Think for a moment about a trip you have taken. You left home, traveled to your destination, and had various memorable experiences. Perhaps you experienced a culture different form your own and found that the greater the cultural difference between home and destination, the greater the effort needed to communicate and to learn in your new environment. Yet you persevered, experienced new people and places, and were enriched by it all.

The Bible is God’s Word to us; we are not simply “reading someone else’s mail. “Yet Bible study can be like taking a trip to another culture. The language at times seems foreign. You might have difficulty finding your way around history or the literature. You see new things that are beautiful or even strange. You then gather up what you have gained from your study time and hopefully you grow by the experience.

Since reading the Bible is a cross-cultural experience, we need a vehicle that can take us to where we can hear what God is saying to us through those experiences, and I suggest that the right vehicle is a sound process of listening to the text of Scripture. Through a sound process of Bible reading, we see “the sights” God wants us to see. We learn to navigate the unfamiliar territories of biblical history and literature, read the “road signs” that mark the main points to which we must pay attention, and understand the language of the Bible.

After we have lived in the world of the biblical text for a while and become familiar with what is going on there, persevering through challenges and hearing what God wants us to hear, we then “travel back home” to our life contexts, bringing with us changed hearts and minds. The vehicle that can bring us home is discerning the principles and significance of what we have encountered in the Bible and then finding specific ways to apply God’s truth to our lives.

Using this word picture, let’s look at five main stages for doing a more thorough study of a Bible passage.

Pack Your Bags
Read the MapsRead the Road
Sings Carefully
Learn to Speak
like a Local
Head Home
Choose a PassageStudy the broad
historical context
of the book
Read the passage
in several translations
Choose key
words to study
Identify the main
points and principles of the passage
Gather you ToolsStudy the literary genreLook for key dynamics in the passageConsult word study toolsIdentify how these address original and modern contexts
PrayStudy the immediate literary context of the passageMake a provisional outline of the passageConsult a concordanceMake specific application for your own life

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