The Discipline of Bible Study

Lesson 1998
Tags: Bible study
Excerpted from “Just a Closer Walk with Thee”: Spiritual Disciplines for Devotional Vitality
Related Resources: Bridging the Gap: Developing Tools for Better Bible UnderstandingThe Discipline of Bible Assimilation: Topical Study

Flexibility Is the Key to Freshness

It is vital that we not practice the disciplines in the spirit of legalism, out of a sense of duty. Rather, discipline should be a loving, submissive response to the grace of God in our lives. “The Spiritual Disciplines are intended for our good. They are meant to bring the abundance of God into our lives. It is possible, however, to turn them into another set of soul-killing laws. Law-bound Disciplines breathe death” (Foster 9). Disciplines practiced as laws place a stranglehold on our spiritual growth.

“Thy testimonies also [are] my delight [and] my counselors” (Ps 119.24).

“Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with [my] whole heart” (Ps 119.34).


  • Study is the discipline that we practice to make it possible for God to teach us spiritual truth. We are not really commanded to learn from the Scriptures; rather, God’s design is that he will teach us from them. Diligent, methodical study is the tool that God uses to teach us.
  • There is a vital balance to be found in the discipline of Bible study. Some of us are inclined to wear this discipline out. Focusing on Bible study to the exclusion of other disciplines is a lot like reading an owner’s manual without ever using the equipment that the manual describes! Remember the admonition of Solomon: “And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there [is] no end; and much study [is] a weariness of the flesh” (Eccl 12.12).
  • On the other hand, some Christians rarely scratch beneath the surface of God’s Word. This is just as serious a problem! The Bible commends people who dig into the content of the Scriptures (cf. Acts 17.11).
  • There are many approaches to the study of the Bible, including, for example, word studies, book studies, character studies, and topical studies. All of these approaches should follow the three steps of the inductive method: observation, interpretation, and application.


Inductive Bible Study

The inductive method of Bible study, as taught by various authors (e.g., Finzel, Hendricks, Jensen), consists primarily of three stages: observation, interpretation, and application. If you practice this approach to Scripture, you are sure to gain valuable spiritual knowledge. Approaching the Bible methodically—and with the inductive method in particular—will help you to ground your Christian faith squarely in what the Bible teaches rather than what you may have heard from other Christians.


Demonstrate the inductive method by showing how it applies to a well known Scripture passage (e.g., Ps 1).

Further Reading

Finzel, Hans, and Patricia H. Picardi. Observe, Interpret, Apply. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1994.

Foster, Richard J. “The Discipline of Study.” Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. Rev. ed. New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1988. 62-76.

Hendricks, Howard G., and William D. Hendricks. Living by the Book. Chicago: Moody, 1991.

Hughes, R. Kent. “Discipline of Mind.” Disciplines of a Godly Man. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1991. 71-80.

Jensen, Irving L. Independent Bible Study: Using the Analytical Chart and the Inductive Method. Moody paperback ed. Chicago: Moody, 1963.

LaHaye, Tim. How to Study the Bible for Yourself. Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1976.