Inductive Bible Study Basics – Part 1

“My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.” Proverbs 2:1-5

Inductive Bible Study is a method for learning how to exegete the Bible for all its worth by our best efforts. We do this through learning the tools and skills to help us observe the text, dig out the meaning, and then apply it to our lives.

Some people view the Bible as an un-climbable mountain, a dark cave into which we fear to trespass. Be encouraged, and be comforted; you can indeed do it. Through the Inductive Method, you can climb that mountain and venture into the cave with confidence. In fact, you will be able to extract the truths as an expert exegete does just by posing some simple questions! The Bible is as a diamond mine, filled with precious nuggets that can be applied to your life to transform and renew it! As with any mine, you do have to start digging; we will show you how to do this. The Inductive Method has been proven to be the best way to find those diamonds, and the more you dig, the more you will find!

The Basic “Into Thy Word” Inductive Bible Study Questions

  • What does this passage say?
  • What does this passage mean?
  • What is God telling me?
  • How am I encouraged and strengthened?
  • Is there sin in my life for which confession and repentance is needed?
  • How can I be changed, so I can learn and grow?
  • What is in the way of these precepts affecting me? What is in the way of my listening to God?
  • How does this apply to me? What will I do about it?
  • What can I model and teach?
  • What does God want me to share with someone?

In addition, our Inductive Bible Study Channel (Equipping you to Study the Bible) has more in-depth questions and techniques to assist seasoned Bible expositors, pastors, and Bible study leaders.

The Big Question: “What Does this Passage Say?”

These are the basics of how to study God’s Word. It is called the science of exegesis but there is no need for big words here. These are the basic procedures a pastor or experienced teacher of the Word learns in Bible School and Seminary so he can prepare sermons and commentaries, but, here it is boiled down in a clearer and simpler way for you to understand and apply so you can then teach it to others! You will be able to mine more nuggets of precious precepts than others who may be in a hurry, who do not know how to go about it, or who have developed bad habits, causing them to miss some important stuff. Remember, these “Inductive Bible Study” methods are not for professional Christians only; they are the tools for all disciples of the Lord to use!

  • Remember, there is no “best way;” it is important only that we do it. This study is about placing the “burr” under the saddle to get the horse moving, or plugging in the computer so we can use it!
  • Remember, to be in a state of prayer and humbleness before the Father!

A lot of people get lost at first as they dig out the family Bible with its beautiful leather cover and thin parchment pages, then find it difficult to understand and finally give up because the type is too hard to read, the font is too small for the eyes to track, and/or the translation is too difficult to follow. So, make sure you have a good, readable translation. There are numerous resources out there; take advantage of them, including Bibles with large, easy-to-read type.

How Does One Start?

Start with the proper approach-that of prayer and reverence. If we do not have the right attitude and mindset, we will not get much out of God’s Word, because our will gets in the way of His!

Prayer! “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law” (Psalm 119:18). This is the essential, first step to always, always starting anything-especially the studying of the Bible and communication with God!

Attitude! Have a good attitude based on seeking Yeshua rather than seeking self. Our minds must be clear and childlike before Him, because, when you read His Word, you are standing before the face of God-the Holy God! So, adjust to a good attitude and reverence for God and His Word.

Select the verse, book, and passage you wish to study. Either start with Genesis or Matthew; some Bible teachers suggest John. If this is too much, then begin with 1 Thessalonians, as it is easy to understand. The point is to do it. Do not jump into tough books like Revelation or Romans first. Get to know the Gospels first! Discover what our Lord has to say to you! Do not be overwhelmed! Yes, the Bible looks ominous and un-climbable, but you have to just start. Just as when eating an elephant, you do it one bite at a time, and then one day it will be done! This is why we have so many Bible reading plans on our website.

REMEMBER: It is simply not enough to know what you want to do-you have to know the right way to do it. It is like following a recipe in cooking or using the manual when working on your car.

FIRST: PRAY!

  • Ask God into your study as your Teacher. Ask Him to free your mind from distractions and help you concentrate. You are entering a learning partnership with Yeshua!
  • You have to make a commitment and stick to it. Sticking to it will allow you to become more motivated and constant; thus, the more you do, the easier it becomes!
  • A good plan is essential to any undertaking.

SECOND: Overview

Look at the whole book (a single book in the Bible) and “see the big picture.” For example, if you are going to study John, read the book of John in an easy-to-read translation, like the New Living Translation. Read it like you might be reading a favorite novel. Enjoy it! Read it through in one sitting with no distractions. An average reader will take 30 minutes to one hour to do so. That way, you will gain an overall understanding. It is best to do this step at least two or three times!

Whole to Parts to Whole

Start by skimming the whole book, carefully re-reading each chapter, one at a time; then, reread it very carefully and slowly in a good translation. Keep in mind the question, “what does this passage say?” Then, check out other translations, commentaries, and dictionaries. Repetition is the key to understanding!

You may start off with Genesis, Matthew, or John. You may want to do a little O.T. and N.T. each time, in which case I recommend any of our Bible Reading Plans or the One Year Bible, published by Tyndale.

  • Preview it. Read it like a novel. If you are having difficulty with one translation, try another. Then read slowly and keep re-reading. This will help you to remember.
  • Like a wide-angle lens, OVERVIEW the big picture. Remember the context! See the whole picture of what is going on. The reason most people do not get it is because they do not get in it!
  • Study whole books, book by book, and not just by topics or chapters.
  • Like putting together a puzzle, start with a corner and then the straight edges. Start with the obvious in its context, and the rest will be revealed from there!
  • Do not read a passage here and a passage there. Read a whole book through and through, systematically. First, read the chapters; then, study the verses, verse by verse, in order. You are not at a buffet; you are in His Most Holy Word.
  • If you first look too closely at a tree, you may not realize you are in a forest!

Start Asking Questions!

  • You are to study the Bible with quiet confidence in God. (Matt. 8:5-13; 14: 22-33; John 15:1-17; Eph. 3:20; James 4:3; Jude 24-25)
  • The basic plan is that you interview the Bible; ask it questions to get to know the story, just as a reporter or researcher does. At the same time, whom you are interviewing is God’s Most Holy Word in His Holy presence!

Questions to ask the text to be more challenged and to draw out more information:

  • Is there a lesson to learn?
  • Is there a command to obey?
  • Is there a sin to avoid?
  • Is there a promise to claim and keep?
  • Make sure you trust and obey what God is telling you!

THIRD: Ask the Question: “What Does This Passage Mean?”

This is where we continue the Inductive Bible Study process using logic and sound reason. After you have done your overview, begin to read the passage more carefully, as if you are examining it with a microscope. This task is called the exegesis. This fancy word simply means to study a text carefully, rationally, and thoroughly to find the original, intended meaning. We are to do this without any preconceived ideas or agendas. If we come to the text thinking we already know all about it, we show that we know nothing, and we will gain nothing. Strive toward the “plain truth” of what the passage you are studying means. It is “common sense,” and yet, it is more than common sense. This is where we “pick” at the text, and in so doing, we are picking at our hearts and minds.

  • Read carefully; study it! Remember, most Christians read the Bible, but few study it! Use the NIV, CEV, NKJV, or NASB versions. Do not be distracted and do not stop. Try reading aloud for better concentration.
  • Study with reverence to Yeshua; see His Holiness so you have a proper sense of your ultimate reality, of who you are in Yeshua.
  • Study with purpose! To be present with God, we must be willing and able to go deeper. Allow His conviction. Then, your personal knowledge and relationship with Him will deepen. Growing in Yeshua is our priority in life! (Psalm 27:8)
  • Remember, God is God and we are not. God, being God, is to be the most significant and important Person in our lives. We need to honor Him so we can hear Him; as we know Him better, we worship Him as LORD.
  • Imagine yourself as a participant. Read as if it is your story, as if you are there.
  • Let God speak to you, as the main goal is for you to know the Lord better, not just to gain more knowledge!
  • Look out for topics, logic, and direction.
  • Meditate and pray over the passages that “speak” to you as you re-read, then memorize those key passages.
  • Remember to examine what is being said
  • Inductive Bible Study helps us study with a plan: consecutive reading, book study, topical study, and verse-by-verse. Luke 24:27, Acts 17:11

FOURTH: Charting: Start to Make Use of the Book Chart

Write down what God is saying to you and what you have discovered and learned. Doing this will allow you to apply it to your life better! Study with a pen and notebook. That way, you can record what you see and hear. Your insights and thoughts will become clearer and you can even disentangle what is false. His Word is clear, so make sure your notes are clarified as they pass through His Word to your fingertips onto a page for present and future use.

  • A book chart will help you write down what the text says and means, and to tackle questions such as: Who? What? Where? When? How? and Why? What does this passage say about God? About me? My sin? My struggles? My opportunities? What is my example to follow? What Fruit, Discipline, and Character do I need in order to develop and operate? What are the sins I need to avoid? What is my call and duty to carry out? What promise does He have for me to receive? What prayer do I need to offer? Then write down your reflections in first person singular because it applies to you.
  • If you do not have a chart, you can easily make one. Take a piece of paper and draw three column lines down it. At the top of each column, write one of the three, basic, Inductive Bible Study questions. In column one, write “What:” As you ask the question, “what does this passage say?” you have a place to jot down your notes. Then, in column two, write “Meaning.” This is where you write down what you have learned by asking, “What does it mean?” and what God is telling you. Then, at the third column, write “Apply.” This is where you write down your insights on “How does this apply to me?” and “how I am encouraged.” Save some space at the bottom for questions to ask a mentor and/or research later, and save room for your prayers.
  • The primary goal of interpretation is to find the “plain meaning” of the Bible so it can be used in your life, church, and community!

ALWAYS BE AWARE OF THE CONTEXT!

  • The “nitty-gritty” for review: Read a whole book at least three times in an easy-to-read translation. Then, read each chapter you are studying in a good translation at least three times. Then, read the verses, verse-by-verse in order, and write down what you see and learn. Then you will be amazed at how much more you will pick up!

FIFTH: Ask the Question: “What is God Telling Me?”

This is where you are seeking conviction, and allowing the work of the Spirit, through His Word, to show you principles and precepts to apply to your life. Be aware that sometimes you may not like what is shown, but it is what you need to hear. This is where we hear His voice, where we become transformed and renewed, and we grow in our faith and practice. This requires that our will be poured out and surrendered to His. We must learn to study the Bible so we are challenged and convicted to gain more insights into God’s character and call for us!

Conviction is very important to make us aware of our wrong ways and for us to align our path with His Way. God has His ways of refining and purifying us so that the waste products of pride and selfishness can be tossed aside while His real redemptive work and sanctification come to us in power and conviction. People of strife in the world, and Christians who are weak in their faith will hold on to their will and not allow conviction or change to enter their routine or life. Do not let this happen to you!

  • As a Christian, the reality of who you are in Yeshua must hit home in power and certainty at some time or another. Has this happen to you? If so, how? If not, what would it take?
  • God, the LORD over all, is LORD of our lives, too. Thus, He should have the primary place in our lives, where we recognize, trust, and serve Him with joy.
  • God, our LORD, is to be trusted, loved, and enjoyed so we can be challenged to take His precepts into our will and actions.
  • Here are some personal, inductive questions you can use to challenge yourself. Take a careful look at the passage you are studying; as you realize that it is indeed God’s most precious Word, examine your life and compare it to the passage. Now ask yourself:
  1. How do I exhibit a life of fruit, character, love, faith, and maturity in my daily life now?
  2. How can I develop the willingness to be a more disciplined, character, fruit and faith driven person who will realize I am called, empowered, and filled by Yeshua?
  3. What blocks His work in me from working and being exhibited in me?
  4. How can I accept and commence His work, and discipline myself to carry it out?
  5. What can I do to make His work in me function better, stronger, and faster, even in times of uncertainty and stress?
  • So, what is our LORD telling you?

SIXTH: Ask the Question: “How am I Encouraged and Strengthened?”

God calls us to encourage others, just as He encourages us. With His encouragement, we can tell others about Him just by our attitude. This builds unity and strength that cannot exist for selfish and alone Christians. To live a life that is not touched by Yeshua is to live a life that does not touch others positively, which is a very sad life indeed (Col. 4:7-8;1 Thess. 5:11-14; Heb. 10:25).

In Yeshua you are a pillar. This refers to faithful people of God who are stable and can support others. Just as pillars hold up large buildings, we, as the faithful, hold up Yeshua (as in glorifying Him), and we also hold up others (as equipping and encouraging them) (Ex. 24:4; Is. 56:5; 1 Cor. 3:16; Gal. 2:9; Eph. 2:20-22; 1 Tim. 3:15; Heb. 3:6; 1 Pet. 2:5; Rev. 3:7-13). When we feel weak, we still have His strength, and our faith and resolve to continue to grow our faith will become a mighty pillar that others can look to for an example and for encouragement. We are His example to others; even at our lowest, we can excel for His highest. Let us understand what He has done for us so we can do our best to be faithful even in times of pressures, waiting, and uncertainty.

His encouragement greatly helps us to see God’s Word as real and impacting, without error or defect. This will help us study the Bible with expectation as we realize that Yeshua, Himself, is Lord over all.

  • To grow in Yeshua, we must desire to be with Him and to learn from Him. (Phil. 3:10; I John 1 :3-4)
  • Remember this important fact: Your Savior has a personal word for you! (Psalm 119:25- 28, 50, 72, 89, 90, 105, 130; Prov. 6:20-23; Ps. 40:7-8; Jer. 15:16, 23-29; Matt. 4:4; plus many more).
  • When we are encouraging to others, it means we have been given the strength for others and we have a surplus for ourselves. Then, we can see our spiritual and personal lives supported and built up greatly, we can see what He has for us, and we can live a life worthy and for His glory. We will be encouraged and strengthened indeed!

Humbleness is characterized by the willingness to receive learning, and experience growth in Yeshua. Peter and James tell us we ought to be humble toward one other so that we can know the grace of God and not be in opposition to God. Then we can be humble, not only toward one another, but toward God. This is so straightforward. This is so essential if we are to be a blessed Christian and to be a growing church, not in numbers, but in discipleship

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