How I Study: Principles of Study

2 Timothy 2:15

Read – using your eyes: “Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law” (Ps 119:18).

Meditate – using your mind: “in His law doth he meditate day and night” (Ps 1:2).

Record – using your hand: “What thou seest write in a book” (Rev 1:11).

Apply – using your heart and will: “I will keep Thy precepts with my whole heart” (Ps 119:69).

Read (1 Tim 4:13)

The first few times read the book quickly, right through if possible. Most books can be read completely in a fairly short time. Read the book out loud as things seem to register better. Don’t write, but read.

Grasp the Theme

Then, read the book a number of times slowly and try to grasp the theme of the book. For example, in Mark, the focus is Christ the Servant and in 2 Timothy the theme is the believer in the last days or the need for loyalty to God in difficult days. In 1 Thessalonians you will notice the coming of the Lord is mentioned in each chapter.

Look for Christ

Try to see what the passage says about Christ. For example, in Colossians 1 we are in Christ; our faith is in Christ; we are in His kingdom; He is the image of the invisible God; He is the Firstborn of all creation, and so on.

Find the Background

Try to get the background to the book. For example, Acts 16, which tells of the visit of Paul and his company to Phillipi, would be the background to Philippi.

Why was it Written

Try to find the reason for the book. For example, 1 Timothy 3:14-15 gives the reason for the writing of that epistle, and one of the reasons for writing to the Philippians is for Paul to thank them for what they had sent to him (Phil 1:5; 4:10-19).

Nothing can replace reading the Scriptures. There is no shortcut to Bible study; read and read and read, then read and read and read again, prayerfully and carefully.

Meditate (1 John 2:14)

Think about what you have read.

Note repetition of expressions

For example, “died unto sin” (Rom 6:2, 10, 11) and “know ye not” (1 Cor 3:16; 5:6; 6:3, 9, 15, 16, 19; 9:24). Note repetition of words. For example “walk” (Eph 2:10; 4:1, 17; 5:2, 8, 15) and “conversation”, i.e. manner of life (1 Peter 1:15, 18; 2:12; 3:1, 2, 16).

Note the persons, places, and actions. Note the references to God, to Christ, to the Holy Spirit. Note the subjects – faith, prayer, the church, suffering, trials and so on.

Compare how the book begins with how it ends. Ephesians begins and ends with grace and peace (1:2; 6:23-24), John begins and ends with following (1:37; 21:20-22). Ask yourself why? what? when? where? how?

Think of the Outline

Philippians divides into its chapters: Chapter 1: Christ the Passion of a Devoted Life (v21 “For me to live is Christ”); Chapter 2: Christ the Pattern of a Delivered Life (v5-9); Chapter 3: Christ the Pursuit of a Dedicated Life (vv12-14); Chapter 4: Christ the Power of a Dependent Life (v13).

Consider a chapter or section

A chapter is not always a section. However, commence by looking at the chapters and ask yourself, “Is it narrative?” If so, how much is action? How much is speech? How much is conversation? Ask yourself, “Is it doctrinal?” If so, how much is teaching? How much is expressed as a command? How much is exhortation and how much is consolation? Ask yourself, “Is it prophetical?” If so, how much is past? How much is present? And how much is future?

Spend a long time thinking over a chapter or section – discipline yourself not to be distracted. Ask yourself how many parts are in the chapter or division. What does the chapter or section say? What does it mean? How does it affect me?

Consider a word

Think of it in its context. For example, note the word “fear” in 1 Peter 1:17. Since the context is family relationship it cannot mean terror, to be afraid of, to fear judgement. It is linked with being in the family so it must be a reverential fear. It implies a constant watchfulness to act in keeping with the Father’s character, a carefulness not to bring dishonor to Him by the way we live.

Look for links within and outside the book. There is a link in the words “strangers and pilgrims” in 1 Peter 1:1, 17; 2:11 and they also link with Hebrews 11:9-10, 13-16. Don’t get discouraged – don’t give up – go on meditating – go on through the book!


Don’t trust your memory. It may be good now, but it won’t always be. Even with a good memory it is difficult to recall every single detail.

Have a study notebook and, if possible, one for each book you study. In making notes, avoid vagueness and laziness. Explain your thoughts to yourself first, then you will be able to record them clearly. Later, you will be able to explain them to others.

Notes will help with any new thoughts on the passage and fresh study of the book. They will also help in linking thoughts with other books.


You must put into practice what you read in the Word of God. You must put into practice what you meditate upon. What you glean from the Word of God should affect your life. There is nothing more harmful to spiritual growth than not putting into practice what we have learned from God’s Word. The Word of God is for our lives not just for our heads.

Without obedience we become cold of heart and critical. Knowledge of the Scriptures can be either a help or a hindrance to spiritual growth. It helps when it gives us an understanding of the mind of God and it is manifested in our lives. It hinders when it makes us proud of what we know and has no effect on our lives

Application of the Word of God to our lives is vital for spiritual growth and for bringing pleasure to the heart of God.