Last week, I began an exploration of various ways to study the Bible. The first was the linear method, a very straightforward and adaptable structure that you can shift to your time constraints and study needs.
But some of you might want a method that has a bit more structure and guidance, so today I’m sharing what I’ve dubbed the In ‘n’ Out method. This is a way of studying a passage that allows you to see both the context of when it was written and how it applies to you today.
(I have no idea where I first heard of this, or if I made it up, or mashed a bunch of methods together. If you know the source, please let me know!)
- Choose a set of verses, either a chapter or a section of a chapter.
- To summarize the passage, write out the answers to the basic questions, in terms of the passage’s literal context: who, what, when, where, why, and how. These should be super short; a couple of words or a sentence is all you need.
- Next, zoom out, and think about what it teaches for Christians in general.
- Then, zoom back in, thinking about how it applies to your particular Christian life.
Let’s use Hebrews 11:13-16 as an example.
13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
First of all, answer the basic summary questions. You may have to look at the verses surrounding your chosen passage; I’m working from the first twelve verses of Hebrews 11 as well as the selected passage.
- Who? The saints of the Old Testament.
- What? Their faith and hope for heaven.
- When? The time before Christ.
- Where? All over the earth.
- Why? Because God promised them a Messiah and eternal life.
- How? By trusting those promises, even though they hadn’t seen them.
Then, take that very specific-to-the-context summary, and extend it into a few sentences about what this means for the entire church.
The essence of the Christian life is trusting God and believing in His promises, even if it is not clear how or when they will be fulfilled. In this age, we know that the promise of Christ has been fulfilled, but we are still awaiting heaven; we know that we are sojourners in the world, just passing through, and ought to always have that in mind.
Finally, take the general summary, and make it specific again with how it pertains to you. Even for the same passage, this could look very different from person to person, depending on your circumstances. But here’s an example:
I shouldn’t cling too closely to worldly things. Ultimately, I have a hope that is far greater than anything the world can give me, and so I need to hold my possessions and successes with a loose grip, willing to cast everything on God and go wherever he asks me to.
When to Use It
This works well when you want to study a passage thoroughly, yet quickly. It ensures that you aren’t focusing too much on application with no textual understanding, or textual knowledge with no application, both of which are easy to fall into.
When Not to Use It
Like the Linear Study method, this is designed to get a sweeping overview of a long passage, and not to go in-depth on the details. So like I said before, if you really want to go deep, this may not be what you’re looking for.
It’s also possible that you might have to research some historical context to get the answers to those summary questions, and if you don’t have the time or patience for that, this might not be for you. But I would encourage you to try it before giving up! Don’t underestimate the value of learning Biblical history. Plus, if you have a study Bible, most likely all of the information you need will be easily accessible in those notes.
In general, this is a very useful method if you want to study a large chunk of Scripture and need something more guided or more thorough than last week’s.
Next week, I’ll share a way to focus more deeply on particular verses, so look out for that!
Do you happen to know the source of this method, or did I actually make it up? Have you tried it, or will you try it? Share in the comments!