One of my passions is Bible study. I need it like I need to eat breakfast every morning. There are days that get ahead of me and I miss getting into the Word until I tuck wearily into bed and some days that I miss it altogether. But one day out and I feel off. My thoughts and emotions begin to drift, unanchored from God’s truth.
While I use devotionals and study materials, my very favorite is to first mine all I can from the Word before I turn to commentaries or study notes. I’ve found that as I dig down into the Word itself, without looking at commentaries, God unlocks truth that is deep and personal.
Today I want to share 3 ways to dig deep in Bible study. I pass these on as new methods that I’ve been using recently to help me. If they help you, then by all means use them. And I’d love to know how you mine truth from your Bible study.
1. Read the entire book in one sitting. Not the entire Bible but a book of the Bible. I adopted this practice from John MacArthur who starts new studies by reading a book of the Bible all the way through. He actually reads it through multiple times, but at least one reading through in one sitting gives enormous perspective to the full sweep of what God is revealing in that book.
So often, our Bible study is broken into pre-digested passages or we stop and start at the chapter markings. But the chapter and verse markings are not original and reading the book all the way through helps me see past verse numbers to the writing as the author first penned it.
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I’ve also been pleasantly surprised to read the often-quoted passages in context. What a difference that makes! Who knew “The joy of the Lord is your strength” comes not from some exultant victory but out of Nehemiah, when the Jews were grieving their sin? The flow of the text gives such rich context to these verses and much more insight into their meaning.
2. Read a chapter, then re-read and re-read. Instead of reading through a book, lately I’ve been reading the same chapter over and over before moving on.
It is flat out amazing how God continues to reveal new truth every time I read it. Different words or phrases will stand out or I’ll see something I never noticed before. Ask God to give new insight and new application and He will continue to unpack truth from the very same text you read the day before and the day before.
The Word is living and active! Just like no two conversations with a friend will ever be the same, no time with the Lord will ever be redundant.
Right now, I’m in Philippians 1 and today, for the first time, I saw Paul’s emphasis on unity in the body. He tells the Philippian believers they have “partnership in the gospel” with him. No competition. No “my ministry, your ministry.” All in partnership for one goal — God’s glory.
No wonder Paul could rejoice in Philippians! Can you imagine the releasing joy we would have if we weren’t striving to grow “our ministry” — to tweet it first or say it better or have bigger numbers on Sunday? We are not competitors but partners in the same gospel marching toward the same goal: to glorify God.
That was such a word to me that I saw only after reading the chapter for the sixth time. No telling what God will teach tomorrow.
3. Map out a word or phrase. This is the third method I’ve been using. As you’re in the Word, the Holy Spirit will spotlight certain words or phrases. I used to underline those and keep reading. Now, I stop and turn the word over in my mind. I ask questions, imagine its application, its original use and meaning.
For example, this morning I stopped on the word “bondservant” —
“Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ…” Philippians 1:1
My map looked like this:
This little exercise brings such fruit! I don’t just understand the word better; I find this is a place of tremendous personal application.
That’s the goal of Bible study: to know Who God is and, as result, to change who we are. <—– Of course, that’s the hard part! And that’s where our work really starts. But the more we dig deep in Bible study, the more God will give us very personal lessons.
This is the kind of stuff that makes me happy. It’s what keeps me coming back to the Word again and again to drink from this rich fountain. It is no intellectual exercise. It is opening a conversation from the very God of the universe and listening as He teaches me.