Maybe you’re like me.
You’ve tried small group Bible studies, home Bible studies, and personal Bible studies, all with varying degrees of success. In some cases, you learned something, and in others... let’s just say the fellowship was good!
For new believers and long-time Jesus followers alike, the Bible can be an intimidating book. Beyond its sheer size, the Bible comprises sixty-six individual books, making it more of a library than a single volume. It was written over a period of more than 1,500 years, on three continents, by dozens of authors, and in three ancient languages.
As for genres, Scripture contains historical narrative, poetry, prophecy, letters, songs, and apocalyptic literature, with parables and proverbs to boot. Add to that the gap of understanding between the ancient world and our own modern mess, and studying Scripture or the New Testament books in particular can quickly feel like a daunting task.
It’s enough to make you wonder why studying the Bible is important at all.
Let’s face it.
We all know we’re supposed to study Scripture, but what’s the point?
The answer to that question contains the hope we need to make Bible study more than just another chore. Studying God’s Word is meant to change our lives.
It’s not about finding the right study or the right study method, although there are some great resources out there; it’s really all about understanding God’s heart behind giving us His Word. To get there, we’re going to ask five questions about studying the Bible.
1. What is the Bible?
At the most basic level, the Bible is God’s revelation of Himself.
Think about that for a moment. God is infinitely powerful and glorious. He is the Creator of everything that is, was, or ever will be. And yet, He decided to speak to us.
If God had chosen to remain a mystery, we’d be on our own, left to navigate this sin-scarred world as best we can, without any hope of rescue.
But God did speak, and one of the ways He chose to speak was through the Bible. “All Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16), “the very words of God” (Romans 3:2). So when we pick up a copy of the Bible, we are holding in our hands something more precious than all the treasures of the earth.
While Scripture contains nearly every genre imaginable, it is all one, large story. When God chose to speak through a book, He didn’t create a reference work or a simple list of rules; He gave us a story, what some have called the greatest story ever told.
By speaking to us through story, a proven vehicle for offering and receiving truth, God has bent low so that we could draw near to Him. In that sense, the Bible itself is a beautiful picture of the gospel: God came near so that we might know Him.
2. Who Is the Bible for?
The Bible was written across many centuries, so it’s important to keep in mind that the original message of each portion was given to a unique set of people living in a certain time and place.
But while each part of the Bible was written to people who are now long dead and buried, it was still written for us.
Times change, cultures come and go, but God’s Word endures. Jesus even said, “Until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Matthew 5:18).
The Bible isn’t going anywhere, and it isn’t going to change either. But since it was written to people who lived in a world that looks very different than our own, how should we read it today?
The key is to find ourselves in the story. Think of the Bible as a five-act play:
- Act 1: Creation and the early history of the world
- Act 2: The story of Abraham and his family, who became the nation of Israel
- Act 3: The play’s climax, the story of Jesus’ life and ministry, death and resurrection
- Act 4: The story of the church that began in the book of Acts
- Act 5: The return of Jesus and the new age to come
In this play, we live somewhere deep in Act 4, as part of the church. That means certain parts of the Old Testament don’t apply directly to us, though the principles certainly do. It means that we may have to carefully remove some cultural coverings from many of the teachings we encounter in both Testaments. It means we must take seriously the commandments given to Jesus’ disciples, for we are His disciples too.
3. Where should we study the Bible?
At first, this might seem like an odd question to ask. What difference should it make if we study the Bible in the living room or at the dining room table? But that’s not what I’m getting at.
We should study the Bible as people who live in whatever context God has placed us.
- Are you a pastor in the Midwest shepherding a church of two hundred people in a busy suburban town? Study the Bible to apply it to your real life.
- Are you a new Christian who stepped away from a life of drugs and feels God tugging on your heart to go into the mission field? Study the Bible and apply it to your real life.
- Are you a stay-at-home mom who struggles with anxiety and Instagram envy? Study the Bible and apply it to your real life.
Whoever you are, wherever you live, study the Bible to find what God would say to you, right here and now.
It does no good to study the Bible just to fill ourselves up with knowledge, even if that knowledge is good, fun, Bible-nerd stuff. And it does us no good to read the Bible and not apply it. “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like” (James 1:23–24).
4. When should we study the Bible?
Similar to the last question, this isn’t about whether we ought to study Scripture in the morning or the evening. Our when for Bible study has to be much bigger than that.
With most subjects in life, we come to them in a certain season and then move on. I don’t know too many adults who still open up their algebra textbook from the eighth grade; they’ve left that study and gone on to something else
The study of the Bible, however, is something from which we’ll never graduate. It’s a lifelong pursuit that only grows richer and deeper with time.
You may have heard this before, but the point of Bible study is not to master the Word of God. Rather, it’s to be mastered by the Word of God, and that’s a work that’s never complete—at least it won’t be in this life.
One of the wonderful things about studying the Bible is that there’s always more to explore: more beauty to uncover, more mysteries to capture our imagination, and more of God to fall in love with.
If studying the Bible doesn’t come easily right now or you feel overwhelmed by all you think you don’t know, take your time. You’re not cramming for an exam; you’re meeting with the Maker of the universe.
5. Why should we study the Bible?
This might be the most important question we ask ourselves. We’ll never enjoy Bible study if we think of it like oatmeal for breakfast—something we have simply because we believe it’s the right thing to do.
The Bible says that “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17). That’s a mouthful, but in short, it means we are to study the Bible to become more like Jesus.
Way back in the garden of Eden, God made human beings for a purpose: to bear His image (Genesis 1:26–27). That means we were created to be His representatives here on earth, to be just like Him.
No one did that better than God’s Son. He is the perfect picture of God the Father, “the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1:3). So as New Testament Christians, living in Act 4, our goal is to become more like Jesus.
In Scripture, we meet with God and discover His heart. And by studying the Bible and applying what we learn, we begin to fulfill the purpose for which God made us.
Over to you
One last thing to encourage you as you study the Bible: God wants you to succeed. He has given us the Holy Spirit, “so that we may understand what God has freely given us” (1 Corinthians 2:12). He’s in your corner. You’ve got this!
Check out these additional resources
For additional Bible study material, check out these resources: