Building a house is complicated. In addition to land and permits, you’ll need experienced workers, lots of tools, and blueprints.
Bible study, on the other hand, is not complicated. We need to think clearly here, because if studying the Bible seems involved and intimidating, we’ll never do it.
You Don’t Need Tons of Resources
Faithful, biblical resources are wonderful, and I thank God for them. But very few of them are essential.
You don’t need fifteen commentaries. You don’t need a study Bible, and you certainly don’t need three. You don’t need a Bible atlas, Bible dictionary, or concordance. You don’t need a million cross-references.
Don’t worry about the Greek. Don’t sweat the Hebrew. The church fathers need not enter the picture.
There’s no need for high-powered software. You don’t need a dedicated notebook, fancy pens, or special highlighters.
In order to study the Bible, you need blissfully few items: a Bible, a pen, and a blank sheet of paper (or some worksheets). That’s it.
Studying the Bible is as straightforward as taking a walk. Lace up your shoes, step out the door, and go.
You Don’t Need a Convoluted Process
There are scores of books available on interpreting the Bible, some of which are great. And you don’t need any of them.
Studying the Bible is simple; you can sit down and do it right now. The method we advocate uses three steps: observation, interpretation, and application. (We refer to this as the OIA method.)
Imagine you’re driving on an unfamiliar highway. When you observe the highway sign with your exit number, you interpret this to mean that your destination is approaching. You apply this understanding by using your turn signal, changing lanes, and driving onto the exit.
Bible study can be boiled down to asking three questions. When observing, we ask, “What?” Among other things, we take note of repeated words, names, grammar, and the structure of the passage.
When interpreting, we ask, “Why?” We question our observations. Why did God promise to go with Moses (Ex. 3:12)? Why does Aaron perform the signs given to Moses (Ex. 4:30)? We try to answer these questions from the Bible and understand the author’s main point.
Finally, when applying, we ask, “So what?” From the main point of the passage, we seek the implications for us and the people we can influence. Good application should change the way we think, act, and love.
As you develop as a Bible student, you’ll probably want to consult some of the resources I mentioned above. God has given these to his church, and they can be tremendous aids for understanding and growth.
But starting with the Bible is easy. Pray for God’s help and wisdom. Find a quiet place, carve out 20 minutes, and dig in.