Reading the Bible is fun! It is a time of fellowship with God, through His Word. Studying the Bible for yourself can be part of your daily routine; not because you must do it, but because you love to be in God’s presence and want to grow in faith.
Whether you are a beginning reader, a seasoned bookworm, or want to revive your Bible reading, you may wonder what is the best possible way to study the Bible? Well, there are different methods to study the Bible effectively.
In our attitude to studying the Bible, we can easily feel obliged to do it, get preoccupied with knowing where to find certain books of the Bible, or wanting to read the Bible as fast as possible. However, it is not about knowing the chronological order or how to learn the bible fast. God desires to have fellowship with us through His Word, and to teach us and transform our lives to become aligned with His will.
What are good Bible study habits? We can read in a group setting or on Sunday during church service. Both are fine. The best practice, however, is to know how to study the Bible for yourself in your private time. Why? Because it is then that God, through His Holy Spirit, can speak to your heart, soul, mind, and consciousness.
“Study this Book of instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.”Joshua 1:8 (NLT)
How do I study the Bible and understand it?
Reading, studying, and understanding are not the same. We can read a book (or the Bible) without understanding and can even study books without really getting the message. Studying the Bible is not about knowing with our minds. As much as it is good to know the chronological order and to memorize Scriptures, it is not the purpose of God’s Word.
God’s Word is Spirit. Yes, we read letters on paper when we study the Bible for ourselves. The genuine message, however, comes to us when we allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us while we study the Bible. It is then that God’s Word can do its life-transforming work in us and make us more like Him each time we read His Scriptures and ponder on it. And it is only then that God’s Word does its work in us.
“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.”HHebrews 4:12 (NLT)
The Bible is written by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It is therefore vital to invite the Holy Spirit into our Bible study, to allow Him to speak to us, to teach us, and to transform us. Without Him, we wouldn’t be able to understand the Bible. The best Bible study habit is one where the Holy Spirit is part. If you wonder “what is the easiest way to study the bible?”, invite the Holy Spirit to be with you and teach you.
“This ‘letter’ is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts.”2 Corinthians 3:3 (NLT)
What book of the Bible should you study first?
When I became a Christian, I didn’t know how to read the Bible or where to start. I was 25, a student, and had never in my life read the Bible. I knew how to read study books though, so I applied the same method to studying Scriptures. So I simply started with the first book of the Bible, Genesis, and then read on.
After a week or two, God let me meet someone who told me to start in the New Testament and to read about Jesus. I did, though my student-mentality still played tricks on me. I focused on who the author was of each book, the period in history it was written in, and what other proof existed that it was indeed written in those days. The setting of the stories in the Bible was something that I also tried to understand.
All of this is not wrong, but it doesn’t lead to real understanding and applying of God’s Word. It took me a while before I understood the Bible wasn’t just ink on paper, but the life-transforming Word of God. I experienced I needed the Holy Spirit to form good Bible study habits.
So then, when we want to know how to study the Bible for ourselves, in which book of the bible do we start? Well, it doesn’t really matter, as long as we open our hearts (and minds) and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us and transform us through God’s Word.
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.”2 Timothy 3:16 (NLT)
How should a beginner study the Bible?
Making room for the Holy Spirit to guide us in our reading is vital for beginning and experienced readers. It is incredibly helpful to pray before studying the Bible for ourselves. We can continue praying while we read, or pause in between to pray, and close our study session with prayer.
We can start reading the Bible by following the order (cover to cover), or start in the New Testament, or read individual Bible books. Importantly, we shouldn’t see the text as mere words and stories with insights but read with comprehension. We should let the Word of God speak to our hearts and ponder about what we read (meditate). Then, we can compare our lives with the Word and reflect on what we could change in our lives.
When studying the Bible for yourself, make sure you choose a version that you understand. Especially as a new believer it’s important to to find the best Bible translation. There are many translations available in many languages. Then use your Bible daily and make notations in it (color, mark, underline, write, etc.). Using special Bible pens and highlighters is a perfect way to do that. This makes studying more personal and helps us to remember Scriptures and their meaning.
You can also use a special Study Bible. Personally, I use the Dake NKJV Study Bible. It gives me that extra insight in the Scriptures.
And, not unimportant, we should schedule a daily time to study. Because if we leave it to random acts, we give way to the enemy, who will simply let us forget or get us so busy with other things that we don’t make time for Bible study. It should become a time for fellowship with God based on relationship, not based on rules. God doesn’t force us to do anything, He just wants to spend times with us.
Whether you are a new believer or have walked with God for a longer time, the most important thing is to read/study the Bible. Don’t leave it closed on your bookshelf, or in an unused Bible-app on your phone.
Bible study methods
There are several Bible study methods to make our lives easier. You can study the Bible by yourself, in a group, or together with just a few friends. We can use printed Bibles, Bible study books, or apps.
Various excellent Bible study books for women are on the market, offering help to study the Bible for yourself.
Bible apps are a great way to keep us engaged in reading. Most apps have inbuilt reminders and overviews, keeping us on track. They offer various Bible reading plans, ranging from chronological, to series, to topical, to parts of the Bible. Plans come in short-term form (for example, 5 or 7 days, or 3 weeks) and long-term (a quarter or, for example, a full year). You can, for example, choose a plan that helps you to read the full Bible in a year.
Most apps have an audio option. With audio, we can listen to God’s Word on the go, at home, or while we read for ourselves.
It is excellent to read and know the Bible in its fullness, understanding all the stories and insights in it, as well as to read the Bible verse by verse and getting a better understanding of each verse in the Scriptures. When using a verse-by-verse bible study method, we get a deep understanding of each verse and enable it speak to our innermost being. Eventually, this transforms us into the likeness of Christ.
Another simple and effective way to study the Bible for yourself is the SOAP Bible study method (Scripture/Observation/Application/Prayer). Whether you are a beginner or have read the Bible multiple times already, it is worth trying the SOAP method of Bible study.
Here is a beautiful free template for download: soap bible study method pdf.
No matter which Bible study method we start, we shouldn’t give up too soon because it takes an average of thirty days to form a new habit. The same it is with developing a Bible study habit for yourself.
What are the 5 steps to Bible study?
We can study the Bible for ourselves in many ways. There are, however, five steps that apply to almost every Bible study method.
- Pray and invite the Holy Spirit to be with us while we read. Ask Him for understanding and to show you what God wants to tell you. Ask Him to make your heart receptive and sensitive to His leading. Ask Him to reveal His purpose for your life through His Word.
- Read with fresh expectation. The Word of God is alive. It speaks to us in different ways at different times. Verses or complete chapters will appear new to us in different stages of our lives. Also, God’s Word has so many layers. Thinking we know it all closes our hearts to learn more of Him. His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts higher than our thoughts. We should therefore remain open to new insights and fresh revelations, no matter how many times we read a verse or the complete Bible already.
- Observe the context. Ask questions such as who, what, when, why, and how to understand the context within which the Scripture is written (historical and social). We should also study the context of the surrounding verses because no verse stands in itself. For example, most promises in God’s Word come after an ‘assignment’ (if we do ‘X’ God will do ‘Y’).
- Meditate, journal, and apply. What does the Scripture speak to us personally? What does it teach us and what behavior should we change? Should we be more forgiving, for example? We should allow the Holy Spirit to speak to our hearts and then apply what we read and follow the conviction the Holy Spirit put in our hearts. Meditating on a verse is a perfect way to give room for the Holy Spirit. When we journal our observations and insights, over time, we will see how much we have grown through studying the Bible. Journaling helps us to keep track of the changes and progress we make.
- Pray. We end with prayer to thank God for His Word and for the insights He gave. We ask the Holy Spirit to help us apply what we read.
Study and apply what you read
As you can see, there is not just one answer to the question ‘how to study the Bible for yourself’. You can try several Bible study methods to find the one that fits you. Over time, you may want to try another study approach.
No matter which way we choose to study the Bible, we shouldn’t just read it for the sake of reading as if we are satisfying an obligation of the Christian life. We read the Bible because we love God and want to get to know Him more, and to allow the living Word to transform our innermost being-our spirit and soul.
The most important thing is not to just be a reader of the Word, but to be a doer of the Word. We should apply the Word of God in our daily lives. That is what effective Bible study does.
“But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.” James 1:22 (NLT)
Lord, thank you for Your life-giving and life-transforming Word. Holy Spirit, thank you for being my companion and guiding me the way I should go. Teach me how to read Your Word, help me understand what I read, and guide me into the steps I should take.
Give me the confidence and boldness I need to face the world and be obedient to Your Word. I am grateful for Your guidance. Thank You, Lord, for helping me be the person You want me to be.
Your Word truly is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between my soul and spirit, exposing my innermost thoughts and desires.
Thank You, Lord. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.