How To Use The Bible

YouTuber John Stapleton shares on How To Use The Bible (Acts 8:26-35). Be sure to subscribe to John’s Weekly Bible Blog.

This video is also available as an Apple podcast below.

As for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he started out, and he met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under the Kandake, the queen of Ethiopia. The eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and he was now returning. Seated in his carriage, he was reading aloud from the book of the prophet Isaiah.

The Holy Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and walk along beside the carriage.”

Philip ran over and heard the man reading from the prophet Isaiah. Philip asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”

The man replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” And he urged Philip to come up into the carriage and sit with him.

The passage of Scripture he had been reading was this:

“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter.
And as a lamb is silent before the shearers,
he did not open his mouth.
He was humiliated and received no justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.”

The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, was the prophet talking about himself or someone else?” So beginning with this same Scripture, Philip told him the Good News about Jesus.

Acts 8:26-35

Read It

The first step is to read it the text.

Before we can apply it to our lives we need to know what it says. This should be the capstone of your devotional reading. Topical devotions are great, the problem is they tend to select some verses here and half of one over there to in essence say, “Hey, God agrees with me.”

There is nothing wrong with topical studies as long as they are faithful to what is in Scripture. Being overly selective with the Scriptures runs the risk of leaving out something that God had to say on the topic or not explaining it enough.

How much should you read?

As little or as much as you want. I don’t have a set opinion on this because I have found that reading the Bible with different methods help me at different times in my life.

For example, I am a huge fan of reading large chunks of Scripture. That’s how the original audience would have received God’s Word. Think of Moses reintroducing the covenant to Israel, which is the entire book of Deuteronomy.

Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount in one sitting. Every letter aimed at a New Testament church was read in one gathering. It’s easier to get the flow of the narrative or the argument if you are looking at larger sections of Scripture.

On the other hand, where I find myself now is reading smaller portions of Scripture and just meditating on that periscope. The point is, there is no one way to do it.

Study It

Once I’ve read the text, I usually allow time for me to “live” in the passage. This is meditation. This doesn’t mean that you sit cross-legged with crossed fingers thinking positive thoughts.

This is mulling over what you have read repeatedly until you’ve internalized it. Now that the passage is familiar, you are ready to dig in and study.

There are several different systems you can adopt.

I’ve tried a few myself:

  • Use a Scripture journal which has the text of the Bible on one page and blank journaling space on the other.
  • Write your prayers down in the journaling space or write down observations.
  • Mark up the text – circling, underlining, or even highlighting key words or phrases.
  • Write down any questions you have and then work to answer those questions with the context around the text you just read. Sometimes, the answer is in the text itself!
  • Compare translations to get a fuller sense of what the passage means. Check out some cross-references.
  • Write down your own summary of the passage. After that, check out some commentaries to see what other people’s conclusions were. Sometimes you might change your mind and sometimes you will disagree, but that’s part of the fun of studying.

Speaking of systems, you can get a paper journal and grab your books from the shelf but there is a more efficient way to study. I recommend getting a Bible software program. They allow you to do word studies, read commentaries and lexicons, mark up your Bible and compare translations.

You can write notes and look at maps.

There are more features I could mention but you get the idea.

There are a few great programs to consider for study in our digital world. Accordance is good, so is Olive Tree, and my
personal favorite is Logos Bible Software.

Apply It

The Bible student lives in two worlds. They live in their present-day reality, but they also visit the ancient world of the Bible when we read and study it. But now that we have studied the text, we should be able to apply it to our life and become better worshippers because we know God a little better than before.

Remember, we don’t just read the Bible for information, but so we can love God more deeply, in a Psalm 119 kind of way.

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