Back in 2014 when Zach and I were going through the first membership class ever of Emmaus Church, it was made embarrassingly clear to me how little I truly knew about my Christian faith. I sat there listening to our impeccably brilliant elders teaching the history of the Bible, such as, how each of the books were separated into genres, the importance of textual transmission, the belief that the scripture is inerrant and about different approaches to translation, just to name a few. I remember leaving that first membership session, almost in tears, thinking “Maren, you’re 24 years old and you know absolutely nothing about the Bible or God!” It was incredibly embarrassing as I prided myself throughout my life as being a “good Christian.” I could feel the Holy Spirit stirring within me showing me just how far off I truly was from knowing Him. It was at this time in 2014 that I knew I needed to learn more about Jesus and to start actually pursuing Him.
The hardest part about starting to pursue Jesus was figuring out where to start. I had read my Bible throughout my life but it was always in the form of reading or skimming through random books of the Bible, never actually attempting to learn about any of it. When I started wanting to learn more, I’d find myself completely overwhelmed, unsure where to even start. I asked myself multiple questions, such as, “What book should I start in?” or “Is there a devotional I should read?” or “How do I even study the Bible?” Well, thank God for my mother-in-law (because I do believe God led her to share this book with me) who gifted me the book Women of the Word. This book provided me with an easily planned guide to studying scripture and I absolutely fell in love with it as it revolutionized the way I studied.
In 2014, I would have loved it if someone would have shared with me their ways of studying scripture. So today, I’d love to share the way I study scripture with you! Below, are multiple ways that have been helpful to me in my scripture studying. Some of these are based on the Women of the Word, but some of them are things I’ve discovered my own.
Ways to better understand a passage in scripture:
(1) First of all, I always begin studying at the beginning of a book in the Bible. It’s easier to take the book in context and understand it as a whole instead of starting somewhere in the middle.
(2) If you have a study bible, I’d suggest reading the overview of the book before starting, just to get an idea of the time the book was written and who the author of the book was.
(3) Print out a copy of the particular passage you are wanting to study. I usually copy and paste the passage from biblegateway.com into Word or Pages (on Macs) and make it double spaced. That way it’s easy to write in the margins and in between the lines.
(4) Reread the text again and again. The more a text is read, the easier it is for us to understand a main point.
(5) Make note of words, phrases or ideas that are repeated over and over. I usually make a key to help me remember what each color (pens and highlighters) represents during my studying.
(6) Compare different translations to help understand a word or sentence that might be confusing. Thank you God for the Bible App!
(7) Use a dictionary and/or Vine’s Dictionary (for people and places). I never realized how many words I skipped over that I never truly understood until I started looking up every single word I wasn’t sure about. Man, understanding a word has made a HUGE difference!
(8) Review the passage through the SOAP Acronym. If you’ve never heard of SOAP, it stands for S-scripture, O-observation, A-application, P-prayer. For Scripture, I generally just paraphrase what the passage is about; Observation, I make observations about things that stood out to me; Application, I pull out things from the passage that I can apply to my life today; and finally, I pray about what I have read over and what I have learned in the passages I’ve studied. I love this acronym because it really allows me to pull out something relatable to my life in each passage I study.
Lastly, I believe community is the most important part of studying scripture! I believe it’s incredibly important to have someone mentoring and discipling you throughout your walk who’s further along in their faith journey than you (I didn’t realize how much this would help my growth until I had a mentor) and to also have friends that are walking right along with you in your faith journey to hold you accountable!
At the beginning of the year, my best friend, Kira and I decided to start studying the book of Acts. Every week we email or talk on the phone to discuss our revelations about the chapter(s) we’ve studied. It has been so nice to have her doing this with me and it has really made an impact in both of our lives!
Additionally, I am currently being mentored and discipled by Sarah, our pastor’s wife at our church. Every Sunday afternoon she has been sitting down with me to show me how she studies scripture (which is very different than what I have shared with you) and also just to discuss our faith journeys and any questions I have. It’s so nice to have someone further along in her faith pouring into me and discipling me as I continue to grow in my relationship with Jesus.
I encourage you all to find individuals you can share your faith journey with and to also find someone who is ahead of you in their walk with Christ to help you as you grow! Do you currently do Bible studies with friends? Have you been studying scripture? Have you found a study technique that works for you? I hope that my study techniques have helped give you more of an idea of how you can best study the Word!