How to Study the Bible Part 1 – Just Pick it Up and Read It :-)

Do you shy away from reading the Bible because you don’t think you’ll understand what you read?

Are you worried because there are lots of weird names and hard-to-pronounce words?

Maybe you haven’t read the Bible because you don’t own one?

Maybe you don’t think you’re supposed read it because you’re not a “born-again Christian.”

Let me tell you – all you have to do to get started is pick it up and read it – or download a version to read on your phone. 😉

Image Credit: Verse of the Day

It is difficult to understand what’s going on in some places. There are lots of hard-to-pronounce names of people and places. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. It’s imperative that you read it for yourself – especially if you’re telling people you’re a Christian. You can’t rely on what other people tell you about the Bible. Even the most trusted pastor would advise you to read and study the Bible on your own, in addition to listening to sermons and messages from those trained to teach from it.

Aside from simply gaining knowledge about biblical things, reading your Bible is a way to grow closer in your relationship with God. He can and will speak to you when you spend time in the Bible.

Even if you wouldn’t classify yourself as a believer, you can read the Bible. Even if you’ve never accepted His offer of salvation, you can read the Bible. The Bible was written for you, too.

There are tools within most Bibles to help you when you’re ready to dig in and study what it has to say.

But first, here are pointers to keep in mind:

  • PRAY. Talk to God before you start to read the Bible – every time you start to read. Thank Him for giving you His written word so you can learn about who He is. Thank Him for giving you His written word so you can learn how He wants you to live. Ask Him to forgive you of your sins so you won’t be separated from Him, so that you can hear Him when He talks to you about what you’re reading and so you can understand things about God’s kingdom. Ask Him to open your eyes and soften your heart. Then, tell Him you will submit to His will. Ask Him to open your mind and your heart to read and understand what the Bible says. Ask Him to show you where to go and who to talk to when you need help. Ask Him to help you yield to Him when He shows you things in your life that you need to turn away from. {Hint – you aren’t going to like or agree with everything He tells you to turn from, so praying for His help to yield to His commands is important}.
  • Read and reread. It’s ok if you don’t understand what you read the first or even the fifth time. Read it again and again. Reread it even if you did understand it. Meditate on what you read – think about what it said over and over in your head. You can even use apps that will read the verses to you so you can listen to scripture.
  • Read the same thing in different translations. This is particularly easy if you have access to a smartphone or the internet. Many versions of the Bible are accessible through their own websites and there are also apps that offer different versions within the same app – you can switch back and forth by clicking on the version you want to read.
  • Ask a trusted Christian friend when you need help. Don’t have any Christians in your circle that you could go to with questions? I’m available to talk with you. Contact me through my blog, and I’ll do all I can to help.

Now, let’s look at some of the research tools available in many versions of the Bible:

  • Once you’ve prayed and God has pointed you toward the particular book to study, read the introduction to that book (if your version of the Bible offers that). I do this in my print Bibles. I have an English Standard Version (ESV) Personal Size Study Bible and a New American Standard MacArthur Study Bible (MSB). Both offer introductions at the start of each book that include information such as the author and date of the book, background and setting, key themes of the book, an outline, etc. Reading the introduction first gives you context and helps you place the information you’re about to read in the overall timeline of biblical (and sometimes broader historical) events. I do this every time I read a book for the first time.
  • Many Bible translations also offer commentary. This is extra information and insight from theologians and biblical scholars about specific verses and passages. It is important to make the distinction, however, between the scripture itself and the commentary. Scripture is the Word of God; it came from God. Commentary comes from man. It is meant to give us extra insight and help us get a better understanding of what we read, but it isn’t meant to be taken as 100% accurate like we would scripture. We must always go back to prayer and scripture for our final understanding.
The commentary in my ESV is at the bottom of each page below the scripture. Scripture font is larger than commentary font and a line separates the two in order to signify the distinction between scripture and commentary.
  • The concordance is another helpful tool found in many versions of the Bible. It’s located at the back of the Bible and is similar to an index and a glossary in reference books. Let’s say you want to study fasting. Turn to your Bible’s concordance, find the “f’s”, and find “fast” or “fasting.” (Words are listed in alphabetical order). Now you have a list of other verses in the Bible that include the word “fast” or “fasting.” You can go to those verses and read more about biblical fasting (and the accompanying commentary for those verses). I do this when I want to focus my study on a word or concept and learn more about it from a biblical standpoint.
MSB Concordance
  • Cross-references are similar to the concordance and help us locate more scripture about a particular word or concept. Note the picture below. The arrow in the middle of the page points to a tiny “t” superscript in front of the name Apollos in Acts 19:1. In the left margin, another arrow points to the corresponding “t” meaning the name Apollos is mentioned again in Acts 18:24. If I want more information about Apollos, I can use this cross reference to read the scripture and any corresponding commentary about him.
Cross references are signified in the verses with superscripts (tiny letters above and to the left of the word or idea). The corresponding cross references verses are found in the inside-facing margin of each page.

Next week in “How to Study the Bible Part 2,” we’ll discuss studying words from the Bible in their original languages – Greek and Hebrew. You don’t have to have a seminary degree to be able to do this 🙂 Come back next week, and I’ll show you.

(***I’m going to do something I’ve never done – read the introduction to the Bible. I imagine that will give me even more resources the bibles offer for study that I didn’t even know where there 🙂 I hope you’ll read the introduction to your Bible as well. I’ll tell you what I learned).

3 thoughts on “How to Study the Bible Part 1 – Just Pick it Up and Read It :-)

  1. Pingback: How to Study the Bible Part 2 – Dig Into the Words | Servant Girl Stories

  2. Pingback: How to Study the Bible Part 3 – Write a Letter to God | Servant Girl Stories

  3. Pingback: How to Study the Bible Part 4 – Do a Formal Bible Study | Servant Girl Stories

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