Applied Theology
by WordExplain

A Potpourri of Biblical and Practical Perspectives on a Variety of Topics . . .

"Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth." John 17:17

How to Study the Bible for Yourself

By WordExplain

How do I study the Bible for myself?  That is an excellent question!  While there are many devotional guides available, there is nothing like studying the Bible for oneself.

Dr. Howard Hendricks challenged us, years ago in Dallas Theological Seminary, to study a book of the Bible a paragraph at a time.  He encouraged us to use those wonderful working questions of WHO?, WHAT?, WHEN?, WHERE?, HOW?, and WHY? on each paragraph.  As we worked through each paragraph, we would ask these questions of the text, then jot down brief answers.  Being a busy seminary student, I did not heed his advice.  Six years after graduating from seminary, I met Dr. Hendricks again, and this time his suggestion stuck.  Ever since then, I have been working on my own inductive Bible Study.  I found that, as time went on, my style changed, and I made little adaptations that suited my style and personality better.  The last question, WHY?, I have found, is perhaps the most instructive question AFTER the others have been used.  It often affords striking insight into God's ways.  I have added an additional question of my own, SO WHAT?  This is an applicational question.  It means, "SO WHAT does this mean to me? or  "SO WHAT do I need to change, or apply, or do, or refrain from doing?

Dr. Hendricks encouraged us to give a title to each paragraph we studied, and to spend a month in a particular Bible Book.  After I finally gave heed to his advice in 1980, six years after graduating from DTS, I discovered two things.  (1) I couldn't get by with only one month, particularly in the lengthy books.  So I ignored his advice and took as long as necessary to go through a book.  (2) After I had given titles to each of the paragraphs in a book, I felt somehow short-changed.  So I began to go further.  I grouped paragraphs that had related titles into a group and gave that group a title.  Then I began to group groups of paragraphs and gave that new group a title.  Finally, I found I had constructed an analytical outline of the entire book, with titles to at least the paragraph level and sometimes deeper for each book of the Bible.  If you wish to look at my Bible book outlines, feel free to do so.  On this web site all the New Testament Outlines are collected in one place, and all the Old Testament Outlines are in another.

But that’s getting ahead of the story and really has nothing to do with your studying the Bible on your own.

Several years ago I introduced a friend of mine, Steve Rains, to the concept of inductive Bible Study.  I gave him the Seven Working Questions, and he took to it like a duck to water.  Eventually he recorded his observations and his applications on his word processor.  Fortunately for you, he has permitted me to place his own personal study of the book of Jonah on this site.  Steve is a layman, a sales representative by trade.  He has no formal theological or Biblical training, but God has given him a desire to study His Word on his own.  This is Steve’s work, not mine, and I hope you not only enjoy working through it, but that you will be sufficiently challenged and motivated to study the Bible on  your own! 

You will probably need either some kind of notebook in which to record your observations, or you may prefer loose leaf college ruled paper which you can keep together in a file folder of some sort.  Or you may enjoy computer keyboarding enough that you make your observations in your favorite word processing program.

Have fun, and may God bless you and instruct you!

Click here to go to Steve's own inductive study of the Book of Jonah!

by James T. Bartsch

January, 2008

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WordExplain by James T. Bartsch

(Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.  Used by Permission.)

Completed November 3, 2010

Upsated July 26, 2016

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