What is the inductive Bible study method?
How would you feel if the person you were going to marry handed you a large book, a couple of thousand pages long detailing his or her past relationships - not to make you jealous, of course, but to genuinely help you to understand him or her and to explain his or her vision for life? Obviously you would think it pretty strange, but I think it would also make me rather curious! It would quickly tell you a lot about the person, even without reading it - that they care a lot about you to have gone to the effort of getting the book written and that they have a LOT of history and 'references' of their interactions with others! You would also probably feel pretty overwhelmed.
My husband and I will have been married 14 years this year. We have a great marriage, but there are still things which we don't communicate helpfully and days we don't understand each other. I think having a book which helped me understand the ins and outs of my husband would be helpful to spend time studying!
The Bible is meant to be a revelatory text rather than an informational text. Although we probably started reading it around the time we made a decision to follow God, or even before, it isn't necessary to know it all before we engage with relationship with God. It is there to reveal and point us to God daily and to help us to engage with Him each day.
That doesn't mean, however, that we are not meant to study the Bible. I am so grateful for the time and energy that many have put into helping us translate and understand the Bible over the years. Academic study has its value, but that is very different from reading and studying the Bible daily as a source of spiritual food and way of engaging with God.
In this post I want to share one method I have found helpful in studying the Bible: the inductive bible study method (initially started by Kay Arthur). It doesn't require the use of commentaries, just a bible and some pens. In this post I have several photos from the New Inductive Study Bible by Precept Ministries. It is a great tool to help with this method, but it isn't necessary to have a copy in order to use the inductive Bible study method.
Why the inductive Bible study method?
The inductive Bible study method is great for all - it can be used with children and people from all different educational backgrounds, I know that from experience in my missions work here in Peru. It encourages us to engage with God whilst we are reading and to allow the Word to speak to us without needing extra study materials. It helps us to engage slowly with the text and chew over it, allowing us to see new things and connections in the text.
Basics of inductive Bible study method:
1) Begin by praying and inviting Holy Spirit to guide you in your reading.
2) Finding out the basics of the book you have chosen to study:
Who wrote it? When was it written? Why was it written? (Most Bibles have this information at the introduction at the beginning of each book).
3) Choose a passage in the book to study and begin going through the passage slowly, highlighting and using symbols to represent different things.
I put a triangle over the word God or reference to the Father, a triangle with a cross to represent Jesus and a triangle with a half cloud over the top to represent the Spirit.
I highlight people in pink,
I underline places in green,
I put yellow around the word 'glory' and also use yellow to highlight any key verses I want to remember.
Things connected with measurement or time I underline in purple,
things connected to the temple I highlight in blue with yellow surroundings.
I keep a separate piece of paper with the different symbols I have developed on - things like symbols for water or faith or wine or bread, which all come up regularly. The New Inductive Bible comes with some suggested symbols at the beginning to help you get started.
4) Write any personal notes / revelations in the margins or notebook.
As you have invited God to speak to you through His Word, take time to engage with Him and write down any reflections you may have, either in your Bible or in a notebook elsewhere.
I have a visual memory so drawing out 6 waterpots is more helpful to me than just underlining the text.
As I said before, you don't need to have a special bible to do this, you can do it in any Bible you have or on any passage you write out, as I did in this passage from Philippians 3 earlier this month:
The point of the inductive Bible study method is to first find out what the Bible is saying (observation) then find out what it means (interpretation) and finally apply it to your life today (application). It is to help you to slow down and actually look carefully at the text. As you draw symbols and highlight key words you see how often they are used in a passage and certain phrases and words stick out that wouldn't have if you just read them at normal pace. It is a way of meditating on the text and enjoying God's Word at a leisurely pace! Instead of just reading a passage to get our reading done, it allows us to ask questions of the text and interact with it.
What ways have you found helpful to study the Bible?
If you are looking for a new way to study the Bible using the inductive method, this Bible will get you started. It is available in the ESV or NASB version. It is a small investment - they aren't as cheap as other Bibles but they are sturdy and have lots of space in them to annotate the text. I had to wait until Christmas to get one, but that also meant I was serious about making the time to engage with it. Inside they give you some ideas of symbols to use and give you particular directions for engaging with each book. At the end of each book there is a table to fill in with an overview of that book. I have had mine for just over a year now and although I don't use it every day all the time, I love having a space to engage further with the Bible when I am doing a study or when something I want to remember comes up.
Want to spend time with God but find yourself too busy or lacking ideas of how? I have created a short guide just for you with 8 Practical ideas for you to connect with God in 10 minutes or less. Click the image below to get your copy!