Living For Jesus

How to Search the Scriptures

This method of Bible study was perfected in a small group Bible study I participated in for many years. As a group we grew closer to the Lord and each other by using this method to search all of scripture to gain insights into the character of God and his personal plan for our lives. The method is intense, but once learned and practiced becomes easier and less time consuming.

For this form of Bible study to be more than just an intellectual experience those participating must learn to be transparent. Recognize your weaknesses and allow them to be exposed to the group and acknowledged before God. Searching the scriptures is very personal because in it you apply the scriptural understanding you glean from your study to your own life. Application is an important part of this study and must be something that can actually be measured. By that I mean it cannot be so broad that any move in the right direction will be difficult to discern and it must be something that can be related in a specific way.

The content of a Search the Scripture study is up to the participants. Our group would choose a topic, and our leader would then spend several weeks finding scriptures that fit our topic putting them into an order that seemed logical. Often we would use a particular passage doing one verse at a time and adding in other related verses. Passages our group or I personally studied included Psalm 23, 2 Peter 1:3-11, and 1 Corinthians 13. The 2 Peter study took us over a year to complete as we studied individual verses about faith, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love.

To really get into the meat of this type of study there are several Bible study tools that are extremely helpful. A Bible is the most obvious tool. A concordance for the version of the Bible you use is also an absolute must. One of the steps in the study is to find cross references. Some Bibles contain a small cross reference index in the back, but these are limited. A complete concordance allows you to find all the scriptures that include specific words in your topic. Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words is also extremely helpful when defining words. Often our understanding of a word is not the same as that of the Bible writers. Vine's uses the Strong's reference numbers for each word they define. When the Strong's Concordance was written all the Hebrew and Greek words used in the Bible were given reference numbers. You can use these reference numbers to determine which Greek or Hebrew word is being used. Your concordance will list the number of the Greek word next to each scripture reference. For example, the word love can be several different Greek words. It is both a noun and a verb, and in Greek the noun love is a different word from the verb love. The Bible uses two different words with distinct meanings both translated as love in English. Agapao and phileo both mean love. Agapao means love in the sense as Christ loved the church. It's Strong's reference number is 25. Phileo means tender affection, and it's Strong's reference number is 5368. When looking up love in your concordance you can determine if the Greek word used in a particular verse is agapao or phileo. The back of your concordance should have Greek and Hebrew dictionaries. These dictionaries list the words in the order of their Strong's reference number. You can go to Greek word number 25 and find a brief definition of the word agapao. Vine's uses the numbers for each word it defines as well. Vine's offers a more in depth discussion of the definition of the word often sighting examples of use from the Bible and other New Testament era Greek manuscripts. There are other Bible study tools that can be helpful such as commentaries, Bible hand books, or other Greek and Hebrew language aids. If you are working with a group each person can have an additional reference book that they can share from when the group comes together. Thus you get the benefit of many different study aids without needing to own them all yourself.

Each week we studied one scripture verse in our study. Each member would work on the verse filling out the Search the Scripture form at home. On the day of our Bible study we would all meet and go over each section of the study form allowing everyone to add their thoughts or comments. When it came time to discuss our applications our leader would ask how it had gone with last week's application. She wrote down what we said each week and held us accountable to relate whether we had been able to accomplish our application or not. This was never used as a time of judgement. We rejoiced with success and helped to determine what caused failure and how we could turn that failure into success. Sometimes that meant admitting that we had bitten off more than we could chew and need ed to take things slower or in smaller steps. Other times it meant realizing that our original application was way off base. Having shared our past week's experiences, we then shared the application for the current week's verse. We ended our study with prayer.

The lady leading our group made a form that was easy to fill out to use for our study. We called our study Search the Scripture because that's exactly what we were doing. We had a rule that we couldn't go on to the Notes section, where we wrote information we had gained from reading commentaries or other books, until we had completed the sections preceding it. We didn't want other people's interpretations of scripture to interfere with our own interaction with the scripture. Our form included the following sections:

Scripture: Bible reference of the scripture studied.

Date: Initial Definition: A written interpretation of what we thought the Bible verse meant before we did an intense study of the verse.

Questions & Observations: A list of questions that arose from our initial reading of the verse. Answers were added as we worked through the study.

Word definitions: All important words in the verse were defined using a concordance and Vine's Expository Dictionary. Comparison to a modern English dictionary can be very instructive also.

Cross References:

Internal---references found by looking up words found in the verse.
Parallel---scripture passage that cover the same thing. For example certain events told about in each of the gospels.
Contrasting--- verses that seem to say the opposite of the verse.
Corresponding---verses that add to your understanding of the verse. I
llustrative---scripture passages that give an illustration of the concept found in the verse. Those cross references we found particularly important were written out. Others were just listed by reference.

Notes: A place to put information gleaned from other sources such as a commentary like Matthew Henry's.

Interpretation: Our personal interpretation of the scripture now that we had studied it intensely. This could be written in a more generic sense for all people or a very individual sense just for the writer. For example Psalm 23:1 "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." One interpretation could be, "The Lord is a shepherd to his people. He keeps them as a shepherd keeps his sheep guarding them, caring for them and loving them. His sheep never lack because he meets all their needs." A more personal interpretation could be, "The Lord is my shepherd. He takes care of me, loves me and makes sure that I never lack anything I really need."

Pictures: The picture section provided the more visually oriented opportunity to draw their interpretation of the verse. Some of our group were more artistic. I like to think I took stick figure drawing to a new height.

Application: A written statement of something to do over the next week in response to what the Lord had shown us in the verse. Applications needed to be measurable, realistic, and something that could be worked on in one week's time. Measurable means you can actually determine if the task was accomplished. ‘I'm going to be nicer to my spouse next week' is not an easily measured application. ‘I'm going to find three nice things to compliment my husband on each day next week' can be easily measured. You can write down those three things each day and have a log to report back with. You might wonder why someone would want to have an application of saying three nice things about their husband every day for a week. When struggling with a lifetime habit of being critical it's often necessary to purposely plan to change that negative habit. If a particular action is practiced regularly it can become a habit. How much nicer to have a habit of complimenting your husband rather than pointing out his faults. A non-realistic application might be one where a night owl promises to get up at 5 AM every morning for a half hour of prayer. It would be more realistic for that person to determine to pray for a half hour every evening at 10 pm. Which is more important the time of day or the actual prayer time?

I became extremely close to the ladies that made up my Search the Scripture group. We shared our growth in Christ encouraging each other through the trials of life and rejoicing with the good times. Our understanding of the Word deepened and our walk with the Lord matured. I've used this Bible study format in my own personal Bible study pursuing a fuller knowledge of the character of God. When I really want to know what the Bible has to say about a particular topic I use this method of Bible study.

Search the Scriptures form available in Adobe Acrobat .pdf format for download in the Christian Resources section of this page.

Copyright ©  1997 Beverly S. Krueger