Bible Study Preparation Guide
In this Ministry article you will discover how to prepare a Bible study, and broaden your understanding of ways in which to become efficient servants for God in an ever-changing world.
The Bible states: Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:15
If you are hoping to have a correct understanding of any Bible truth in order to help yourself or others, it is important that you learn first how to study. Some people assume that they can open the Bible, read a verse or two, and from it gain a full understanding of what the Bible says on that particular subject. But such reasoning may not result in a complete or accurate conclusion. We’ll examine this point further as progress is made here.
Getting yourself prepared
Before you begin a study find a quiet place where you will not be interrupted or disturbed for a little while. Don’t be in a rush. It often helps if you can schedule a certain amount of time for your preparation.
The next essential is that you pray, and ask God for His guidance, and direction, through the Holy Spirit. It may seem like a small thing, for God certainly knows we need this help, but He likes to be asked, so be sure not to overlook this point; and especially after you become more experienced in studying the Bible.
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. John 16:13
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you… Matthew 7:7
Ways to study the Bible
There are different ways people study the Bible :
- From Genesis to Revelation, without variation
- One book at a time (not necessarily in order)
- A chapter at a time (not necessarily in order)
- One Scripture reference a day (as an example)
- By subject: all the verses that use the same word
- By browsing (no structure in the study)
- Comparatively (Using Scriptures that seem to relate to each other in wording and context)
Each way of study has its own benefits. If you really want to understand fully you need to approach your studies intelligently, and conduct what could be called comparative research.
For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little… Isaiah 28:10
Don’t approach the examination of any subject with pre-conceived ideas. If you think you know what the Bible says about a particular subject before beginning to investigate, you may find yourself trying to find Scripture references that fit your own thinking, rather than letting God guide you to what the references mean. This has been the mistake of many Christians, and one reason why so many different interpretations, and teachings, have come forth from the same Book.
The Bible usually doesn’t confuse people, but ideas about what it says and means, often do. It’s good to let the Bible be its own interpreter. If you have a question, it probably has an answer.
Examining deeper subjects
It is good to remember that God’s light is progressive. No one (person or organization) has it all. There may be things you understand today, which, in the future, you may find more understanding on. Some of the “new light” may seem to contradict what you previously learned. But strive to keep an open mind about the subject as you continue looking into it further. Everything has not yet been revealed, and when more light comes you must compare it with that which you understood before.
The weight of evidence the Scriptures provide should be sufficient to explain what the subject means.
There are some Bible subjects that have been touched on in the word which are God’s mysteries, and will not be understood this side of heaven. He didn’t put these things there to answer, but to attract our attention, and remind us that He is God, and that it is to Him that we are to look for all things.
A few of these subjects might include:
- Where God came from
- How Jesus could become one of His creations
- How to understand the personality of the Holy Spirit
- How two people can become one flesh when they marry
When in your studies you come across some of these questions, remember to be patient, and not try to force ideas into your thinking. In God’s time He will make it very clear. Avoid the temptation to entertain speculations that cannot be supported with Scripture.
Try to understand the background of the subject under investigation; and most importantly, work to understand the context of the verses in a particular section of Scripture.
Developing subject details
One of the best ways to discover the details of a subject is to learn to ask some questions about the subject you are studying… such as those relating to the: Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How of the Scriptures.
- Who is speaking in the verses you’re studying? (The speaker)
- Who is being spoken to? (The audience)
- What is being said? (The subject or theme of the verses)
- What are the verses teaching? (The meaning)
- Where was the subject being taught? (The location)
- When was the subject written? (The time, background, or history)
- Why was the subject being presented? (The purpose)
- Why are you studying this? (The understanding)
- How can this be applied to our own time and experience? (The application and deeper meaning)
Some Bible subjects you may find overlap each other. In preparing your studies try to stay within the framework of the main subject. As an example… we know that death is related to sin; but sin is a large, and separate, subject in and of, itself. If you want to study specifically about death, maybe consider saving the study of sin for another time.
And as an additional thought before we go on… it always helps to keep some extra note paper nearby to record verses of interest that aren’t directly related to the main topic, and that you might want to look more closely at later.
Building Bible Studies
Bible study is research using God’s word to gather references often relating to a specific theme. You may be preparing it for your own interest or to present to others. The study is usually given by asking questions on a particular subject and letting the Bible references supply the answers. Additional notes and historical data are sometimes used where they apply.
Outlining a Bible study
After beginning with prayer, the next step you will need to take in outlining your study is to decide what subject you want to pursue. Depending on the subject chosen you will then begin to gather Bible texts to use. Some subjects offer many references and others only a few. The Bible is a large book with thousands of references to sort through. How are you going to find exactly what you’re looking for?
Let’s consider an example to illustrate what you will need to do to conduct Bible research for specific information. Let’s assume that you have to find something. You know that it is in the world; but that’s not sufficient. You must narrow down your search. You have to try to find the exact location. For this you will need some maps and reference materials to help you; otherwise this search could take a lifetime. For the search you’ll need to find the country, city, neighborhood, and then the house. Once the house is found you’ll search through each of the small rooms until the exact reference point is located and you have found what you were looking for.
See the illustration on the left of this page. This is sometimes how Bible texts are located… one step at a time, until everything comes together in one place, and you have exactly what you need.
There are a variety of resource materials to choose from.
Do you know what reference materials are published in your language?
What published resources do you now have available to use?
Many years ago, students of Scripture did extensive work in referencing Bible subjects we now enjoy (sometimes utilizing 100, or more, Bible texts for just one subject). It wasn’t without many hours of labor, and earnest prayer, that truth long hidden in this one Book came to be discovered.
Today you can benefit from the efforts of others because there are many volumes of information published to guide you in finding these previously buried treasures. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, written in 1890, is an excellent resource which can be used to find any text in the King James Version of the Bible.
For those who study on the internet, the world wide web offers extensive online Bible research sites.
But what can you do if there are no detailed reference books available in your language? Why not develop and write some?… there are people in countries throughout the world who, in spite of all our modern age of information offers, do not have access to such wonderful resources. If you feel you have a talent for writing, translating, and the publishing ministry, you might want to consider this area of service for Jesus.
It would be good also to take out your Bible and study it thoroughly (and prayerfully) from Genesis to Revelation.
Find out for yourself what is recorded in it’s pages from cover to cover, and develop your studies the ancient way: by searching the Scriptures… You can also do the following things: Ask some questions about the subject you want to study:
- What do you already know about the subject?
- What would you like to know about it?
- What questions are others asking about it?
- What words could you use to identify the subject better?
- Are there other words that might be related to it? (Search, study, seek…)
Keep working to narrow down the search until you find exactly what is needed.
Keep notes when references are found. Before long you’ll have a good foundation upon which to build many Bible studies.
Some reference works for Bible truth available in English include:
- The Holy Bible (the King James Version, with marginal references is especially good; other translations exist; check your local Bible bookstore, or the internet for details)
- Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance (an alphabetical index of words in the Scriptures with references to the passages in which they occur.)
- The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (by R. A. Torrey)
- Personal notes (from previous studies you’ve given or received from others)
- The Dictionary (alphabetical listing of words and meanings)
- A Thesaurus (a book of words which indexes additional words with similar or opposite meanings)
With these resources you can begin gathering Bible verses together. Depending on the number of reference materials you utilize, before long, you will probably have accumulated more truth than you ever thought possible.
An average Bible study presentation can usually cover between 10 and 18 Scripture references in a one, or one and one-half, hour time period (if no language translation needs to be given).
If you have gathered a larger number of verses, it will be essential for the study you’re planning to give that you sort out and choose the Scriptures that best illustrate the subject without changing the weight of evidence the Scriptures provide.
In order to do this, you will need to clearly understand the meaning of the verses you wish to use.
Make sure that your references are easy to understand. If those you are studying with have to try and guess how the verses relate to the subject, then perhaps you need to use other verses that are more direct in their meaning. This is especially true if you are working with people who are just beginning to study the Bible.
There are some Bible subjects that cannot be adequately given in one study session. Rather than keeping people learning too much and tiring them out, divide up your long studies and give them in parts at different times.
A few examples of long studies might include:
- Jesus’ second coming
- The plan of salvation
- Bible prophecies from the Old and New Testaments
Preparing study notes
In preparing studies people have used different methods to write out the notes that they will work from when the study is presented to interested people.
- Some people use the Bible reference only in their notes (John 3:16, as an example) and depend on their memory to remember what the verse states and what they want to say about it in relation to their subject.
- Some people write out a part of the verse that relates to the subject, and it’s reference (In the beginning… Genesis 1:1, as an example).
- Some people write out a question to help them remember what the Bible verse relates to, as well as the reference (i.e. What signs show that the coming of Jesus is near? See Matthew 24).
- Some people write out a question and the complete Bible verse citing both words and reference (Some even add notes from other source materials to support the theme).
There isn’t only one, right, or perfect way to set up your studies.
Everyone doesn’t have a sharp mind to remember the multitude of points that might be addressed regarding a particular subject, so use a note system that works the best and most efficiently for you.
It’s always a help to insert some extra related verses in your notes in advance, to answer questions that you think your students might ask about that weren’t covered in the main part of the study.
The Bible is filled with many different subjects which answer a majority of questions mankind seeks to ask. Some have called it the Great Answer Book. But, all of these topics are not listed in the Bible according to subject. You have to probe deeply into its vast supply of smaller books, chapters, and verses to find the truth it contains. If you study, you will find them.
Keeping track of reference materials
And after you have been collecting and developing studies for awhile, you’re going to need to have an efficient filing system to refer to when information is needed in a hurry. What kind of a filing system do you presently use to keep track of your Bible studies, references, notes, etc.?
I suggest that you buy a file box (or cabinet) and reference your materials in alphabetical order, utilizing folders with title tabs that are easily viewed for quick reference. After you have written your study notes, review them to see if they are outlined in an organized way and are easily understood. Ask yourself some questions about the study you’ve prepared:
- Does it have a direction it’s leading toward?
- Do it’s different parts compliment each other?
- Are the verses easily understood?
- What can I do to make it harmonize better?
In a way, preparing a Bible study is like preparing to read someone a story.
In a story there is a beginning, details (a body of information), and an end. Usually the parts of a story fit together and flow smoothly from one part to another until the end is reached.
The subjects are organized. This is what you should strive for in all of your Bible study preparations.
For a practical application of these guidelines it would be helpful for you to prepare a short study.
Use a subject of your own choosing.
- What subject have you chosen?
- Why did you choose that subject?
- Would this assignment be difficult for you to complete?
- Is this kind of assignment one that you enjoy doing?
A Practical Work Evaluation
1. What subject did you select for your Bible study?
2. What verses were included?
3. What references, notes, books and/or resources did you use to prepare your work?
4. Did you put your verses in any particular order? Which order did you choose?
5. How many verses did you think were sufficient to present your subject clearly? Why?
6. Did you try to think of questions that might be asked during the study regarding your subject or the verses you included?
7. Did you learn anything in preparing for this study?
8. What did you learn?
9. How long did it take you to gather together the verses and prepare for this study?
10. Is there anything that you would be interested in learning about preparing Bible studies that wasn’t included in these guidelines?
More could be added to this study to broaden your understanding of ways in which to become efficient servants for God in our ever-changing world.
We have attempted to give you some helpful guidelines to consider and apply to your Bible study preparation work which can lead to success and blessings for many who need what God has given to use for Him. We hope that they will be of great help to you.
This article was written and designed by Chris Teske
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