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Posted on August 11, 2010

When you are in a Bible Study, what is the first question that usually comes up about a passage?

If your experiences mirrors mine, someone in the group is going to ask, “What does this mean?” In 99 cases out of 100, that is the wrong question.

There are four questions that are asked and answered in Bible study. They correspond to the four steps in inductive Bible Study:

Observation What does it say?
Interpretation What does it mean?
Correlation What does the Bible say in other places about this?
Application What does it say that I need to do?

Most believers skip the first question. The problem there is that if you do not know what the passage is saying, there is little chance you will ever figure out what it means. Observation is the prerequisite to interpretation. That is true in all phases of life. If we do not adequately observe what is going on, we will not be able to understand what is happening.

My son is in the third year of medical school. He has recently started his rotations. He cannot share the details of what he is doing, but as we talk about what he is learning, it is obvious that he is learning to observe. He asks a patient, numerous questions about how they are doing. He checks their vital signs. He may draw blood for evaluation. All this observation gives him and the attending physician data which they interpret as a diagnosis. We have all had that experience. We have had physicians take us through this process. It would be alarming if a Doctor walked in and greeted us with a diagnosis without asking the observation questions.

The Bible is spiritual and rational. We are commanded in Mark 12:30 and Matthew 22:37 to love the Lord with all our mind. In Romans 12:2, Paul exhorts us to have our minds renewed. The message is that we are to engage logically with the scripture. There is a right way to approach it. One of the best things you can do to increase your effectiveness in Bible Study is to increase your skill in observation.

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