Bible Study Basics

Last society season, the Randolph Protestant Reformed Young People’s Society began studying the book of Judges. This coming season, the Lord willing, we will conclude our study of this book.

To help the young people prepare for the weekly discussions, I prepared a list of questions on each chapter of the book. These questions are being printed in the Beacon Lights so that others might benefit from them.

But before delving into the book of Judges, it might be good to review a few basics.

The Privilege of Bible Study

Our sinful nature does not think of Bible study as a privilege, but as a chore. Ultimately, this is because Satan does not want us to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, but wants our spiritual life to become weak and stagnant. Looking within ourselves, we find that this is because we are so earthly minded. A weekly Young Peoples sports discussion would be enjoyable; but group Bible study is less so.

Nevertheless, godly, covenant young people have throughout history enjoyed Bible study, and we can too! Think of what we read in Psalm 1:2, of the blessed man: “But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” And seven times in Psalm 119, the Psalmist speaks of meditating in God’s law. He delights in this! “Oh, how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day!” (Psalm 119:97).

For him, Bible study was a privilege.

And it must be, and can be, for us as well.

Rather than my telling you why it must be, and how it can be, why don’t you begin the upcoming society season discussing this matter? Search the Scriptures to find biblical answers to these questions:

*    Why is it a privilege for us to be able to study the Scriptures?

*    Why is it that we do not always think of this opportunity as a privilege?

*    What benefit will Scripture study give us?

*    What can we do to enjoy Bible study?

How to Study the Bible

If one does not even know generally how to study the Bible, he or she will likely not do it.

So the following are some rules that we all—ministers, adults, and young people—ought to follow when studying Scripture for any occasion, whether for private study or group devotion. I quote this list from Rev. Ronald Hanko’s article “The Principles and Practice of Bible Study (Part II),” found in the Standard Bearer, Volume 58, page 445.

Rules for the Study of Scripture

  1. Rules for Spiritual preparation.
  2. Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
  3. Leave time for meditation upon the passage under study, probably after all other work with the passage is finished.
  4. General rules.
  5. Determine what kind of literature is being studied: poetry, prophesy, history, etc.
  6. Attempt to divide the passage into sections or determine where the passage being studied begins and ends.
  7. Define the theme of the book in which the passage is found and the place of that theme in the rest of Scripture.
  8. Write down all questions.
  9. Rules concerning the actual interpretation of the passage.
  10. Determine the main point of the passage.
  11. Take note of any problems of grammar or interpretation.
  12. Identify the important words or concepts in the text.
  13. Study these words or ideas in the light of the rest of Scripture by looking up and studying all the important texts where the same word or words are used.
  14. Compare the text as a whole with similar or related passages from the rest of the Bible.
  15. Take a close look at the passage in light of the immediate context as well as the context of the whole book and ask how the text fits into that context.
  16. If necessary look for background material on history, chronology, customs, etc.
  17. Look for Christ in the passage and how the text brings the Gospel of Christ.
  18. Try to set out clearly the application of the text—what the Spirit says to the Churches.”

Look overwhelming? Don’t worry—good study guidelines have done part of the work for you, and give you aids on how to do the rest.

But, in sum, notice two things: first, Bible study takes hard work. It will take time. And second, it requires prayer. Only God has the power to enlighten us. So pray…and work!

A few questions for you young people to face, then, as you begin a new season:

*    Are we resolved to pray, both at home and in the society meeting, for God’s grace and help as we open up His Word?

*    Are we resolved to make Bible study a matter of priority, and give it the time it requires of us?

How to Conduct a Bible Study in Young People’s Society

I don’t mean to imply that I know the only or best way to lead a young people’s society. Each group of young people is different, each leader is different, each topic is different—so there is no one right way.

But I do have a few suggestions, especially for the leaders.

First, lead! Lead the young people in discussion!

By this I mean, don’t be so quick to tell the young people the answers to the questions, and the meaning of the text. Don’t speak for the whole time, or even most of the time. Don’t be so quick to speak when the young people are silent, because you fear silence.

Rather, prepare well at home so that you understand the passage yourself—but then in the Bible study let the young people discover the meaning of the passage and make its applications. This requires the leader to lead the young people through the text, forcing them to ask the right questions and to look in the right places for the answers.

Young People’s Societies are not only opportunities for our young people to grow in their understanding of Scripture, but also to grow in their ability to study Scripture. This will not happen as well, if the leader is too quick to answer all their questions.

Second, although a Bible Study should not have the format of a catechism classroom, it still benefits the young people to require some work of them. So hold them accountable.

One way in which I have done this is to require all the members of the society to come with at least one question regarding the passage. Especially in the earlier part of the season I insisted on this. When the members had demonstrated that they were able to do their work without being held accountable, I relaxed this requirement a bit.

Or, certain young people could be assigned specifically to answer certain questions for the next week, thus forcing them to prepare.

Now too much structure can stifle discussion—and discussion is exactly what is desired in the society. So the leader has to know how to find a balance—and this again is not easy to do.

In closing, a few more questions to discuss at your first meeting this year:

*    Leaders, will you pray daily for the young people that you lead, that they be diligent in their preparation, and that their study meetings help them grow?

*    Young people, will you pray daily for your leaders, that God give them grace to lead you as you grow in your knowledge of the Scriptures?

*    And young people, will you resolve to honor your leaders, and respect them for the work which they are doing?