How to Study a New Testament Letter – Part 1
It’s School of Prayer Saturday. I usually post about prayer on Saturday, but I will be switching to my “How to Study the Bible” series during our month of Spiritual Renewal. One of the resolutions for Spiritual Renewal is to study a book of the Bible this month. I hope you will consider doing a Bible study on your own without any help from an outside book. Put away your Bible study courses and get out your Bible. I will teach you the steps I use when I study a book of the Bible. I have been a Precept leader for 8 years so I will be using a simplified version of the Inductive Bible Study method. Many Christians are used to using a Bible study crutch and I want to wean you from this. I don’t believe there is anything wrong with these Bible studies, but we need to be able to interpret the Bible for ourselves. Who knows, there may be a day where you don’t have access to a Bible study. This will probably be a four part series, but I will not know until we finish the course. I will make a post of this series every Saturday, Lord willing, throughout the month of January. It looks as if cold weather is coming so you will have more time for Bible study. We will take baby steps, so if this is too slow for you then go at your own pace.
2. 3 ring binder
3. Notebook paper
4. Colored pencils
Always begin your Bible study with prayer. Ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten you and tell you “great and mighty things you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3). Pick out a new testament letter. I am not going to tell you which book I am studying because I don’t want this to become a Bible study course. You may wish to start a notebook for your Bible study so you can take notes. Whenever I study a book of the Bible, I like to know some background information. I either use the internet, a commentary or a few books that I have on hand for this purpose. There are two books in particular that I like to use, The Bare Bones Bible Handbook by Jim George and What the Bible is All About Bible Handbook by Dr. Henrietta C. Mears. Don’t feel like you have to buy any books because this information can be found on the internet. Go to Google and type in your book of the Bible and overview, for example, Ephesians Overview. Here is a good one to use for the book of Ephesians, Bible Study Tools. Make sure that you use a reliable source. After you have found a good overview, write down the authors name, the date the book was written and the recipients (the audience of the letter). Then, Print out this overview page I am providing and fill in the spaces with the information you have gathered, Bible Overview Page. Place this page in your 3 ring binder.
Next, you will want to find the key verse for your book. You may use the internet for this information as well. Just go to any search engine and type in key verse for Ephesians or whatever book you are studying. You may try to pick out the key verse on your own in your Bible, but I find this difficult to do. I am a little lazy and am not ashamed to admit I use the internet to find my key verse. After you have found the verse, mark it in a distinct way in your Bible. You want all key verses to be marked the same throughout your Bible so they are easy to spot. Pick out a particular color and stick with it through out your Bible. If you don’t like to mark in your Bible, then print out the book your are studying from the internet. I love to mark in my Bible. You can see the picture of one of my Bibles above. This is a lightly marked page. Maybe next week I will take a picture of a heavily marked page. If you don’t like to mark your Bible, then buy one you will not mind marking up. I have a Bible for devotional reading, where I mark verses that I like. However, my study Bible has markings for key words and phrases. This Bible above is from my devotional Bible. Think about your Bible as a Word Find Puzzle. Before you begin the puzzle, you see a bunch of letters on a page. When you circle the words you find, they jump off the page at you every time you look at your puzzle. This is what happens when you mark key words in your Bible. I like to mark the word, prayer, in my Bible with a purple pencil. By marking this word the same way through out my Bible, prayer jumps off the page.
After you have found your key verse, read through your book of the Bible and mark the author in one color and all the references to the recipients in another color. You may wish to keep a notecard to remind you how your marked your words. I hope you have chosen a short book because this will take a long time if you didn’t. We will read through this book several times over the course of the month. As you go deeper into the book, you will notice verses you have never noticed before or you will gain more insight to the meaning of certain verses.
As you begin your study, I want you to notice one more thing about New Testament letters. Take a look at the first verse of your book. For example in the book of Ephesians, the first verse begins with the word, Paul. This is Paul’s way of telling his reader he is the author. When we write a letter, we sign our name at the bottom, but the New Testament letters have the author as the first word. There are a few books which are missing the author, but this is true for most. After Paul introduces himself, he states the recipients of the letter. In Ephesians, he says, “to the saints who are at Ephesus”. You now know who he wrote the letter to. Now, take a look at the first verse of your letter to see who wrote it and who the recipients are. Sometimes the recipients might be located a few verses down the page, but you should be able to find it. This is enough for this week. You have an entire week to complete this portion of the Bible study. Remember we are taking baby steps to Spiritual Renewal this month. I hope you will join me often.
Summary of Today’s Lesson
1. Begin your Bible study with prayer.
2. Find the author, recipients, date book written and key verse.
3. Begin a notecard with your color markings as described above.
4. Read the entire book which you have chosen.
5. Mark the author and recipients in a distinct way through out your book.
6. Print out the Overview Page I have provided above, fill it out and place in your notebook.
7. Enjoy the time you are spending with the Lord.
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