How to Have an Inductive Bible Study

Written by Brenda Klemke

spiritualgrowth_inductivestudyDo you long for a deeper, more meaningful relationship with God, but seem lost when you open your Bible? Do you read portions here and there, but forget what it said five minutes later? Are you frustrated with getting everyone else’s opinions about what the Bible says on a certain subject, and wondering what’s really true? Do you think it’s really possible to understand Scripture even if you aren’t a theologian?

The Bible study method I am about to share with you revolutionized my life. Five years ago, I was introduced to a lady named Kay Arthur, founder of Precept Ministries. In a three hour seminar on the book of Haggai, she made the words of Scripture come alive for me. I took those same methods and began applying them to regular Bible study and have been totally changed by what I’ve learned. I’ve since taken quite a few Precept Bible Study courses and am totally sold on this method.

What inductive Bible study is

Inductive Bible study uses the Bible as the main source of information about the Bible. Here is a good illustration I heard about what this means.

If I decided that I wanted to learn about frogs, I could use one of two methods. One way would be to go to the library and check out all the books that had information about frogs. I could then read them and find out what each different author had to say about frogs. When their information conflicted, I would have to try and decide who was right. This could all be done without a lot of effort and I wouldn’t even have to touch a frog.

The other way I could go about my research is to go down to the pond and find a frog. I’d observe the surroundings, which insects it ate, which it left behind, when it was awake, when it went to sleep, how it mated, where, when and how it laid it’s eggs, etc. When I was finished, I’d take the frog back with me to the lab and dissect it so that I could see the inner workings of a frog. I would then have first hand experience with the frog and would know for sure that my information was accurate. It would take more time and effort, but I would not quickly forget what I had seen for myself.

I’m sure you can see my point. If we study the Bible itself, asking the Holy Spirit to teach us, we will know it because we know it – not just because we heard someone else say it.

The three basic steps

There are three basic parts to inductive Bible study.

  • Observation: What does it say?
  • Interpretation: What does it mean?
  • Application: How does the meaning apply to me?

Once we know what a portion of Scripture means, we are responsible for putting it into practice in our own lives. This, of course, is the goal of Bible study – to be transformed by the Word of God, developing a deeper more intimate relationship with God Himself.

It is of utmost importance that our observation is correct because our interpretation and then application will rest on it. Often these things will happen simultaneously as God gives you insight. When something you are studying makes an impression on you, stop and allow God to speak to you.

Observation

  1. Pray, asking God to teach you (John 16:13-15).
  2. Find out the context – this is very important to accurate interpretation.
    Example: sharp

    • a pointed object
    • a musical term
    • a thin keen edge
    • quick witted
    • bitingly cold
    • stylishly dressed

    The context of each of these determines the meaning.

  3. Look for the obvious – facts about people, places, events – often these will be repeated making them easy to see. This provides a framework for the text.
  4. Be objective – let Scripture speak for itself. Don’t try to make it say what you’ve always thought it said. Ask God to make His truth obvious to you and then adjust your life accordingly.
  5. Read asking questions of the text.
    • Who? – Who wrote it?
    • Who did he write it to?
    • Who are the main characters?
    • What? – What are the main events?
    • What is the meaning of the message?
    • What are these people like?
    • What is his purpose in saying this?
    • When? – When was it written?
    • When did this event happen?
    • When will this take place?
    • When did he do or say this?
    • Where? – Where was this done?
    • Where was this written?
    • Where will it happen?
    • Why? – Why was this written (Why did God want me to know this?)
    • Why did the author say so much, or so little about this?
    • Why should they do such and such?
    • How? – How did it happen?
    • How did they do it?
    • How do I do that?

Record your answers in a notebook. You will be amazed at how much you learn that you did not realize was there.

It will be helpful if you use a Bible that you are willing to mark in.

Interpretation: Watch for key words

Marking key words consistently throughout the text will help you quickly identify common themes. Colored pencils and a four-color pen work great together. You can use the pen to make little symbols that relate to the key words. For example, any time I see the word “Jesus,” or a pronoun of it, I mark it with a red ink cross. Key words always answer the question who, what, when, where, why or how. They are most often words that are repeated. Names of key people in the story and their pronouns are key words. God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit or any words that mean the same, including pronouns, are also always key as we are seeking to discover more about God.

Application: Let’s try one

Luke 7:36-50 NASB

36 Now one of the Pharisees was requesting Him to dine with him. And He entered the Pharisee’s house, and reclined at the table.
37 And behold, there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume,
38 and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet, and anointing them with the perfume.
39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.”
40 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he replied, “Say it, Teacher.”
41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.

16 Responses to “How to Have an Inductive Bible Study”

  • Elkay says:

    Niyi, it is a blessing to Power to Change whenever an article is helpful to others so we’re glad you found the site and thank you for visiting and your comment. When you are in Bible study, it is helpful to know that “beginning and all the prophets” Scripture points to Jesus! Luke 24:12f tells us that after His resurrection and on the road to Emmaus, Jesus explained to Cleopos, “Beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He explained to them in all the Scriptures, the things concerning Himself”! ALL the Scriptures . . . what a blessing to know that Jesus has always been with us in the past and still is!

  • Niyi Amuda says:

    Thank you! I really enjoy the articles in your website, especially when it’s got to do with God’s Word and my spiritual growth.

  • Solomon says:

    Thank you very much for this material which I was googling for some time now. I hope to find the rest of the material. God bless you.

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Thanks Dane, you have got some good articles on your site. I appreciate the link.

  • Dane Swanson says:

    Good. I am glad to see a page that explains Inductive Study. At Biola University I had my Inductive Bible Study class and thought it was a great way to study the Bible. Of course, it is only one way. In my blog I am presently covering Bible Study methods. feel free to link to me. http://www.drschristianplace.blogspot.com.

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    So J.K., you would say that and inductive study is useful for personal study and also teaching others?

    Alasdair, I think there is some freedom with the use of commentaries and other supplementary literature but for the most part you would be encouraged to pursue an interpretation from your won reading and study and then compare that to how others have interpreted that passage. It helps breed a dependence on the Holy Spirit’s leading but also guards against misinterpretation by balancing your interpretation with other believers’.

  • J K Sangma says:

    Hi Jamie! Well I have benefited a lot.. I have recieved lots of blessings through inductive Bible studies. I did my dts in 2002 since then I’ve been using tthis method of bible study and even teaching for others as a full time youth pastor in our local church. Thank you. May God Bless you all in your ministry.

  • Alasdair says:

    Thank you for this article. Could you advise, what is the place of commentaries in inductive Bible study. At what stage should they be used (if at all!). Personally, I use one at the end of observation, it seems to me that you should not move on to interpretation if you have any questions on the passage. Thank you Alasdair

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Thanks J.K. What were some of the benefits that you found using an inductive study when you did your DTS?

  • J. K. Sangma says:

    Hi!

    Thank you for reminding me of Inductive Bible Study. I did it during my DTS, YWaM at Bangalore, India. It is truly an effective Bible Study I have ever learned. I encourage others to go through it and try it. I believe you would surely be blessed. Thank you.

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Hi Mary, I am glad you found this article helpful. There are lots of ways to help develop your ability to do an inductive Bible study. Do a google search and you will find lots of resources. I did notice that Precept Ministries has some workshops in different locations throghout the year. You can find out more at their website http://www.precept.org.

  • mary says:

    I am intrested in getting more information, to see if there is a course or something in st louis
    God Bless the work of your hand

    i think this was a good start, i have haerd of various spins on this, but this clear and concise, i just wish there was more, taking it a bit further

  • Leah says:

    Hi Belinda,

    I am sorry but that link was put up by someone commenting on the site and we have no control over that website. You should email the website administrator of scriptureableware and alert them to the broken links.

    Sincerely,

    Leah

  • Belinda says:

    Many of the links are not working on the page. http://www.scripturetableware.com/free-ebook/

    This one in particular is one I was interested in which is not working.

  • Sophie says:

    I’ve taken many Precept classes in the space of 6 years. I’ve learned so much about the Word and God’s plan for our lives. It has been an absolute blessing to me! God bless Kay Arthur!

  • Great to see a simple explanation of the inductive Bible study method! My father, Irving L. Jense, wrote numerous books & Bible studies on this method. Here’s a link to download a free ebook of his: INDEPENDENT BIBLE STUDY.
    http://www.scripturetableware.com/free-ebook/

    Incidentally, Kay Arthur’s interest in this method was sparked by her son who took my father’s course in college. Small world, huh?

    In His grace,
    Karen

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