Adapted from Tools for Mentoring Bible Module by Joy Schroeder
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The "Study Questions List" below can assist you as you study the Bible. The list includes observation, interpretation, and application types of questions. When you study Scripture, you drill down deeper into a smaller portion. Generally, use several observation questions, a couple of interpretation questions, and choose one application. Observe as much in the passage as your time and interest allow. Let the Holy Spirit speak to you. Do something to apply what you read so that the Bible transforms your life.
You can use the "Study Questions List" below to create Bible discussions for a small group, as well. First, study the short passage yourself as described above, letting the Holy Spirit speak to you personally. Next, answer two questions: (1) What is the main point or idea of the passage? (2) What do you want your group members to do to act on the main point—a specific action to apply the truth? Then, aiming the discussion toward the main point, choose a few observation questions, a couple of interpretation questions, and one application question from the list that addresses question (2)—what you want members to do.
For example, use questions from the "Study Questions List" below for a discussion of Romans 8:35-39. Some observation questions adapted from the list below might be: What is the main point of this passage? What situations are listed that cannot separate you from God's love? An interpretation question might be: What issue in your situation does this address? An application question might be: What does God promise in this passage? How specifically will you apply the promise today—how will it change your thinking?
Observe: What does it say? (Hendricks 124-125)
Interpret: What does it mean? What principle does it teach? (See "General Guidelines for Interpreting Scripture" below.)
Apply: What will you do about it? Choose one. The acrostic spells SPACE PET. (Warren 39-40)
For Example: A Bible Discussion from James 1:22-25
In the Bible discussion of James 1:22-25, notice how the observation, interpretation, and application questions are simply adapted from the "Study Questions List."
Read James 1:22-25.
To what is the Bible compared? (Observe a comparison.)
In what way can you use the Bible like a mirror for yourself? (Interpret what it means.)
If you don't change to align your actions with what the Bible says, what happens to you? (verse 22) (Observe an if/then relationship.)
In verse 25, what words describe what to do with the Bible? What will result? (Observe another if/then relationship.)
What is one thing the Bible teaches that you are putting into practice now? What is one thing you are not obeying? What will you do to change and when? (Apply a command to obey.)
General Guidelines for Interpreting Scripture
Usually, the simple, obvious, plain meaning is the intended one. Take passages at face value whenever possible. Read the words in their normal sense. "When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense" (Hendricks 265).
What God is like:
Consider verses in light of what the Bible reveals about God's character—what He is like. In Exodus 34:6-7, God reveals Himself to Moses using these words:
"The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty [unrepentant] unpunished."
Many promises are conditional on your response to God's conditions. Fulfill the conditions attached to these promises, and you can trust God to fulfill them. Check to see that you are in the same circumstance as the person receiving the promise in the Bible. If not, look for the principle implied by the promise and apply that.
A conditional promise: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
An unconditional promise: Jesus said, "…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:20
Difficult passages to understand
If the passage taken at face value and in context doesn't seem to make sense, is unclear, seems to contradict other clear passages, or seems inconsistent with God's self-described character, consider one or more of the following:
Gibbs, Carl B. Principles of Biblical Interpretation. Springfield, MO: Global University, 2004.
Hendricks, Howard G. and William D. Hendricks. Living By the Book. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2007.Warren, Rick. Bible Study Methods. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006.
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