Friday, September 30, 2011

A Tool to Unlock the Meaning of Scripture

Hi friend! This year I’ve gone back to school. Kind of crazy, I know - especially after all these years. Occasionally, on Fridays, I’ll be posting required assignments. The assignment today actually ties in with a post from earlier this week (At His Feet). At His Feet shares the extraordinary truth that Jesus invites each of us to personally sit at his feet and learn directly from him. That would be a tiny bit like Roger Federer offering to give us tennis lessons or Paula Deen calling to see if she can come over and cook with us!

Inductive Bible Study

Inductive Bible study is a tool that takes us to the “feet of Jesus” and helps us engage with His teachings in Scripture. It allows us to hear truth from God first as he intimately teaches us about His character, His purposes, and His ways in the Bible. To me, inductive study is a lot like a treasure hunt. It’s a constant adventure that results in exciting discoveries as God reveals facets of his character that I have never seen before.

Three major areas of Inductive Bible Study:

1)      Observation
2)      Interpretation
3)      Application


Observation is a process of surveying and gathering information about the text. It means looking for the obvious (people, places, and events) and identifying things like:

Who was the author?
Who was the author writing to? (if applicable)
Who are the characters in the writing?
What was the author writing about? Was he writing about history? Was it poetry? Was it a letter?
When in history did it take place?
Where does it take place? What locations are mentioned?
Why did he write it?

Observation also involves pinpointing repeated words and phrases (key words) and making a list of what the text has to say about those words.

Key words are little jewels from the heart of God. They convey a critical point in the text He wants to make certain we hear. He helps us discover those little jewels by repeating Himself. If those words are removed, the text would lose its meaning. Recognizing those words and making lists about them leads to a clearer understanding of what He's saying.

Observation is kind of like taking a boat across the water to a place where you’re going to snorkel. You observe the surroundings as you approach your destination. You listen to the guide describe the area and the type of sea life you’ll be seeing.


Interpretation is discerning what the text means.

Studying the context of scripture is essential to understanding the intended meaning of the text. Context is the background, the setting, or frame of reference. It means looking at the big picture to see how a small passage of scripture fits into the surrounding text. You can start with immediate context and work out from there. Begin with how the scripture sits in the context of the paragraph, then how that paragraph is positioned in the chapter, then the book. Passages can also be compared with the author’s other writings and the whole of scripture.

Word studies, cross-referencing, and understanding doctrines of faith help us dig deeper and unlock the meaning of scripture.

Interpretation is putting the snorkel equipment on, jumping into the water, feeling the wetness, tasting the salt on your lips, and seeing the colors, shapes, and details of the fish and coral beneath you. You now understand what snorkeling is about.


Application is applying the meaning of Scripture to personal life. It’s examining your life and determining what God is saying to you personally. Are there changes you need to make in your behavior or your thinking so that it lines up with what you’ve read? Does your belief system need to change? 

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” James 1:22 (New International Version)

Application is swimming through the water and feeling like you’re one with the sea life. It's making necessary adjustments to keep water out of your snorkel and mask. It's seeing the dropoff into blackness in the distance and choosing to follow the guide's instructions to stay in the more shallow area. It's being impacted by the experience in a way that changes you. 


I can tell you personally that I used to just read the Bible (and that in itself is extremely valuable), but everything changed when I began mining for truth through inductive study. There is a depth to this experience that has hooked me for life.

If you have any questions or would like to share your thoughts or experiences with inductive study, please leave a comment below. Here's a link to a website that offers fabulous inductive Bible study curriculum.

“The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts.” [A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Christian Publications, Inc., 1948) PP. 10]

Love you all! Have a great weekend . . .
Lisa ~