A Guide to Inductive Bible Study

Girl intently reading scripture

"Teachings, podcasts, and other resources are good and needed, but they’re processed. The foundational building blocks of our spiritual growth have to come from the raw nutrients we receive when we directly encounter God."

'I want you do to the Bible Intensive Course.'

 

I was flying back from a trip to South Africa when I heard this statement clear as day, and I knew it was from the Lord. Just a few months later, I found myself in a room side by side other students who, like me, were eager to dig into YWAM Orlando’s Bible Intensive Course. We didn’t know exactly what the next three months had in store for us, but we did know that on the other side of our three month study of the Bible were new realms of understanding and intimacy with its Author.

 

And we couldn’t wait to begin.

 

The first step was a crash course on what is known as the inductive method.

The inductive method of studying the Bible involves looking at the original context of Scripture and making observations in an unbiased way. This requires laying down all preconceived ideas of who God is to let the Word come alive and speak for itself. So much of how we live our lives can be the result of the culture and the voices of those around us.

 

Teachings, podcasts, and other resources are good and needed, but they’re processed. The foundational building blocks of our spiritual growth have to come from the raw nutrients we receive when we directly encounter God. When we study and meditate on the Bible we can’t help but encounter the one who wrote it. His character and voice hides within the pages, just waiting for an opportunity to communicate with those who are willing to dig in.

So, how exactly do you study the Bible inductively?

 

It is done through Observation, Interpretation, and Application

 

Of course, there are a few steps involved during each of these components.

 

Through the inductive method you follow a process of studying the Bible one book at a time. Each book is usually read 4 - 5 times, and with each step you are given a new tool for uncovering revelation within the pages. Below I have written a simplified step-by-step guide for you to do your own inductive bible study at home!

Observation

STEP 1 - The 1st read: Outloud

 

Your first step when approaching a new book in the Bible is to read it out loud, all in one sitting. This helps you get the full perspective of what the book is about and where the author is going with it. You may be wondering, “What about books like 1 & 2 Kings? Aren’t they a little long to read out loud?”

Yes, those can be really long reads, but what you glean is well worth the effort. My friends and I loved to make it a party when we studied longer books. So grab some snacks and invite a few friends over to read with you. You won’t regret it!

 

STEP 2 - The 2nd read: Color coding

 

Color coding was one of my favorite steps in studying the Bible inductively. Here is where you decide on a few key things that you want to observe throughout the book as you read it again. Once you know what you want to observe, grab some colored pencils or highlighters and assign them a job. For example, I wanted to observe emotion and descriptions so I highlighted all adjectives purple. I also wanted to take note of any repeating words, so I double underlined any words that I noticed were used over and over again throughout the book. You can choose as many things as you want to observe (places, people, etc.). It was incredible to see things jump out at me that I had never noticed before!

STEP 3 - The 3rd read: Paragraph Titles

 

On the third read you then give each paragraph a short title that sums it up. As you begin to do this you may start to see clear subject breaks or topic changes that the author makes. As you are reading and creating paragraph titles, I highly recommend you go to SBScharter.com to record your paragraph titles. This then gives you the ability to create a visual chart that you will need for Steps 5-7. 

 

When you go to SBScharter.com, you’ll see that the website is designed for students of the YWAM School of Biblical Studies or the Bible Intensive Course. You can use it nonetheless. You’ll have to register to make an account (and save your work), then you’ll choose a Bible version and you’ll be on your way!

 

Once you have typed up all your paragraph titles, you can then group common paragraph themes into segments and any topic changes you can break into sections and divisions.  SBScharter.com makes this process really easy and automatically generates the visual chart. Your end result is a simple and helpful visual that shows the themes and breakdown of the book. This will also serve as a great reference for whenever you come back to study or read this book in the future!

 

STEP 4 - Historical Background

 

Here is where it is helpful to dig into the historical content and background of the book. Ask questions like:

 

Who wrote the book? 

 

To whom was the book written

 

And when was it written? 

 

Dig into studying the main characters in the book. Use the Bible as your main source and then move toward external references if necessary. It is also helpful to uncover what type of literature the book uses (think: poetic, historical, prophetic, letter, etc.). This will unlock a whole new meaning to the text as you move onto your fourth read. Take your time with this step, as it will set a foundation for understanding the meaning behind your previous step of color-coding.

 

STEP 5 - The Fourth Read: Recording your observations

 

For this step you will then use the chart you created from Step 3 to begin to show your observations and move toward application. During this process, you’ll begin your fourth read through the book. You can print the generated chart or continue to edit it online as you work toward completion. 

 

Within each designated page you will record any key observations you made on the middle section of the generated chart. Your observations are the things you noted through your color coding. 

 

An example of what you would write is: 

 

Observation: Repeating Word: “brother.”

Interpretation

Step 6: - Interpretation and timeless truth

 

On the outside of your generated chart, you will then take the central observations that you just made and record an interpretation and timeless truth that is connected to them. 

 

For your interpretations, ask yourself, Why was this observation significant, and what did it mean when it was first written to the original reader? 

 

Here is an example:

 

Interpretation: Paul is calling both Philemon and Onesimus his “brother.” By doing this, he is communicating to Philemon that there is equality in the Kingdom of God, since Onesimus previously was a slave. Paul is encouraging Philemon to forgive and accept Onesimus as his equal.

 

For your timeless truth ask yourself what timeless truth or principle can be drawn from the interpretation that you just made. 

 

For example:

 

Timeless truth: In the Kingdom of God everyone has value regardless of what culture says or one’s past experiences.

Application

Step 7 - Application

 

The final step is my favorite! It’s where you see the real transformation of your inductive Bible study come to life! This time, on the outside of your chart, you’ll write the application you would like to make from the timeless truths that you discovered. 

 

To discover your application, take a moment and ask the Holy Spirit how to apply the timeless truth to your life. Then create an action-step that is do-able, personal, and specific. 

 

Check out this example:

 

Application: This week I am going to give a word of encouragement to someone who I know struggles with their personal value.

 

Here is the kicker…. 

 

Now you need to actually DO your application. 

 

If you don’t follow through on your application, then the things you learn and observe in the Bible won’t bear fruit. I’m confident the Holy Spirit will meet your hunger and diligence as you put into practice what you learn!

Record as many observations, interpretations, timeless truths, and applications as you choose. The more you dig, the more you will find; and that is the very essence of the inductive study of Scripture! 

 

At first, following this process may seem challenging, but soon you’ll find a rhythm to your study. I’m confident that if you take time to dive into the living word of God, you won’t leave the same!

 

'The word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.' 

(Hebrews 4:12)

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Staff

Written By:

Jeniece Kingman | YWAM Orlando Staff

Feature Image By: Eivind Lovund