Bible Study Tools

Bible study is made up of 4 essential elements or tools:

  1. Observation
  2. Interpretation
  3. Application
  4. Implementation

Without adequate and careful observation, our interpretation can be and probably will be shallow at best, and faulty or downright erroneous at worst. 

Without correct interpretation, our application could be completely misguided. 

Without clear application, our implementation could even be harmful to the Kingdom.

On the other hand, without implementation, our application becomes a forgotten list or hope-to-get-to-some-day weight that plagues our never-measuring-up, performance-driven lives that rise up like phantom specters pointing their bony fingers at us and hissing, “Failure!”

Without application, our interpretation stokes the swelling of our know-it-all pride. 

Without Interpretation, our observation is relegated to a set of easy-to-memorize facts having no relevance whatsoever to any of the rest of our lives.  All 4 must be in place, one flowing out of the other in orderly fashion, and together they are transformative.

Observation is the collecting stage; it teaches us to think logically.

Interpretation is the thinking stage; it teaches us to think critically.

Application is the processing stage; it teaches us to think appreciatively.

Implementation is the doing stage; it teaches us to think realistically and honestly and to live integrally.

Observation and interpretation establish worldview. 

Your worldview establishes your convictions.
Your convictions establish your lifestyle and daily choices.

Application and implementation put your worldview into practice.
Through application and implementation, your worldview moves from theory to lifestyle and personhood.

Bible study is work.  Bible study takes time.  Bible study is study! 

But all hard work, all personal study is rewarding.  The more you put into something, the more you will get out of it.  Bible study is not a quick fix, but a thorough process engaging the mind and heart to know God and His full counsel.  Failure to be studious puts you at the mercy of the worldview of the current culture, the media, your favorite author, etc., and often we don’t even realize how much we’ve been sucked into the thinking of the world. 

What happens in each stage?

Observation:   a collecting of facts from the text

  1. Read, read, and reread the entire passage
  2. Make a key words tally mark list
  3. Make lists of lists (list character qualities, list commands, list contrasts, list metaphors/similes, list people/people groups, etc.)
  4. Write down any questions that arise

Interpretation:  an organizing of the observation facts into meaningful categories and deciphering the full meaning of the text

  1. Read, read, and reread the entire passage
  2. Using your key word-tally mark chart, title each paragraph
  3. Using your key word-tally mark chart, determine the theme of the book/passage and title the book/passage
  4. Write down the doctrines that are taught in the book/passage
  5. Look up problematic sections/questions in commentaries
  6. Look up key words in a Strong’s Concordance to ascertain fuller meaning from the original  Hebrew/Greek words (look up root words, verb tenses, definition nuances, etc.)

Application:  an acknowledging of the things that need to change based on the clear commands and a proper interpretation of the passage

  1. Give thanks for the attributes of God and the blessings, stated or implicated, in the passage
  2. Prayerfully consider the direct commands
  3. Write down the implications of the passage and how those things should affect your life

Implementation:  a determining of the proper course of action based on the application

  1. Assess your life in light of the application:  repent of/confess where you are lacking and fall short; ask God to help you know what you ought to do, what things need to change, and how to walk obediently
  2. Prayerfully write a specific course of action in real time and space
  3. Ask for accountability
  4. Pray daily for God to work these new things in you