Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Bible Study Methods: Chapter Studies

Bible word studies teach us how the Bible uses a word and topical studies show what God has to say on a topic. Chapter studies (a.k.a passage studies) are for learning what a group of verses are saying. This is the meatiest type of Bible study. Just as you learn more by reading a whole book instead of snippets and quotes, chapter studies are when the Bible speaks for itself in a flowing, unbroken stream.

The Steps

Step One choose a chapter or book of the Bible to study. If you are just learning how to do a chapter study, one of the Psalms or any of the first 8 chapters of Proverbs would be a great place to start. For this example, I'm going to use Psalm 37.

Step Two read through the psalm several times. I highly encourage you to read through the psalm daily for about a week. Memorizing two or three verses that stand out to you will also be good for engraving these words on your heart. Think about the passage as you're driving, doing dishes or lying in bed. Don't rush it. It may seem like you're not doing much studying, but it's amazing how much we can glean from the Word when simply read it multiple times.

Step Three pick out the theme(s) of the passage. In your reading, you've probably started to notice certain themes. However, if the theme still feels fuzzy, go through the passage one verse at a time and make a short summary of what it says in your own words. In Psalm 37 the entire Psalm is a contrast between the wicked and the righteous and the differing awards each receives from the Lord.

Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.

(Psalms 37:1)

The righteous man is told not to fret because of those who do evil.

For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.

(verse 2)

Why is the righteous not to fret? Because the wicked are going to be cut down like grass under a lawn mower.

Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.

(verse 3)

Instead of fretting, the godly is to trust in the Lord and do good. As a reward of his trust he is promised he will dwell in the land and be fed.

Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

(verse 4)

Along with trusting and doing good, the godly is also to delight himself in the Lord.

And so the theme continues throughout the passage. As you can see Psalm 37 also has some minor themes woven through it. Trusting in the Lord is mentioned 3 times, waiting 3 times and what the Lord gives the righteous to inherit 6 times. While you may or may not choose to study these minor themes, it is helpful to note them as being part of the context for your major theme.

Step Four search for cross-references in other books of the Bible. A cross-reference is a verse that also is about the theme of your passage. So if we wanted to find cross-references for Psalm 37, we would look for other verses that contrast the wicked and the godly. That is a pretty board search though, so lets narrow that down to how the godly should respond to the wicked. Such passages would be Psalm 94:15-17, (looking to God as our Deliverer) 1 Peter 3:10-27 (how the godly should answer persecutors) and Matthew 5:44 (returning good for evil). Doing a word study with key words ( i.e. upright, evildoer, trust, peace and wait are key words in Psalm 37) is a great way to find cross-references. Consulting a topical Bible or the back of a Thompson Chain-Reference Bible can also be helpful in finding cross-references.

Step Five take to heart what you have learned. As with every study, ask Jesus to show you how you can conform to His word. Don't leave the study without it convicting you or changing your attitude and actions. Be a doer and not a mere hearer.

You now know how to do three different kinds of Bible studies. Theses studies take us right into the heart of Scripture and lets it comment on itself. I hope these studies open the door for you to grow more in the grace and knowledge of Jesus, but most of all I pray you will truly be transformed by God's word. Please don't do these studies just to gain more bloated head knowledge. Let them transform your heart and mind to the image of Christ.

Have you ever done a chapter study before? If so, I'd love to hear what you studied and what your favorite thing is about chapter studies!

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