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Four Steps to Inductive Bible Study

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Setting the context: “ABCs”

  • Author — Who wrote the passage?
  • Background — When did the author live? In what culture?
  • Context — How does the passage fit in with what comes before and after it?

What does the passage say? (Observation)

  • Pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Read and reread the passage. Read it in another version of the Bible if available.
  • Gather all sorts of facts like an investigative reporter. Ask questions to help you observe the facts: Who? What happened? What was taught? When? Where? How? Why? This is where you see and discover what the author is saying.
  • Locate and mark any key words, repeated words or phrases, and commands.

What does it mean? (Interpretation)

  • What is the author’s intent in this passage? What is one principle or lesson the writer/God was trying to communicate? What was he saying to the people of his day? What would they have understood?
  • Look at other scriptures that relate to the passage. These are usually found in the margins of Bibles or in footnotes. What do other verses say about this thought or idea?
  • Use Bible study helps to get a clearer meaning of the passage as needed: commentaries, Bible dictionaries, concordances, Vine’s Expository Dictionary or a Bible study guide for the text, subject, or person your studying. Use a dictionary to define any unfamiliar terms or ideas.
  • Pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Why do you think God put this in the Bible?

How does the principle apply to one specific area of my life? (Application)

  • What is the Holy Spirit saying to me in this passage? Ask Him.
  • What is one way I can apply the heart of this passage to my life?
  • What will I do differently because of what I’ve learned?

This information is taken from:

1. What Is Inductive Bible Study? by Bill Cook,

2. Walk This Way? The Book of Mark, Irving Bible Church, pages 73-75, 207.

3. Effective Personal Bible Study by Mike Messerli, Crossroads Bible Church.

Related Topics: Bible Study Methods, Christian Education, Women