When it comes to bible study, there are topical studies and expository/textual studies such as a book, chapter, or verse studies. Today we will consider a method of studying a book of the bible. There is no one right method of study, but the method I’ve chosen to detail is very simple, effective, and requires no other resource but a bible. It is a study method that can be done by believers from middle-school age through adulthood. I started practicing this method as a freshman in high school, and I can attest to its effectiveness.
While this is not an in-depth method of study, it is a critical part of study and may lead to deeper study methods. But the point of this method is not to get too deeply entrenched, but to gain an understanding of the overall big picture of the book. Grasping the big picture should always be our first act before attempting to dive into a particular verse or chapter of a book.
The Big Picture Method
- Read through the selected book of the bible, stopping after each chapter to write down a very brief summary (1-3 sentences) of the chapter. Also, record any reoccurring keywords the author used either within the chapter or repeated from previous chapters.
- While reading through the book and summarizing each chapter, look for any major divisions within the book, such as where the subject matter changes or even the whole theme and purpose of the book changes. Record these observations.
- When you have finished the book, fill out the following report and affix it to the front of your written summaries:
- Author of the Book:
- Background details of the writer (if any):
- Book was written to:
- The major divisions of the book:
- The main theme(s) and purpose(s) of the book:
- Questions for further study:
Let’s now practice this method with a few examples. The first example is the book of Jonah. Jonah is a smaller book with only four chapters. Small books are usually easier to start out with because they do not overwhelm the student and they often have only one theme/purpose.
The Book of Jonah
Background: a well-known prophet in his day (2 Kings 14:25).
Written to: Not stated, but the inference points to the Jews.
Major divisions: Chapters 1-2: Jonah in the fish. Chapters 3-4: Jonah in Nineveh.
Main theme/purpose: Love your enemies, they deserve salvation, too.
Questions for further study: Why does Jonah hate the Ninevites so intensely?
Chapter 1: Jonah is told to preach to the Ninevites. Jonah attempts to run from this task but is swallowed by a great fish.
Chapter 2: Jonah is in the belly of the fish for 3 days, then finally makes an appeal to God. Jonah is vomited onto dry land.
Chapter 3: Jonah preaches in Nineveh and the people are receptive to his words and repent of their sins.
Chapter 4: Jonah is angry that the people repented and hopes that God will destroy them anyway. God gives Jonah an attitude adjustment.
Now that we’ve seen how to do a small book, let’s look at how this method handles a substantially large book. Let’s not get overwhelmed with the big books, remember that, just like the small books, we take them chapter by chapter, stopping to summarize each one. These bite-sized pieces of the book soon cause us to grasp the overall purpose, or purposes, of the book.
The Book of Ezekiel
Background: A Levitical priest who was called by God to be a prophet during the Jewish captivity in Babylon.
Written to: The Jews
Major Divisions: Ch. 1-24: Jerusalem must fall due to sin. Ch. 25-32: Foreign nations must fall. Ch. 33: Prophecy fulfilled – Jerusalem falls. Ch. 34-48: Jerusalem will be comforted and restored with a glory better than before.
Main Theme/Purpose: The fall of a sinful Jerusalem and the future rise of a holy and victorious new Jerusalem.
Chapter 1: Ezekiel explains how God called him to be a prophet, which began with a grand vision of the four powerful beings that transport the throne of God.
Chapter 2: Ezekiel continues his explanation, recording God’s words to him. God tells him the difficulty of his task to preach to the stubborn.
And so forth…. We have space for one more example.
The Book of Acts
Background of Writer: Gentile disciple who was a physician.
Written to: Theophilus (meaning lover of God)
Major Divisions: Ch. 1: Ascension of Jesus. Ch. 2-6: Acts of Peter. Ch. 7-8: Acts of the deacons. Ch. 9: Conversion of Saul. Ch. 10-12: Acts toward the Gentiles. Ch. 13-21: Acts of Paul / church grows throughout the Roman Empire. Ch. 22-28: Paul on Trial.
Main Theme: The book is a historical record of the fulfillment of Jesus’ words in Acts 1:8. “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Chapter 1: Jesus gives final instructions to His apostles and then ascends into the heavens. After which, Jesus appoints Matthias as the apostle in place of Judas.
Chapter 2: The inspiration of the Holy Spirit begins. The gospel is preached and 3,000 are obedient to it. The church begins.
And so forth….
If you are searching for a way to get better acquainted with God’s word, I hope this method of study will be of use to you or adapted to your way of studying the scriptures. I suppose that if we did an exercise like this, especially when we are new Christians, for all 66 books, we would all benefit from much good fruit (Hosea 4:6).
Article by Tanner Campbell