A Proposed Method for Studying a Book of the Bible

Written by Michael Vlach.

Below is a suggested format for studying a book of the Bible. We offer it as away to study the Bible:


1.  Pick a book of the Bible to study.  Good choices to start with are the four Gospels, Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, 1 Peter, 1 John, and Genesis.


2. Prepare yourself spiritually by prayer and removing any sin in your life.


3. Choose a translation of the Bible that is easy to understand.  The New American Standard Bible (NASB) is an excellent version. The New International Version (NIV) is a good translation. The New King James Version (NKJV) is also helpful. The King James Version is more difficult to understand than these other versions because much of the language in this beautiful translation is outdated today.


4. Read through the entire book of the Bible in one setting and then jot down on a piece of paper any general observations you have about the book. These could be observations about its content or whether it was easy or hard to understand, or anything else that is general in nature.


5.  Read through the entire book a second time in one setting and then try to answer the following questions:


--What is the literary genre of this book?


-- How should understanding this book’s literary genre influence how you interpret this book? (i.e. what should you expect and not expect?)


-- Who is the human author of this book?


-- To whom is the book written to? (audience)


-- Are there other important personalities or groups mentioned in the book? If so, why are these persons or groups mentioned?


--Does the book mention any geographical locations?


-- Why was this book written? (Is there a purpose statement or indicators as to what the author’s purpose was?)


--Are there any key themes or ideas in the book?


--Are there any key words and phrases in this book?


--Were there any cultural issues you will need to study more?


6. Read through the book a third time and identify the paragraphs of thought. Your Bibles have already done this but try to do this on your own. Main ideas are usually expressed in paragraphs, so in identifying paragraphs you are identifying the main points of the author.


7. Consult a commentary and/or Bible survey book and read the introductory material in it about the book of the Bible you are reading. Do this to: (1) see how your observations and paragraph divisions match with those of the commentary or survey book; and (2) learn new things you were not able to gain from your initial readings. Sometimes commentaries can give you needed historical and cultural information you could not know on your own.


Now that you have completed a “big picture” study of the Bible book, you can begin more detailed study.


8. Use commentaries to study the first paragraph of thought. At this point, multiple good commentaries (3-4) can be very helpful. Also use your Bible dictionary, Bible Almanac, word study book, Bible atlas, and other Bible helps. (see “Twelve Helpful Resources for Studying the Bible”).


9.  Starting with the first paragraph of thought and moving through chronologically, identify and succinctly state the key idea or point the author is trying to make in that paragraph. (see examples after reading # 11).


10. Identify the timeless universal truth or principle from this paragraph. (This universal truth or principle transcends the author’s specific situation.) (see examples after reading #11.)


11. Make an application statement based on the universal principles and truths you have discovered in the paragraph. This is a personal statement as to how you will fulfill the universal principle of the paragraph. It helps if these application statements are specific and measurable. (see examples below)


Below are examples of #’s 9, 10, and 11:


James 2:1-7

Author’s Point:  James wants his readers to know that their faith in Jesus is inconsistent with showing favoritism or prejudice to others based on social or economic factors.


Universal Principle:  Faith in Jesus means treating people equally and not showing favoritism or prejudice against people based on their social or economic status.


Broad Application: Because I believe in Jesus I will treat all people equally regardless of race, sex, or social or economic status.


Narrow Application: I will stop treating my rich and popular friends at church (Julie and Sarah) better than my other friends (Ann and Susan).


Galatians 3:1-5

Author’s Point: Paul wants the Galatians to realize that just as their salvation was based totally on the work of the Holy Spirit, so, too, their Christian lives should be lived solely through the power of the Holy Spirit and not by the works of the Law.


Universal Principle: Just as salvation is solely the work of the Holy Spirit, so too the living out of the Christian life must be solely through the power of the Holy Spirit alone and not through human effort or rules.


Application: I will live my Christian life through the power of the Holy Spirit and not by relying on my own efforts.


Application: I will stop thinking that my good works or going to church keep me saved.



1 Corinthians 8:1-13

Author’s Point:  Paul wants his readers to know that if eating meat sacrificed to idols causes a Christian brother to stumble spiritually, then they should avoid eating meat sacrificed to idols.


Universal Principle:  If a neutral (non-sinful) activity causes a fellow believer to stumble, avoid doing that activity.


Broad Application:  I will avoid doing things that will cause a fellow believer to stumble.


Narrow Application:  Since having a glass of wine at my sister’s wedding party may cause my friend Billy to stumble, I will drink Coke instead.


Leviticus 10:1-4 

Author’s Point: God judged Nadab and Abihu because they did not treat God as holy when they offered strange fire.


Universal Principle: God is holy and must be approached according to His standards.


Broad Application: I will treat God with respect because He is holy


Narrow Application: I will treat God as holy by preparing my heart and confessing sin before I worship Him in church this Sunday.


Matthew 7:1-5

Author’s Point: According to Jesus, a person should remove the sin obstacles in his or her life before trying to remove the sin issues in another’s life.


Universal Principle:  A person should remove sin in his life before he tries to deal with sin in someone else’s life.


Broad Application: I will remove the sin in my life before I try to help other people with the sin in their lives.


Narrow Application: I will remove the sin of alcoholism in my life before I confront Susan about her drinking problem.


Psalm 1

Author’s Point: The blessed or happy man is the man who abides in God’s law and does not follow after the ways of the wicked.


Universal Principle: The way to true happiness is abiding in God’s Word and not following the ways of the world.


Broad Application: I will follow the Word of God and not the wisdom of this world.


Narrow Application: I reject the worldview of atheistic naturalism espoused in my classes at college and openly embrace the Christian worldview including the belief that God created this world and is in control of my life.


12.  Live out your application statement.


13. Go back to Step #8 and pick up with the next paragraph