives.
Pray the passage back to God
Talk about the passage with others.
Prayerfully read the Content of the Bible passage.
Though the Bible is a collection of works penned by many authors, it is really one big book by one big Author. The Bible was ultimately written by the Holy Spirit, and it was written for His own purpose. The Bible tells us the truth about who God is and who we are. The Bible tells us what God has done to save sinners, and how we should live in response. Though the message of the Bible is very clear, our sinful hearts and minds tend to get in the way, so we must ask for the Spirit's help to understand it rightly. We should not read the Bible like it is a chore to check off or a crank to turn or a fortune to be ignored. We must read the Bible as a Word from God Himself; that's exactly what it is.
BEFORE YOU READ THE BIBLE, ASK THE HOLY SPIRIT TO …
GUARD you from Satan and your own heart.
(Mark 4:14-15; Jeremiah 17:9)
GUIDE you in your understanding of His Word, that your understanding would not just be your interpretation but His intended meaning.
GIVE you knowledge and truth from His Word so you may be a more useful servant in His Kingdom.
(Psalm 1; 119:105; 2 Timothy 3:16-17)
GRANT you wisdom from above as you read.
(Proverbs 2:1-6; James 1:5, 3:15)
GLORIFY Himself as you read in a way that will honor Him instead of trying to make the Bible about you.
Taken, in part, from Chapter 11 of Bible 101: For Students
Examine the Context that surrounds the passage.
No scripture verse is by itself. In fact, no passage, chapter, book, section or testament is by itself either. Randomly flipping to any verse of scripture and taking that as your "word for the day" is ... well ... not a healthy practice. Remember that the Holy Spirit used people to write down these passages. They were written to real people at real times in real places with real problems. At the same time, the Holy Spirit inspired those words to fit into part of the much larger story of redemption. Each passage plays a unique roll in the smaller "story" it's telling as well as into the big narrative of scripture. Where (and how) it fits matters. You don't read a poem the same way you do a legal document (and the Bible's got both).
WHEN YOU READ THE BIBLE, THINK ABOUT IT IN REFERENCE TO …
HISTORY Who wrote the passage? To whom was it written? What was the reason for writing?
THE STORY LINE What happened right before this passage? What will happen right after it? How does it move the story forward?
THE COVENANT At what point in redemptive history is the passage happening? How does that shape how we read it and understand it?
THE CANON How does the passage fit into the larger story of the Bible? What comparisons or contrasts come to mind from the corresponding testament?
Taken, in part, from Chapter 2 of Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church
Find the Crux (or the big idea) of the passage.
Seeing the passage in its context helps enable us to understand the big idea of the passage. Remember that both the human and divine author had a purpose in writing what they wrote. Each book is about something, and each passage is about something. The authors want us to know what that something is. A lot of times they flat out tell us, but sometimes they just assume it should be obvious. Even in those times when its not, the passage will always have things that will help us clue in to what the passage is really about. The longer the passage, the wider the scope; the smaller the passage, the more targeted the idea, but each passage has a big idea.
WHEN YOU READ THE BIBLE, LOOK FOR CLUES LIKE …
REPETITION Are things in the passage repeated or restated? Are things in the passage repeated or restated?
(Philippians 3:12-14, James 2:14-26)
OPENERS AND CLOSERS Does the introduction or conclusion to the section point to a main idea that runs through the passage?
(1 Samuel 22, Mark 14:1-11)
LINKING WORDS Are there key words that connect different ideas or that draw your attention to something in the passage?
(Therefore, for, so, but, if ... then)
PURPOSE STATEMENT Does the author actually tell you why he is writing the passage?
(Proverbs 1:2; 1 John 2:1, Jude 1:3)
FALLEN CONDITION What sinful condition is the Holy Spirit addressing in this passage?
(Romans 15:4, 2 Timothy 3:16)
Taken, in part, from Chapter 3 of Bible Study: A Student’s Guide
See how the passage points to Jesus Christ.
If we stopped at the big idea and never see how the passage points us to Jesus, we actually would have missed the point entirely. All of the Scriptures point to Jesus—they are all about Him. The whole story is about Him and what He has accomplished in saving sinners, and each passage points us to Him and His work in some way. Sometimes it is by His name or title, sometimes by His seeming absence. Somethings it is a prediction of who He will be or what He will do, sometimes a ramification of who He is or what He has done. One way or another, it all points to Jesus. If we miss Him, we've missed the whole thing. We've just got to know how to look for Him.
WHEN YOU READ THE BIBLE, DOES THE PASSAGE POINT TO JESUS BY …
PROPHECY Does the passage tell who Jesus will be or what Jesus will do? Remember some prophecies have
multiple fulfillments. (Genesis 3:15; Psalm 22; Isaiah 9:6)
TYPES Does an actual person, event or thing find its greater meaning in the gospel of Jesus?
(Moses, the Exodus, Sacrifices)
NEEDS Does the absence of God or the failure of others show us our need for someone better who will do something better?
(Adam, David, Jonah)
MENTIONING Does the passage actually use language that specifically talks about Jesus? How does this help us know Him better?
(Christophanies, the Gospels, the Epistles)
Taken, in part, from Chapter 7 of Bible Study: A Student’s Guide
Listen to the passage’s Commands (or imperatives).
We've seen the main message of the passage and how it points to Jesus and fits in with the rest of scripture. We're done, right? Wrong—lest we only be hearers of the Word and not doers! It is vitally important to hear what scripture is saying, but then we must obey it, and we must obey it rightly. We cannot assume that everything that God told Joshua or Jeremiah to do has a 1-to-1 correspondence to us, but it does have some application. Often, that application is best seen in light of what Jesus has already done, but each passage shows a right way to live and/or believe. However, we cannot live/believe that way on our own. As we need the Spirit to understand, we need the Spirit to obey.
WHEN YOU READ THE BIBLE, HEAR & OBEY WHAT IT SAYS TO DO …
EXPLICITLY Does the passage actually say to do something? If so, how does that apply to your context?
(Joshua 1:2 vs 1:8; Philippians 2:2 vs 4:2)
IMPLICITLY Does that passage communicate that something should be done even if it doesn’t necessarily say to do it?
(Psalm 1:1-2, Proverbs 12:15, Luke 7:9)
BY EXAMPLE Does the passage give an example of a good thing that should be done? Is this an example that I should follow, or is it one that Christ accomplished?
(Genesis 15:6, 1 Samuel 17:49, Mark 9:24)
NEGATIVELY Does the passage give an example of a bad thing that should NOT be done?
(Judges, Jonah, Acts 5:2)
MINDFULLY Don’t forget the indicatives of the passage! Remember the Whys and the Hows by which we do the Whats.
Taken, in part, from Chapter 8 of Christ-Centered Preaching
Pray the passage back to God, Calling out to Him.
If we need the Spirit to understand and to obey, then as we called on the Spirit to teach us, we must call on the Spirit to change us. Praying the Bible back to God is a wonderfully healthy practice. It deepens our understanding of scripture. It aids our growth in Godliness, and it shapes our prayer life according to God's own words. There is a broader use here than with the strict interpretation part of scripture. A Bible passage might be talking about believers—saying what is true of believers. That may not apply to my friend. I cannot therefore understand that passage to be about my friend. BUT, I can pray that for my friend—pray that it would be true of my friend! Is there better way to pray for salvation or for anything!?
AFTER YOU READ THE BIBLE, PRAY IT BACK TO GOD THROUGH …
RECITATION The Bible contains many prayers that we can simply recite back to God in prayer.
(Psalm 51, Matthew 6:9-13)
PERSONALIZATION At times we must alter the tenses of the scripture to pray them for ourselves or others.
(Psalm 27, Philippians 1:9-11)
INSPIRATION As we study a passage, a person or situation may come to mind. The passage may not directly apply, but we can nonetheless pray that the passage would apply!
(Psalm 30:3, Philippians 1:6)
IMITATION As we pray the scriptures back to God, our prayers will rightly be shaped by the Bible. Our prayers will imitate the Bible in both the subject and the language of our prayers.
(Psalm 74; Ephesians 1:15-23)
For more on this subject look at Donald Whitney’s Praying the Bible
Talk about the passage with others in Community.
Though we have heard what the Spirit is saying through His Word and applied it to our lives by His power, our work is not yet done. The great commission that Jesus gave to the church is to take the Word to all the nations and make disciples of all peoples. Going to a foreign country may not be your task, but if you are a Christian the mission of the Word of God going to everyone is your job. Different than (but related to) that, it is your job to evangelize those around you and to disciple them. That's a BIG job, but ultimately the work is done by a BIG God. He does so by the power of His Word in the hands of people just like you. So, don't just read the Bible for yourself, read it with others also, and God will do His work.
AFTER YOU HAVE READ THE BIBLE, DISCUSS WHAT YOU LEARN WITH …
MORE MATURE CHRISTIANS The Lord has given us many guides in the faith who can help us to better understand His Word. The Holy Spirit uses them to guard us from error and guide us into truth.
(Parents, Pastors, Youth Workers)
CHRISTIAN PEERS The Bible is sufficient; you are not. None of us will understand the Bible perfectly. We can and should benefit from the insight of others.
(Siblings, Friends, Youth Group)
YOUNGER CHRISTIANS In humility, we can help others learn what we have learned. This does NOT have to be in an official teaching capacity!
(Siblings, Sunday School class)
NON-CHRISTIANS The Holy Spirit uses His Word to speak to and change the hearts of people like nothing else. Studying the Bible with someone may be the greatest evangelical tool that we have!
(Relatives, Classmates, Neighbors)
For more on this subject look at Katherine Forster’s Transformed by Truth