How to Study the Bible (A Beginner’s Guide)

In our fast-paced world we hardly have time to study the word of God. There are far too many things to do and not enough hours in the day to complete them all. In this post we are going to consider ways to study the Bible effectively for beginners.

An open Bible laid on top of garland leaves on a cloth

Studying the word of God can be overwhelming for both the beginner and experienced reader. 

It requires a great deal of planning and self-discipline to find effective ways to study God’s word that are compatible with our work schedule.

The study of God’s Word is one of the most important endeavors a person can undertake. Studying the Bible enlightens and revitalizes our minds and spirits.

Daily Bible study helps us better understand and appreciate God’s plan of salvation. 

In Paul’s words, the holy scriptures impart wisdom for salvation:

And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:15 KJV)

Here are seven basic biblical principles for beginners to follow when studying the Bible:

1. Set Time for Bible Study Every Day

Setting aside time for Bible study every day will help you grow in grace and knowledge of God. 

The Bible encourages us to study God’s word every day, just as the noble Bereans did.

“These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” (Acts 17:11 KJV)

The Bereans searched the Scriptures on a daily basis to confirm and verify what they were learning from Paul.

Make the Bible your primary source of godly knowledge and study, and you will grow spiritually.

You cannot relegate your Bible study to only when you have spare time. With your hectic schedules, there’s a good chance you’ll never have any spare time. 

Make time for Bible study by planning ahead of time.

2. Incorporate Prayer into Your Bible Study

You incorporate prayers into our Bible study in order to receive insight and revelation from God.

Daniel, the prophet, is an excellent example of someone who prayed to God for wisdom and revelation. 

When Daniel saw visions he could not understand, he prayed for revelation:

“So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.” (Daniel 9:3 NIV)

Later, in response to Daniel’s prayer, God sent an angel to explain the vision to him. 

The Bible records:

He instructed me and said to me, “Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding. (Daniel 9:22)

David is yet another example of why, in order to understand God’s word, we must seek Him in prayer. 

At the time, Torah, also known as the law or the Pentateuch, was the only scripture available to David.

Every time David studied the Torah, he prayed:

Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law. (Psalm 119:18 NIV)

We can make David’s prayer our own. We must ask God to open our spiritual eyes to see amazing things in His word.

Solomon also encourages us to pray to God for spiritual insight.

Indeed, 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 2:3-5 NIV)

3. The Unconverted Cannot Rightly Interpret Scripture

Bible truths are incomprehensible to the unconverted. 

Why can’t the unconverted interpret scripture correctly?

There are three major reasons why the unconverted cannot interpret or understand the Bible correctly:

A. Spiritual Truth Is Hidden from the “Wise and Prudent”

At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes (Matthew 11:25 NKJV).

The deep things of God are hidden from the “wise and prudent,” but are revealed to those who receive the word of God with an open mind like children.

B. Biblical Truth Can Only Be “Spiritually Discerned.”

These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:13-14 NKJV).

Only those who have undergone a spiritual transformation can accurately discern and communicate biblical truth. The Holy Spirit enables such individuals to comprehend and teach the truth. 

Unconverted people cannot “receive” or “understand” spiritual things because they are foolishness to them.

C. The “Untaught and Unstable” “Twist” the Bible Out of Its True Meaning

“And consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16 NKJV).

Peter acknowledges that Paul’s ability to understand and teach biblical truth was a gift from God. He also admits that sound biblical truth is hard or “difficult to understand” if one is not taught in the ways of God. 

According to Peter, those who are “untaught and unstable” “twist” or wrest scriptures out their true meaning.

4. Let the Bible Interpret Itself

One of the cardinal rules of the Bible is that it is its own interpreter.

Why is it important to let the Bible interpret itself? It is important to let the Bible interpret itself for the following reasons:

A. No Part of the Scripture, Prophecy Included, Is of Private Interpretation

Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation (2 Peter 1:20 NKJV)

What can we do to avoid “private interpretation” of the Bible? We avoid “private interpretation” of the Bible by allowing the biblical text to interpret itself in its historical and cultural context. We are not to impose our own interpretations on the Bible.

B. We Are Required to “rightly Divide” the Word of God

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15 KJV)

We are to be diligent in our study of God’s word. Sound biblical doctrine is the result of careful and laborious study, not chance.

What does it mean to “rightly divide the word of truth”? To rightly divide the word of truth means to make a conscious, concerted effort to faithfully interpret and teach God’s word.

On the way to Emmaus, Christ explained the Old Testament prophecies about Himself to two of His disciples. 

Christ’s breakdown of prophecies to the two disciples is an example of what it means to “rightly divide the word of truth.”

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. Luke 24:27

Christ guided the disciples through the Scriptures, explaining what the law and prophets had written about Him. 

The result of Christ’s faithful interpretation and application of the Scriptures was that His disciples’ hearts “burned” within them.

They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” Luke 24:32

When the scriptures were opened to the disciples, their hearts “burned” within them. Every believer should have this Emmaus experience at the end of each Bible study session. 

Our hearts will be warmed and drawn closer to God as we study His word.

You can also read Luke 4:16-20 where Christ applies a Messianic prophecy from Isaiah to Himself. 

As evidenced by these and other scriptures, Christ is the central theme of both the Old and New Testaments.

5. Compare Scripture with Scripture

There is no biblical text without context.

But the word of the Lord was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken. (Isaiah 28:13 KJV).

The vast majority of the world’s treasures are buried in the ground and can only be unearthed with some effort and patience. 

Similarly, it takes time and effort to bring out the beautiful tapestry of doctrinal truth from God’s word. 

We must compare scripture with scripture “line upon line.”

6. Receive the Bible as God’s Voice to You

Accept God’s word as God’s personal voice to you. 

The pursuit of truth and the reception of God’s word with all “readiness of mind” are inextricably linked.

The apostle Paul commends the Thessalonians for receiving the word as God’s personal voice to them.

And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe (1 Thessalonians 2:13 ESV).

When Paul presented the Bereans with scriptural proof of our Lord’s sufferings and resurrection, they “received the word” with “all readiness of mind.”

These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. (Acts 17:11 NKJV)

What does it mean to receive “the word with all readiness of mind”? It means to approach God’s word with an open mind, weighing new ideas against the revealed word to determine whether or not they are true, and then living in accordance with what has been revealed.

The Bereans were a group of people who were passionate about the truth. They were more open to new ideas and less prejudiced. 

The Bereans believed that truth had to be examined and pass the test of its claims before it could be accepted. They were doers of the word as James puts it:

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves (James 1:22, ESV)

The psalmist declares that hiding God’s word his heart gave him victory over sin.

Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You. Psalm 119:11 NKJV

Receiving and living out the word of God in our lives gives us victory over sin.

7. Study with a Notebook by Your Side

Writing allows us to more deeply reflect, contemplate, and digest information.

As you read the Bible, God will impress your mind with some insight into the text. 

It’s always a good idea to keep a notebook nearby so you can jot down ideas as they come to you. 

You will be able to refer back to these notes and build upon them as your studies progress.

Your skills and ability to engage the word of God will improve as you grow in grace and knowledge of God. 

Keeping a journal of your prayers, thoughts, and feelings is an excellent way to track your progress.

Summary:

This post has given us some ideas on how to study the Bible effectively for beginners. We’ve discussed the importance of Bible study and the importance of studying the Bible every day. 

We’ve also discussed why it’s critical to incorporate prayers into your daily Bible study. We’ve also discussed why it’s crucial to let the Bible speak for itself and why unbelievers can’t comprehend biblical truth. 

Finally, we’ve discussed why hearing God’s word as His personal voice to us is so important.

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The purpose of this blog is to provide biblical answers to frequently asked questions about God, the Christian faith, and life in general. It is our hope that your faith in God will be strengthened as you read the biblical insights presented on this blog.

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