When a book is as weighty and important as the Bible, it is important that we study it. But more important than studying it, is that we study it well. Because Christians inherently understand these two things, many are scared to undertake their own study of the Bible out of a fear of being led astray. As I have been trying to simplify the task of Bible Study in order to teach my children, I have found that these 5 questions are useful for almost any passage of Scripture.
- What does this passage tell us about God? (His character, actions or desires)
- What does this passage tell us about people? (Their character, actions or desires)
- How can I pray this passage?
- Is there a command, promise or instruction that I need to obey?
- How does this passage help me see Christ better, understand his work or show me my need for him?
What does this passage tell us about God? (His character, actions and desires)
The first question helps the student of the Bible to look in the text for the things of central importance – God, God’s person and God’s purposes. Applying a question like this to Genesis 1-2 will yield a host of insights into the nature, character and creative wonder of God. He alone is uncreated. He has an eye for beauty. He is organized and consistent. He has a plan. He makes good things. He makes value statements – the difference between good and very good in the creative event. He is relational. And the list could go on.
What does this passage tell us about people? (Their character, actions and desires)
The second question helps the burgeoning Bible scholar to recognize things about his person, character and so forth. Again, if we look too Genesis 1 we will find that humanity was created to be blessed, to be fruitful, to have children, to rule/steward over the works of God. We were created to be in relationship and to partner together, not to live in isolation. We were even given a choice to obey God or not. This was our original state. But when we look further into Genesis, just one chapter, we will find some very different things out about humanity, their actions and desires – like we don’t believe God, we choose poorly, we have died, even though we are physically alive, and our relationships are now broken.
How can I pray this passage? Is there a command, promise or instruction that I need to obey?
The third and fourth questions help us to apply the passage to our life. It is not enough to know information about the Bible, God and people, that information must affect our life. We must be changed by it. The best way to be changed is to begin by praying to the God who created us. When we ask how to pray a passage, we are seeking a way to apply what we have learned about God and ourselves. We might praise God for the character we see revealed in the Word. We might pray that God would help us to make better choices than Adam and Eve. We might ask God to help us steward the things in our possession for his benefit, or to give us more creative ability to see and remake the world as He sees it. We might ask for courage to obey any commands we have seen, or faith to believe the promises he has made. And that leads us to the need to act. Based upon what we have learned and prayed, we must ask how this can be applied to our life? Is there something God wants us to do?
How does this passage help me see Christ better, understand his work or show me my need for him?
But since all of Scripture testifies to Christ and is centered upon his great redemptive work, we never want to stop at the application question, for then we are tempted to believe that it is all about us. But we all know that we can never be good enough, faithful enough or worshipful enough. The final question helps to refocus all of our thoughts and hopes upon Christ. This will require us to think from a much broader perspective and to draw upon all of our Scriptural knowledge. In a study of Genesis 1, one might realize that Christ was present at the creation, or they might realize that taken in a broader perspective, Christ is the one who restores us to the state of fellowship that humanity had with God in the Garden of Eden before the fall. This final question leaves us in a position of thanks, gratitude and awe for the Savior of the world.
I hope that as you begin using these 5 questions in your own Bible reading and family devotions that you will be blessed and encouraged.