“The key to wisdom is this – constant and frequent questioning, for by doubting we are led to question, by questioning we arrive at the truth.” – Peter Abelard
I strongly believe that the best way to learn is by asking good questions. Questions train us to think critically and come to a good conclusion by investigating for ourselves. We can learn a lot in our Bible Study by asking questions.
If you’re stuck in Bible Study or wanting to go deeper, consider asking more questions as you read. Study as if you’re doing an investigation. It’s both rewarding and worthwhile. God reveals his hidden secrets to those who choose to search, and we search by asking questions.
To get started, here are five important questions you should ask yourself as you study the Bible.
5 Important Questions to Ask As You Study the Bible
1. What is the passage saying?
It’s important to actually understand what the passage is saying at face value before trying to interpret it. Some passages, especially prophetic books, can be really difficult to understand even on the surface. There are so many names, places, and symbols and it’s easy to lose track. If you come across a passage that you can’t seem to decipher, start by asking yourself the 5W’s and H.
- Who is involved
- What is happening?
- When is it happening?
- Where is it happening?
- Why is it happening?
- How is it happening?
You can also paraphrase sections that aren’t clear by restating in your own words.
If you need to, read the passages before and after to get a better understanding of the context.
Let’s look at Luke 14:1-6 as an example. Try answering the 5Ws and H to get a better understanding of what the passage is saying.
Once you feel comfortable understanding what the passage is actually saying, you can go on to the next question.
2. What does this passage mean?
Next, ask yourself “What does this passage mean?” This is where you will begin to interpret the passage.
Before you can understand how God wants to speak to you through this passage, you need to be sure of what it means. We have to be careful not to take the Bible out of context and try to fit it into the circumstances of our own lives. We should study the other way around by discovering the passage’s intended meaning and then drawing an application from it.
Read through the passage a second time. As you read, ask yourself deeper questions about the details. Pay attention to anything that stands out. Make a note of anything you don’t understand. Write down anything that surprises you. Don’t be afraid to ask anything that comes to mind. Remember, the best way to learn is by asking frequent questions.
You should also review these points as you interpret scripture:
- Type of literature
- Historical Context
- Cultural Context
- Intended Audience
- Date of writing
For example, a poetic book will not be interpreted the same way as a prophetic book. A Historical Old Testament book will not be interpreted the same as a New Testament Epistle to Gentile Christians.
Is the book written to one person or a group of people? What do you know about the audience? Who is the author? What is his background? When was it written? What was taking place at the date of writing?
Pay attention to the characters in the text. Who are they? Why are they significant? Ask the same questions about cities, nations, and landmarks.
All of these things will affect how we interpret the passage. If we interpret out of context, we may draw a meaning that God did not intend.
Look for cross-references to help clarify the meaning of verses you don’t understand. Greek and Hebrew word studies are also great for understanding how our English word relates to the original language used when the Bible was written.
Commentaries and sermons are also excellent but I recommend reading them after you have asked your own questions and used all of the other methods I suggested above.
We should be good stewards of God’s word. It is a treasure that he has given to us. While it does take some extra time to interpret scripture, it’s worth it because we get to understand what God spoke to his people in the past and what he wants to speak to us now.
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3. What does this tell me about God?
Before considering what the passage means for your life, think about what it says about God. Primarily, the Bible is a book about God. While it teaches us so much about us, it’s mostly about him. We study God’s word so that we can know him more. The more we truly know him, the more we love him.
Also, we know ourselves by getting to know God. If we can read scripture and understand what it says about God, we will learn what it means for us as well.
Consider asking these questions:
- How would you describe God after reading this passage?
- What do you learn about God’s character and nature?
- How does this passage relate to how society defines God?
- Did you have a wrong view of God before reading this passage? If so, how has your view of him changed?
4. What does this tell me about people?
Reading the Bible will teach us about human nature and how we relate to God and others. Ask yourself what this passage tells you about people.
- How do they respond to God?
- Do they respond with love or do they disobey God?
- Do you notice any notable character traits? Any tendencies?
5. How should I live my life based on what I have read?
Finally, apply the passage and its intended meaning to your life. Based on what you have learned, how should you be living your life? It’s one thing to read scripture and interpret it well, but it’s another thing to take what you have learned and let it guide your life. As Christians, we should let the Holy Spirit lead us and transform our lives by the Word. We may read things that encourage us to love God more, things that convict us, things that encourage us to persevere, and things that remind us to love others.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What should I change in my life based on what I’ve read?
- Should I be praying about anything?
- Do I need to confess anything?
- Are there any promises I need to take hold of?
- What truths do I need to receive?
I hope this list of questions to ask as you study the Bible was helpful for you. It is important to read and interpret scripture correctly. We want to make sure that we truly understand. We won’t be perfect and that’s why we need the Holy Spirit to help us. But, as we seek to understand God’s truth, he will teach us. May we approach Bible Study intentionally and learn what God wants to say to us so that we can grow in him.