Most Christians think Bible study is so mysterious and requires so much education, they don't attempt it. There really is no mystery to understanding most of Scripture. If we spend prayerful time studying what's in the Bible and ask a few simple questions, we can get what we need out of any segment of God's Word. You'll certainly get much more than just reading or listening to someone else explain it. You can go into more depth if you want to learn how to use other tools, like a concordance or a lexicon, but you can get quite a bit out of Scripture just by asking and answering six types of questions when you study.
Who? Who questions give us the direction of the group of Bible verses we're reading. Who is doing the speaking or writing? Who are they speaking or writing to? Who is the section of Scripture about? You can find out if the verses are just about one person “Jesus wept" or a universal promise “to all whom God will call" just by asking “who. " Without knowing the “Who" of God's Word, it's very difficult to figure out what parts apply to everyone and what parts only apply to the people being addressed.
What? Do you want a clear understanding of the subject in a group of Scriptures? You must answer the “what" questions. This makes the subject more vivid. What is being said about what? Is it a law, a sin, a character trait? What are we supposed to do. . . follow, avoid, develop, ask for? There are many more “what's" in the Bible than we will ever find just skimming the surface. “What" is a very important question.
Why? This requires a little more analysis. By asking the question “why" we're able to pick up hidden clues in the Scripture text. Asking why and trying to find the answers can give you new meaning to the whole verse or whole chapter. Why did he write or say this? Why should we do what the verse tells us to? Why did they react to the situation the way they did? Sometimes stories are instructions on what to do and other times examples of what not to do. So, another why to ask about anything in the Bible is, “Why would God want me to know this?" It helps us apply His Word to our lives.
How? Ever heard someone talk about the power of prayer? The Bible clearly reveals that the power is in God, not in prayer. When we're studying Scriptures on prayer, asking how the prayers are answered keeps us from mistakenly crediting our prayers instead of God's power and love. Ask, how are the “what's" being done? How were they done? How are they to be done in the future? There are far more “how's" in Scripture than we can find just by reading or listening. The “How's" add power to our lives. How can Paul, or we, do all things? Through Christ! “How's" are powerful! The last “how" question we should ask is, “How does this apply to me?"
Where? This gives us the local context in which to understand the verses under study. When Paul tells us how to receive the peace that passes all understanding, it adds power to Paul's words when we understand the “where" he wrote from was a Roman prison. Sometimes, knowing where someone is helps explain what they're saying, like when Jesus said every stone of the temple would be thrown down. . . it's good to know it was the temple in Jerusalem to figure out if that prophecy had been fulfilled. “Where" also helps explain a local application to the Scripture that may not apply to people elsewhere.
When? This question also gives us context. When were the verses written? Were they written about the past, present or future? In what order do things happen? Do these Scriptures apply to only those times, or are they universal, applying to us, as well? “When" is an interesting question to ask in trying to understand God, who lives outside of time and space. How could we understand the words of Jesus, “Before Abraham was born, I am. " without asking “when" questions?
Try this at home: Take a couple sheets of paper, one of your favorite chapters of Scripture and an hour of your time. Evenly space the questions on the 2 pages. Then, take a few verses at a time and write down the answers to the six types of questions. I'd be willing to bet you'll find some new meanings and applications to your life. If you do, I challenge you to take one book of the New Testament (say, 1 John) and do the same thing, 2-3 chapters a week. Let me know the things you learn!
The Word of God isn't meant to be mysterious or confusing. The Bible is God's message to us regular folk about His love and His power in our lives. We can tap into His power if we will stop depending on others to interpret the Word of God for us. Instead, all we need is the Holy Spirit, because, “. . . you do not need anyone to teach you. . . " 1 John 2:27
Glen Williams is Webmaster for http://www.web-church.com , an Ordained Minister, Founder and CEO of E-Home Fellowship (EHF), Inc. He has been active in ministry since 1989. You can comment on his articles at Web-Church Christian Forums .