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4 Steps to Studying the Bible

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“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV).

About the Bible

The Bible is God’s holy Word. It reveals God’s character and His plan for His people. It’s a love letter from God to us, an instruction manual on life and living. The Bible is comprised of 66 individual books authored by approximately 40 men. It includes history, prophecy, and poetry; it tells the story of God’s creation and how He redeems mankind through faith in Jesus Christ’s birth, death, burial, and resurrection.

Reading vs. Studying

There is a difference between reading and studying God’s Word, and there’s a time and place for both. When you read, you become familiar with God and learn more about Him. Since God’s Word is alive (Hebrews 4:12) and never returns void (Isaiah 55:11), it will feed your soul whether you’re reading or exploring!

“So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11 NKJV).

When you study God’s Word, it nourishes your soul. It involves reading and digging deeper. You want to understand who the author was writing to, the culture, timeline, prophecy, and how this relates to God’s story of redemption for His people. Studying involves cross-referencing Scripture with Scripture and understanding the context of the story in the Bible as it relates to world history.

Studying demands your best attention and produces growth in the believer’s heart. Studying is more challenging than just reading, and it’s worth it.

Steps to Studying the Bible

Use a Study Bible

  • Using a study Bible is a great place to start; it will inform you of details surrounding the book that you may not know otherwise. Study Bibles are standard Bibles with outlines that include additional historical, contextual, and cross-reference text. These may consist of historical maps and reference tables for measurements and currency.
  • Many study Bibles have an introduction page before each book, which tells you important details about the author, the audience, the time period, and where the book falls in the historical timeline of the children of Israel and Jesus’ coming to fulfill the prophecy of the Messiah.


  • A concordance is an alphabetical index of words that lists all the verses in Scripture where a specific word occurs. Let’s say you want to explore the word redeemer. You can use a Bible concordance to locate all of the passages in the Bible that contain that word.
  • Researching a particular word using a concordance can be helpful in your Bible study because it introduces you to the various occurrences where that word is used in different or similar contexts. As you read each passage in detail, you will see the various contexts in which it’s used. Such research will enhance your ability to understand the depths and beauty of God’s holy Word!
  • Bible concordances come in many varieties. Some are complete and exhaustive and can take up a prominent spot on your bookshelf, while others are concise and simplified, found in the back of your Bible’s appendix or as a separate smaller resource.
  • A Bible concordance is translation-specific, so be sure to use one that matches the Bible translation you’re studying, as words have been translated into English from the original text, sometimes word for word or phrase for phrase, depending on the Bible translators.

Commentaries and Additional Resources

  • A commentary is a reference guide written by Bible scholars, designed to explain Scripture passages and give you a bite-size understanding of a complex passage. They may describe the original Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic meaning of words, provide additional historical context, or guide you to other areas of the Bible that they believe are helpful to understanding a topic.
  • In the footnotes of a study Bible, you’ll often find commentary. Extensive commentaries can be found online or at the library, or you can purchase your own paper copy.
  • Commentaries have been written for centuries.
  • A commentary is a valuable resource to use when studying the Bible. You’re guided by a writer who has thoughtfully devoted significant effort and time. Do your due diligence in choosing a commentary because any in-depth Bible study needs to be guided by reliable resources written with the direction of the Holy Spirit.
  • Some have found that the greatest recommendations for commentaries can be found in the Bible they use. Look at your study Bible’s acknowledgments or endnotes page to help guide you to a reference book or commentary that would align well with your study Bible.
  • Dictionaries and Bible dictionaries can also be helpful in your Bible study if you’re unsure of a word’s definition. You may also find Scripture cross-references in your Bible's margins or footnote section, like a convenient mini-concordance. Follow the cross-references to see where the same theme, quote, or topic is discussed across the Word of God.

Bible Study Approaches and Methods

  • There are numerous approaches and methods to help you study the Bible. Depending on your learning style, one method may work well for you, while another does not. Try different styles until you land on the method that helps you stay focused and understand God’s Word at a deeper level.

The SOAP method stands for Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer.

  • The basics are choosing a passage of Scripture and writing the verses out at least once. Then, spend time carefully examining the passage. Note things like the author, who the author is writing to, cultural references, and repeated words or themes. Once you’ve made these observations, ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand the biblical truth that is declared in this passage.
  • Now that you have a biblical truth as your guideline ask the Holy Spirit to help you apply it to the area of study you’re working with. It may also have a personal life application, but it applies to God’s bigger picture that He’s communicating to us through His Word.
  • Finally, spend dedicated time in prayer. Ask God to reveal Himself to you through this text. Ask Him to open your mind to deeper understanding and knowledge. Pray through the passage. Acknowledge what you’ve learned and what you still have questions about. Confess any sin God has revealed in your life through this study.

Study one book of the Bible at a time. Prayerfully choose a book in the Bible to study—perhaps one your church recently studied. Use the tools and resources mentioned previously to help you understand who, where, when, why, what, and how of the book. Go verse by verse, carefully examining the text and consulting your Bible study resources.

  • Consider listening to sermons and podcasts on this specific book from trusted faith leaders to hear another perspective from someone who has studied God’s Word..

Take a Bible study course. A Bible study course is an in-depth course studying a book or theme in the Bible. You will explore different methods of preparing for a study, individual book study, topical study, character study, and more. These courses walk you step-by-step through the process and offer the support of a teacher or facilitator should you have questions.

Additional Things to Note About Bible Study

Studying God’s Word is like a spiritual workout! You must pray, flood yourself with the Word, take notes, and reflect on all God is teaching you. Like a workout, condition yourself with consistent practice to grow in your knowledge and understanding.

The Holy Spirit reveals Himself to us as we read and study. God’s Word transcends time. It is infallible (or inerrant)—meaning God preserves it against human error or mistakes.

The various Christian denominations are evidence that groups of scholars have interpreted Scripture differently. That’s part of the beauty of God’s holy Word. It even declares within it that the secrets and unknowns will eventually be revealed in God’s timing.

“For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all (Luke 8:17).

There are parts of Scripture we cannot understand right now. For example, the Trinity: God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit of God—all are One, yet separate. Because we are humans, we are limited in our ability to comprehend the ways of God. God is mysterious. He is God Almighty, and we cannot grasp the majesty of His plans and purposes.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

One important warning about Bible Study—don’t invent ideas to fit your needs. Before you engage with Scripture, ask God to help you understand what He has declared in the text. Avoid inventing messages that aren’t in the text to justify your point of view. For His name’s sake, if you feel you’ve discovered a new truth or revelation in Scripture, you must test it with Scripture and deep study into this matter. The enemy prowls about like a hungry lion, looking for weakness and ways to manipulate and twist God’s Word (remember Satan questioning Eve in the garden—he cast doubt in her mind, asking, “Did God really say?”). Allow the Holy Spirit to guide and direct you as you’re reading.

“For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires” (Hebrews 4:12).


This is an introduction to how to study the Bible and the resources and tools that you can use, but it is not an exhaustive list of methods, courses, etc. Many universities and schools of seminaries offer more in-depth study courses. Check out Regent University’s How to Study the Bible Course.

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About The Author


Maria is a Digital Copywriter at CBN who is passionate about using her writing to present the gospel and encourage someone to take the next step in their relationship with Jesus! In addition, she's an avid sports, fitness, and holistic health fan who lives outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with her husband and son.