A very long time ago, I posted 4 Reasons to Read the Bible. It was supposed to be the beginning of a Bible reading series, which got temporarily derailed when I had to go on an unplanned hiatus. But even though it’s been nearly four months since the first post, I don’t want to give up on it, so here…at last…is the next post in the “series”.
One of the biggest problems many people have with Bible reading is knowing how to do it. Are we just supposed to sit down and read? How do we get the most out of it?
The answer, usually, is studying in some way. Rather than just reading a passage and being done for the day, it’s good to dig deeper into a verse or a section.
Knowing how to do that can be a challenge, though. I’ve experimented with many different methods over the years, and for the next few months, I’m going to share some of those methods, explaining how they work and going through examples. I hope that this can help you find a method that works for you, in whatever season you’re in.
Today: what I’m calling the Linear Study method.
This is a pretty standard way to study a passage. Here’s how it works:
- Choose a set of verses, either a chapter or a section of a chapter.
- Work through your chosen section in order. Write out the main points, and make a note of the verses that contain those points, as well as any additional thoughts that come to mind.
- At the end, write a quick summary of the passage’s overall meaning, to tie everything together.
For an example, let’s use 1 Timothy 1:12-17:
12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. 13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
So first, work through it in order, writing out the main points. Here’s what I came up with:
- Paul is thankful that by God’s mercy and grace, he was transformed from evil to abundant faith and love (12-14).
- Jesus came to save us, and the Christian life requires full acceptance of that truth (15).
- Paul is an example of the statement in verse 15: he was a terrible sinner, but in his salvation, he was an example to the world of how much Jesus loves us and wants to rescue us (16).
- These truths, of Paul’s salvation and of our salvation, are ultimately so that the world will praise and bring glory to God (17).
(As you can see, sometimes four or five verses will condense into one point, and other times each verse is so dense that it has to have a separate point. Also, notice that the points aren’t super in-depth; they note the main, central meaning of the passage, leaving out the smaller details.)
Then, taking those four points, I’ll write a summary of what the passage’s main theme is:
God, for his glory, offers free salvation through Jesus Christ. This can be received by anyone, no matter their past, as Paul is an example of. This truth is the central truth of the Christian life and we should seek to fully accept and trust in it.
When to Use It
While it’s good to study individual verses in detail, of course, it’s also important to spend time looking at bigger chunks to make sure you’re studying everything in context. This method is especially good for those longer passages since it helps you condense the meaning and connect all of the individual verses into one whole.
When Not to Use It
Like I said above, it is good to study individual verses in more detail, and with this method, there are always details that will get glossed over. So if you’re looking to go into deep detail with your Bible study, this might not be the method for you.
It is worth noting, though, that once you’re comfortable you can start adding more thoughts and notes within each main point, and go as in-depth as you would like. It just doesn’t lend itself to that as naturally as some of the other methods I’ll share.
Overall, this method is easy, straightforward, and ensures that you won’t miss any of the major ideas a passage holds. If you’re at a loss for where to start studying your Bible, this is a perfect method to use. It doesn’t take too much time, and works for any passage, anywhere in the Bible.
Next time, I’ll share another way to study passages that is slightly more specific and guided than this one, so if that’s what you’re looking for, stay tuned!
In the meantime, let me know if you’ve tried this, and what methods you use to study a longer passage of Scripture! I’m always looking for more ideas.