This week David Lawson from Precept Ministries International (yes, he works alongside Kay Arthur) visited the “Island” and spoke to our class about what inductive Bible study looks like. Many people have not gone through any kind of teaching like this before, but I was blessed to have had the opportunity in college to take a class called ‘Interpreting the Bible’ that was very similar to David’s teaching. I took that class in college a few years ago, so it was really neat to be reminded of the truth and reason behind inductively studying the Bible.
Inductively studying anything means to gather all the details, to examine something very closely, to pick it apart and then make conclusions based upon the clear evidence. The purpose is to investigate the text, going from small details to big idea, not big idea to small details. It is important to inductively study the Bible to know God on a personal level. When we study the Bible for ourselves, we begin to grasp the text and hear personally from God through His written Word. The Bible comes alive in a new way when you study it for yourself. It is no longer just what you have heard from your parents, friends, or pastors; you know it to be true because you read, studied, and discovered truth through the revelation of the Holy Spirit. This kind of studying takes times and dedication. This week in class we studied Titus in depth. In the three days of class with David Lawson, we probably read the book of Titus eight times, each time looking for something differnt. We learned so much about Titus by using the three major areas of inductive Bible study: observation, interpretation, and application.
The first thing to do in the observation stage is to read the text. Ask yourself, what does it say? Take the Bible at it’s Word. God’s Word is flawless (Ps 12:6- And the Words of the Lord are flawless, Prov 30:5- Every Word of God is flawless). We should not necessarily always take the Bible literally (it is full of metaphors, illustrations, parables, etc) but you must take it seriously. As you read, observe the different people, places, and events. Ask yourself, the 5Ws (who, what, when, where, why). While reading, you will probably notice repeated words. These are keywords, that if taken out, the passage would lose it’s meaning. It is very helpful to use different color pens or colored markers to distinguish these things in answering these questions and noticing keywords (you may want to print out the book of the Bible you are studying while you dissecting it and go back later to your Bible and mark the biggest things that the Lord showed you). While observing and answering these questions, also make a list of things you discover.
Once we have observed the text by reading it a couple times, looking for keywords, making lists, and answering the previous questions we can begin to interpret the Scripture with the help of the Holy Spirit. In this stage, context is crucial. The word “context” comes from con meaning “with” and text meaning “woven.” The Word is woven together, it is a whole, it is a book that is not meant to be taken apart. When reading Scripture, studying it, and interpreting it, we must understand that the chapters before and after a passage are vital to understanding the passage, chapter, or book as a whole, to grasp what the author intended to communicate.
What good does observing and interpreting do if we do not apply what we learn? God did not intend for us to be only students of His Word, He’s called us to put our faith into action. James 2:17- in the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action is dead. By being a good steward and studying the Word, we form our beliefs that turn into actions. What we believe transforms our behavior and way of life.
As David Lawson says, “Inductive Bible study is like a seven course meal” and we usually settle for drive through. Let us slow down daily as we read the Word, to ask ourselves these important questions and grow in the knowledge of our great God. Today, “do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the Word of truth.” (2 Tim 2:15)