Writing Devotions: Bible Study
“So, what do you want to do next?” my Bible study partner asked me.
“How about the book of Judges? Let’s study actual scripture.”
And just like that, I tied my Bible into the center of my bandana, fastened it to a stick and propped the stick on my shoulder. Like the Pilgrim who made his progress, I began a marvelous journey.
Well, maybe not marvelous. Sometimes, it was frightening, exhilarating, even illuminating. Mostly, though, it was humbling.
As I dug in to each chapter, I gained a more sober conviction of my human depravity, a deeper awe for the absolute sovereignty of God and His plan, and a greater appreciation for the redemptive power of Christ Jesus.
These truths are too good not to share. Too life-altering not to share with excellence.
When writing a Bible study, we turn to the Bible itself. Within its 66 books, we find answers for every question and instructions for every endeavor.
Here are some tips on getting started with writing a Bible study.
- Be in the word. Read 2 Timothy 2:15. We cannot write about that which we have not known, so get to knowing. Begin at the beginning. Begin at chapter one, verse one of a single book. And read several different translations. I love the poetics of the King James Version, but sometimes, it’s hard for me to understand. For a deeper journey into God’s word, explore NKJV, ESV, NIV (I prefer the NIV copyrighted prior to 2011). The Message is a great way to read the Bible in common terms, many people quote from it and God can use it. Keep in mind that books like The Message are considered paraphrases, not translations or transliterations.
- Use the right tools. Read Proverbs 11:14. Ever try to hammer a nail with a screwdriver? It can be done, but it’s a lot easier to use the proper tool. Bible study is the same way.
- Use a trusted Study Bible. I prefer Nelson’s NKJV Study Bible. My husband prefers the Crossway ESV Study Bible. Our Christmas gift this year is an investment in the ESV Reformation Study Bible by Reformation Trust. Do your research on study Bibles and be careful. Pray for discernment and protection. (We should be doing that no matter what we begin.)
- Let scripture interpret scripture. Most Bibles include a narrow strip of verses that correspond to little letters in the text. These are cross references. They indicate where words, phrases or verse intentions are found in other places. They contain absolute jewels of information.
- Go to the pros. I often use the BLB app. I dig into biblegateway.com. Both of these online resources are rich depositories of commentaries, concordances, dictionaries, translation comparisons and more cross references. Another online resource is www.gotquestions.org. Hardbound commentaries usually hide out in church libraries. Another book is called Where to Find it In the Bible. It’s like a concordance, but is more topical than a word search resource. (https://www.christianbook.com/where-find-it-in-the-bible/ken-anderson/9780785211570/pd/11578)
- Context is key. Flathead screwdrivers will sub for a Phillips, but a Phillips is no match (or fit) for a screw that requires a flathead. Now, I can grab an ordinary kitchen knife, but chances are, I’ll end up with a wonky knife tip. The same principle applies to scripture. We can rig something to make it work, but if it’s not the right tool, it’s not the right tool. For good, God-honoring study writing, we must read and use the right scriptures. Look at historical context, the cultural context, and the textual context. Never forget that people have used scripture to justify sinful behavior. Don’t be those people.
- Give credit where credit is due. Read Exodus 20:15. Take good notes and cite your sources if an idea, phrase, or sentence is not your own. A simple citation is acceptable for informal written studies, but if you are writing for publication, try to find out the publisher’s guidelines before you begin. Plagiarism is stealing. Plain and simple. Stealing is bad. Do the good and necessary work up front. You will be thankful in the end.
- Choose your approach. Read 2 Timothy 3:16. Bible studies can deal with individual books, words, themes, or characters. Keep the study simple and focused. The Bible is complex, but not confusing if handled with prayer and care.
- Take off your shoes. Read Deuteronomy 4:2 and Revelation 22:18-19. Be very careful. When we write and share studies on the Bible, we must always remember that we walk on the holy ground of God’s word. Don’t trash the sacred. Bare feet are also good reminders of Romans 10:15. As writers who are Christ followers, we have beautiful feet. Write like our toes are showing. Even in winter.
- You will be overwhelmed at times. Read Psalm 119. Read it out loud. At 5 a.m., standing in front of the heater that is trying desperately to warm your little writing space. Make this passage your prayer and your praise. There is nothing you can write that God does not have control over. Trust Him.
Writing prompt: Your job is to encourage a complete stranger who is writing a Bible study for the first time. Write him or her a letter explaining how they are not alone. Use the following scriptures in your study: John 14:16; John 16; I Corinthians 12; Galatians 5:22-23.