How Bible Study Differs from Bible Reading

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson

Every sincere Christian wants to have a more meaningful personal Bible study, to understand the Bible better. While learning the Bible is the joyful task of a lifetime, I'd like to offer several suggestions that can enrich your Bible studies.

Bible Reading vs. Bible Study

First, recognize that Bible reading and Bible study are both important, but different. In order to grow, you need to read the Bible every day as part of your time with God -- your devotions or quiet time. During this daily time with God I recommend prayer, wide Bible reading, praise, thanksgiving, confession, and meditation -- these are ways to reach out to God with your spirit. Bible reading is one way of letting God refresh your spirit and speak to your mind.

If you really want to learn the Bible, I recommend that you read broadly rather than narrowly. A one-verse devotional may be quick, but it won't really help you understand the Bible. I try each morning to read one chapter from the Old Testament, one chapter from Psalms or Proverbs, and one chapter from the New Testament. If I'm consistent, this will get me through the Old Testament once each year and the New Testament twice. That's an example of broad reading and takes five to 10 minutes a day -- 15 minutes if the day's chapters are long.

But Bible reading as part of your daily devotions should be separate from your times of Bible study. Let me explain.

Blocks of Time for In-Depth Bible Study

Bible study, as opposed to reading, concentrates on a single topic, Bible character, or book of the Bible for closer study.

For example, right now in the New Testament I'm reading the Epistle to the Hebrews. I'm realizing that though I've read it many times, I need to dig in and figure out what it's really saying. That's where Bible study comes in. Bible study takes a longer block of uninterrupted time. Perhaps you'll set aside 30 to 45 minutes on Tuesday and Thursday nights for in-depth Bible study, or an hour on Saturday mornings before the family is up -- or perhaps longer. Blocks of time are important to Bible study.

Don't Forget the Most Important Step

It's possible to be so engrossed in Bible study that you forget the most important purpose of Bible study. It's not Bible knowledge for its own sake nor being able to quote verses and recite orthodox doctrine. Ultimately, the purpose of Bible study is to learn exactly what the Bible teaches so that you can apply its teachings to your life.

Perhaps the simplest approach to Bible study is to use the three basic inductive Bible study questions to ask of a Bible passage:

  1. What does it say?
  2. What did it mean to those reading it in Bible times?
  3. What does it mean to me as I seek to apply it to my life?

My prayer is that your Bible study results in a heart that is tender to listen to what the Spirit is saying to you through Scripture and a will that is determined to live out in your everyday life what you're learning.

 

Dr. Ralph F. Wilson has pioneered Bible study on the Internet since 1996 with his JesusWalk® Bible Study series (www.jesuswalk.com). The site offers more than a more than a dozen no-cost interactive online Bible studies, plus books and DVDs designed for personal and group study.

Copyright © 1985-2017, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

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