How to do inductive Bible study

Have you ever wondered how to study the Bible for yourself, or how to write your own study for teaching others? One of the best ways to prepare a Bible lesson is through inductive Bible Study.

Inductive Bible Study is the process of examining a specific passage in the Bible and then drawing general conclusions. It’s looking at the individual words, phrases, and units of thought, and then developing the doctrines, principles, and applications that naturally flow out of the text.

The opposite of Inductive Bible Study is Deductive Bible Study, which starts with a general truth, and then tries to find particular verses that teach or illustrate that truth. As a general rule, expository preaching is more inductive, while topical preaching is more deductive.

As our church moves toward a more inductive approach to Bible Study in our “Life Group” Sunday School classes, our teachers have been learning how to prepare and lead an Inductive Bible Study. It’s a process that is quite rewarding because it forces us to immerse ourselves in the text and listen directly to God. We learn to rely on the Holy Spirit and not depend too much on other study tools, which can become a crutch.

Inductive Bible Study can be done by approaching the text with 6 kinds of questions. The first three are observation, meaning, and doctrine questions. Here’s a diagram I made to illustrate:

Observation questions ask, “What does the text say?” Meaning questions ask, “What does the text mean?” Doctrine questions ask, “Where else does the Bible explain this truth, and what does this text teach us about Christ?”

Let’s take Psalm 119:105 for example. The text says, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

Sample observation questions: What’s the main theme of this verse? Read 10 verses before and 10 verses after. What seems to be the recurring theme of this chapter? Whose word is spoken of here? Do we know who is speaking? What two metaphors describe the Word in v. 105?

Sample meaning questions: What does the psalmist mean by the “word?” What other words are used in the context to describe the “word”? Is the psalmist speaking literally or figuratively? Taken as poetic parallels, what do the “lamp” and “light” metaphors mean? What do “feet” and “path” refer to?

Sample doctrinal questions: What main doctrine is discussed in this verse? Look up Ps. 119:1; Prov. 6:23; 2 Peter 1:19. Explain how they relate to Psalm 119:105. How does this verse point us to the gospel of Jesus?

The dotted line in my diagram points straight from the text to the heart. This represents the application phase. After studying the text, it’s time to move toward application, asking a series of principle, application, and implementation questions. I’ll discuss these kinds of questions in a future post.


One thought on “How to do inductive Bible study”

  1. This was a good post, and a good reminder that the Word of God speaks to us through the Holy Spirit, and not through the footnotes at the bottom of our Study Bibles.

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