One of the ways to study the Bible is to focus your attention on one specific word. We have chosen to start 2017 with a study on what God has to say about the heart. But this type of study could be done with any word or topic. You could use this process to examine topics like love, marriage, raising children, and money. With some broader topics you might need to expand to searching for several different words.
Here is one way to approach doing a word study as you attempt to study the word “heart” this January.
- Step one: Find a list of verses to examine.
This step can be as long or short as you like. You may have a few verses already in mind as you start the study. You can use a concordance (list of verses) in the back of your Bible if it has one. You can use the search feature on a Bible App. You can use a Bible website. Find a list of verses you think are relevant to what you are seeking to understand.
- Step Two: Make Observations.
This is one of the simplest of steps, yet it is often skipped. We sometimes start drawing conclusions without examining what the text actually says. So the most important thing about making observations is to slow down. Focus on the words actually in the verse and reflect. Here are some good questions to use to make observations.
What does the text say?
What terms are used?
What connects the terms? (and, if, or, although, etc.)
What is the structure? (Instruction, explanation, poetry, a letter, a historical statement)
Try to write out a number of short statements that restate what the verse says, even if you don’t understand their full meaning before you move on to the next step.
- Step Three: Interpretation
Once you have begun to see what is actually being said you can begin to interpret it. What does this mean? What are the implications of this? You can begin to ask who, what, why, when and where questions. How does this affect my life? You can also relate a verse to other verses and see how they agree with one another or add more insight to the topic. Try to summarize your findings by collecting the ideas into some key points. It is helpful if you write them out as sentences or statements.
- Step Four: Application
In the book of James, James writes of being doers of the Word and not just hearers. In making an application from a word study, we are trying to go beyond understanding God’s Word to acting on what it says. A passage might show us something we should start to do, or stop doing. It might show us how we need to change our thinking about something. The most important part of an application is that it leads to some actual activity you can do. The idea is to be a “doer” of the Word and not just a “hearer”.
Here are some questions to help you make an application.
What was the intent of this passage?
What general truth can I draw from this for my life?
What steps am I going to take to act on this truth?
Have fun as you explore God’s word using these steps.