Last week, I showed that inductive Bible study is one of the best ways to understand and teach a passage of Scripture. The first three types of questions you should ask are observation, meaning, and doctrine questions.
Relying on God’s Spirit, by the time you’ve addressed these questions, you’re well on your way to understanding a passage. But there’s another essential step to Bible study: application.
It’s not enough to understand what the Bible says. We must let it penetrate our hearts, reveal our sin, and transform our thoughts and behavior. We don’t want to be hearers of the Word only. We need to be doers also. This brings us to a second set of questions: principle, application, and implementation questions. This chart helps show the relationship of these three questions:
Notice first the horizontal line at the bottom. This represents time. The Bible was written “then,” but we live “now.” Some customs and practices have changed dramatically, but some things remain exactly the same, like God and human nature. Now look at the vertical line to the left. This represents the specificity of action. The more specific a command or action in the Bible is, the more cautious we should be before applying it to every age, situation, and culture.
Let’s look now at the last three types of questions. Principle questions ask, “What broad and timeless truths are found in this passage?” Application questions ask, “How does this passage relate to me now?” And finally, Implementation questions ask, “What is my specific plan of action?” As you can see in the diagram, with each type of question, we’re moving closer to specific and contemporary applications of the text.
Psalm 119:105 will serve again as our example. “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
Sample principle questions: How does it feel to be blind or lost? What are the dangers? What are the benefits of a lamp? What are the benefits of God’s Word? How important should God’s Word be in our lives? What should our attitude be toward the Word? What happens if we ignore His Word? What competing sources of light do people sometimes rely on? According to 1 Cor. 2:14, what is necessary for us to properly understand God’s Word? What are some different ways we can “turn on” the lamp of God’s Word in our lives? Written as part of a psalm or “song,” what does this verse teach us about praise and worship?
Sample application questions: How could I re-write this verse in today’s language? How is my time in the Word right now? Do I have a grateful, attentive attitude toward God’s Word? What is competing with the time or quality of my Bible intake? How can I get more out of God’s Word? What decisions do I face right now in life, and what does the Bible say about these things? (Try using the S.P.E.C.K. method — Sins, Promises, Examples, Commands, Knowledge — to help find application questions).
Sample implementation questions: Is there any specific sin I need to confess right now? What needs to change immediately? What are specific goals and steps I can take this day, week, month, and year? When am I going to carve out time in my schedule for God’s Word? What do I need to stop doing to make time for God? What friend could keep me accountable and help me better understand the Bible?
The Inductive Bible Study method helps us dig deeper into the text and discover the immeasurable riches of Scripture. May God make us all people like Ezra, who “set his heart to study the law of the LORD, and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances” (Ezra 7:10). For even more information on preparing an Inductive Bible Study, check out Dr. Jack Hughes’ class, “Preparing and Delivering Bible Studies and Sermons.”
- How to do inductive Bible study, part 1
- A Bible for every age and reading level
- Eat more (spiritual) food