How Do I Make Sense of the Bible?

Three Steps to Excellent Bible Study



Understanding starts with observation — simply noting what’s being said. To observe well, pray for the Holy Spirit to lead and reveal, and become a detective. Look for:

  • the who, what, when, where and why of the passage
  • the section and genre of the passage
  • cause and effect relationships
  • comparison and contrast
  • connecting words: if, because, so, therefore, for, then, etc.
  • repetition of words, phrases, ideas
  • commands, instructions, promises
  • how it connects to the passages before and after
  • progression of thought

The goal is to grasp the passage’s main idea to the original audience. With good observation, you should be able to give a detailed answer to the question:



In this step, you build on observation and seek to understand the passage’s meaning to the original audience. The resources listed in the next section are very helpful here. Look to answer:

  • What is the historical context of author, events, audience?
  • How does the context aid in understanding what’s written?
  • What is confusing or difficult to understand?
  • What brokenness, sin and/or false beliefs are presented?
  • How does God address these conditions? What does this reveal or point to in Jesus and His ultimate solution?
  • Where is this _____ (story, problem, solution, need, truth) referred to elsewhere in Scripture?

You want to find what the author would say if asked:



The last step is to apply the author’s intended meaning to our lives and context. Primarily, we want to grasp what the passage reveals about our nature that requires redemption and what it reveals about God’s nature that provides redemption. Some questions that are helpful:

  • What in my setting is similar to the original context? Different?
  • How do I share in the brokenness the passage describes, the sinful conditions it reveals or the false beliefs it addresses?
  • How does Jesus’ work address that brokenness, sin and false belief?
  • In what other ways does the passage point me to hope in God and in Christ? What about God’s redemptive work is revealed?
  • Are there any promises to believe? Instructions to follow?
  • How am I resisting Christ’s work, trusting false hopes, failing to believe God’s promises or relying on my own effort?
  • How is the Holy Spirit prompting me to respond?

You’re looking to answer:



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