I was not born knowing how to cook. I learned one step at a time. When I was young, my mother taught me how to hold a knife to spread peanut butter and jelly over the bread. I later learned how to follow the instructions on the back of a box of macaroni and cheese. Over time, I developed more cooking skills, which enabled me to assemble whole meals together.
I notice the same progression in my ability to understand the hard parts of Scripture. Difficult passages that were hard to understand years ago are not as hard for me to understand today. It's not because I was born with a natural ability to understand Scripture. It's because I developed one new Bible study skill after another over time.
Here are three tips for studying difficult Bible passages:
Repetition is one of the things that differentiates Bible study from Bible reading. When we read Scripture, we turn to a new passage every day. When we study Scripture, it is helpful to read the same passage over and over again. Our brains need time to process all the details from the passage. When I recently studied the book of Jude, I read the entire book every day for about three weeks. Each time something new jumped out at me.
We can also use repetition by looking for phrases and words that are repeated within the passage. It's helpful to look for the same phrases mentioned before and after a particular passage of study.
Consider the big picture.
If we picked a novel off a shelf, opened it up to the middle, and read one page, we would have a hard time understanding it unless we knew how it fit into the rest of the novel. The same is true of the Bible. In order to understand a passage, it’s helpful to understand where it fits in in the big picture.
Knowing the historical context of the passage is very useful. In a study Bible, this information may be in the introduction notes. The Bible Project YouTube Channel is an excellent online resource for getting an overview of the Bible as a whole and each Bible book in particular. Understanding the big picture is part of the Observation step of the SOAP Bible study method. (Download a free template here.)
Be patient with the process.
When I hear the word “study”, I have flashbacks to my school days. When I studied for a test, I felt like a failure if I didn’t know the answer to a question, but studying the Bible is different. We're not failing if we don't know an answer to a Bible study question. Just because we don’t know an answer now doesn’t mean we won’t understand it later. Studying Scripture is a life-long journey, not a fast-food run. It's a continual process of studying, collecting questions, and patiently searching for answers in God’s Word.
Of course, no amount of study skills will work unless you have the Holy Spirit. If you believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior, then the Holy Spirit is in you as a seal and promise of your eternal life. He guides you and convicts you as you read and study God’s Word. (If you have questions about the salvation that Jesus offers, please visit this page , which contains a short video that clearly explains the gospel message.)
Guest writer, Rachel Schmoyer is a pastor’s wife and mom of four. She lives in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania. She writes at Read the Hard Parts to encourage and equip Christians to find simple truths in complex Bible passages. Her devotionals have been published in Light from the Word, The Secret Place, and The Quiet Hour. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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