How to Inductively Study the Word

September 22, 2021

You’ve finished the Summer Study; the NBBC passage is here, and… now what? For the last few months, you’ve had your Discovery Journal which led you into an inductive study of God’s Word, pointing out observations you might have missed and helping you to think critically about the test. Now it’s time to embark on the same path with the next study passage: this time without a Discovery Journal. So where do you begin? How do you start? Hopefully this post will provide you with some helpful pointers on how to inductively study the Bible.

First, always begin your study time with prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to be your teacher. God has promised to guide us into all truth through Him to glorify the name of Christ. Alone, you can’t understand God’s Word, which is why you must always start with surrendering to the Spirit, and acknowledging your own insufficiency.

Next, just like you did with the Discovery Journal, ask observational questions about the text. These typically go back to the “5 W’s and an H” questions. Asking these questions can help you notice things you didn’t see before, and prevent you from glossing over any important elements in the text that can aid in your interpretation of it. Take note of words that are repeated multiple times, transition words that indicate the “when” of the passage, and the characters and setting of the passage. Let this first phase be purely observational, and answer these questions before interpreting the passage.

Once you’re familiar with the passage (reading it multiple times is recommended) you can begin to interpret it. This is where having a broader knowledge of scripture and doctrine comes in handy. Cross-references are one of the most important tools to utilize when interpreting a passage. Scripture in isolation of other scripture can be twisted in our minds to mean something besides its original intent. Knowing what God’s Word says in other places prevents this from happening, and puts the passage within the right doctrinal framework so we can derive the most out of it. This is why memorizing scripture, particularly the passages for NBBC, is so beneficial, because many of them cross-reference the study passage. Look for other cross-references using online Bible apps (such as Blue Letter Bible, or Bible Gateway), or a physical Bible by looking in the margins. Ask what this text contributes to the broader message of scripture. Perhaps just as important as cross-references, if not more so, is immediate context. This helps you understand not only the setting but can also help you answer the question of how the text you’re studying contributes to the overarching message of the surrounding chapters.

Finally, end your studying by asking the important question, “why does it matter?” This is the application phase of inductive study. Every doctrine of scripture should connect back to Christ, the gospel, or the nature of God. It’s important to approach this phase with the mindset of seeking to glorify Christ above all else, as this is what the Holy Spirit seeks to do through scripture. How does the passage show the glory of God? How does it show His grace through Christ? How can you live out these truths in your daily life? Make sure to meditate on each of these questions thoroughly. Our actions ultimately come down to what we believe about God, and what our love and focus is directed towards. Scripture shows us what’s true about God, and directs our love and focus back to Him, which enables us to live holy lives for His glory. Through the Holy Spirit and inductive study of His Word, this will be made manifest in your life as well.

Written by NBB Alumnus: Dylan George

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