Okay, you want to start saturating within a book of the Bible, but where to begin? Let me give you a couple ideas.
Start with the Overview
Before you study the actual text itself, it is important to have an overview of the book.
1. Read through the book several times to get the tone of the book
2. Find out
* Who the author is
* When was it written
* Who was it written to
* Why was it written (the purpose of the book)
3. Make a basic outline of the book. While you can look online or use someone else’s outline, it is far more helpful for your personal study if you take some time and make an outline yourself. After you have compiled an outline, it is helpful to compare it with outlines in Bibles, commentaries, or online and tweak your outline if needed (but it is REALLY helpful if you do it yourself first – it helps you become familiar with the book as you wrestle through the outline).
* 3a. Read through the book and as you, write down the mini-sections (paragraphs) where the story changes. For example if Jesus is in the synagogue teaching and then he moves outside and performs a miracle, separate those two sections
* 3b. Give a simple title to each of those sections with the passage reference
* 3c. Determine how each of those sections fit within larger sections and give the larger section a title.
Outline Example: Ephesians
Note there are two major sections (chapters 1-3 and 4-6). These two major sections are broken down into a few smaller sections. You could break each of these smaller sections into detailed outlines, but for our use as a basic outline we are merely wanting the large chunks.
Sitting Position (1-3)
Place of Blessings (1.3-14)
Prayer for Enlightenment (1.15-19)
Power Demonstrated (1.20-2.10)
In the life of Jesus (1.20-23)
In the life of believers (2.1-10)
Position in Christ (2.11-22)
Paul’s Ministry (3.1-13)
Prayer for Enablement (3.14-21)
Walking Response (4-6)
Walk Worthy of the Calling (4.1-16)
Walk in the Light [vs the Darkness of Flesh/Gentiles] (4.17-5.17)
Walk in Harmony (5:18-6.9)
Walk in Victory (6.10-20)
Well wishes [farewell] (6.21-24)
Once you have done an overview of your book, it is time to start working through the actual passages. I highly encourage you to read your book daily if possible. The more you read through it, the more you will begin to see connections, themes, etc through the book.
Let’s decide you want to study 1 John. It’s a short book with five chapters so its easy to read through in one sitting. What if you decided that you’d read through that book every day for a week? You could assume that by the week’s end, you would know far more about the book than with a single reading. What if you decided to read 1 John everyday for a whole month … or what about a year? That may seem overwhelming to you, but even after a couple weeks, you would begin to see how chapter one ties into chapter three and how that spills into chapter five. You would begin to see parallels between passages and you would come to know the tone and voice of John.
Remember, we are not after academic study but personal intimacy with Jesus, so it is imperative that you Saturate within the book (not make it a thing you do in the morning to check off your list).
1. As you read through the book everyday, what if you would take a card and write out the first four verses (the introduction to the book)? Every chance you got throughout the day, you read those four verses and pray over them. Ask Jesus (the Author) what it means. Write questions and insights you have on the back of the card.
2. Purposely take some time to OBSERVE the text (What does it say?).
* Get a piece of paper and make a list of things you see in the text. What is going on? Who is there? What is being said? What is left out?
* Remember to continually ask yourself: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?
3. Word Studies can be a great aid to deepen your study. No you don’t need to know Hebrew or Greek.
3a. Make a list of the words that seem important or that you want to know more about
3b. The best way I’ve found to do word studies is to go to blueletterbible.org and type your passage in the search box (by “best” I mean the most accessible of resources for free)
As you continue to turn your mind upon the Word throughout the day, you become permeated with it. Within a few days you would, without even intending to, have those first four verses of 1 John memorized because you read and thought about them so often. Then what if, as you asked yourself the three questions for Bible study (Observation, Interpretation, Application – week 5) and the Holy Spirit revealed truth to you through the passage, you moved on to the next paragraph in the text?
Would it take some time to get through the book? Yes. But what’s the hurry?
Write it Down
I encourage you to write down your discovery and insights. Too often we think that this powerful truth that God reveals will stick with us forever, but it is easy to forget over time. There are passages that I can look at and tell you all about them because they made a huge impact in my life. There are others that while the truth was rich, I need to look up the concept and insights to remind myself.
One idea is to have a paper with your observations, questions, etc and another where you write out the interpretation and application. This way you don’t have to go searching for the concept/truth amidst your study notes; rather it is readily available on a separate sheet of paper.
Question: Have you started a book study and if so, tell us about it. Leave a comment in the section below.