Before You Begin (Duncan Parlett)

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Author's Bias | Interpretation: conservative | Inclination: covenant | Seminary: none

Welcome to Workshop #1: Before You Begin:

This is an introductory course to personal Bible study. If you learn the material, apply the techniques, work hard, and try the exercises you will be well equipped to feed yourself from the Word of God. Despite being basic, you will find that these techniques, along with the power of the Holy Spirit, will take you far in your study and application of Scripture. And the product of that is joy, power, life-change, and much more.

Keep in mind that the goal of Bible study is not to know the Scriptures in an academic sense but rather to know a person. The Word is a wonderful way you can know and fall more in love with your Creator and Savior. As you begin to study, be aware that God is speaking to you through the Bible. How exciting! Listen carefully for what He has to say to you today and every day that you spend with Him.

This is a synthesis of many principles and techniques I have picked up various places during my time with Campus Crusade for Christ and from my personal experience in studying and applying the Scriptures. I also have learned a lot from the books listed below. My approach in these workshops is to be brief and to the point. Detail was sacrificed for brevity and usability.

May God richly bless you as you feed yourself from His Word!
--Duncan Parlett

Knowing Scripture by R.C. Sproul
My Friend, the Bible by John Sherrill
How to Understand Your Bible by T. Norton Sterrett
Hermeneutics: Principles and Processes of Biblical Interpretation by Henry A. Virkler

The Goal of this workshop is to equip you to 'Feed Yourself from the Word of God'. I hope to do that in two basic ways:

1. By helping you learn simple but effective Bible study methods.

2. By practicing our methods on actual verses and passages.

However, a third very important ingredient is needed: Your hard work and faithfulness to consistently be in the Word. Perhaps accountability with another individual or a small group will create the right environment for you to be consistent in your study of the Word. Although this study could be self-guided, I find it’s a lot more fun and more productive if you do it with others.

In this workshop, we will cover:

1. The Prerequisites of Bible Study.

2. The Foundation of Bible Study.

3. Choosing a Course of Bible Study.


Many years ago at my university, when I first moved out of the dorms and began living in an apartment I began to realize that my roommates and I needed to feed ourselves and not just order pizza all the time. We were all novices in the kitchen. We took turns nervously attempting simple culinary feats for dinner each night. One of my roommates, on his turn, served us a big white hunk of cold raw tofu. Needless to say, we did not find it the most appetizing entrée we had ever tried.

Well, when it comes to feeding ourselves from the Word of God many of us are just as inexperienced. We are hungry but we are not sure how to go about getting nourished. My hope is that this simple program will get you started in the right direction. It is not fancy. It is not complicated. Yet, it will contain just about all you need to uncover the life-giving words of truth in the Bible. Preparing any meal requires you to first have a few basic utensils. So, let's first look at what you need before you begin. Not surprisingly, it has to do with your heart.

A. The Prerequisites of Bible Study

A Hungry Heart. Have you heard this saying? "You can give a person a fish and they'll eat for a meal. If you teach a person to fish they will eat for a lifetime." In both these scenarios there is an assumption. People need to eat regularly. If we don't, we get hungry.

But are you hungry to hear from God? Is there a craving to have Him teach you and mold you and give you the truths that will set you free? Is your soul not satisfied unless it has been satisfied by the spiritual food of the Word? Do you need to hear from God about specific situations you find yourself in?

It is important that we have a strong desire to understand and apply the Bible to our lives. Food tastes and smells better when we are hungry, doesn't it? In the same way, our time in the Word will be better if we are hungry to hear from God. So then, "you can give a Christian a sermon and they'll feed from the Word of God for a day. If you teach them to feed themselves from the Word of God, they'll feed for a lifetime." Are you ready to pig out?

A Disciplined Heart. We need to be willing to work hard. I know as an American I am used to convenience and ease: instant this and instant that. The Bible, however, does not surrender many of its blessings easily. The old saying, "The more you put into it, the more you get out of it" applies here! A few basic techniques plus a lot of sweat will yield a lot of results for your personal Bible study. I want you to read the article I've included with this week's lesson. It's simply about a man and a fish but it has a lot to tell us about the need for a persistent, disciplined heart and the life change that can come from it. (Read the Solid Food article before answering the questions / exercises at end).

An Obedient Heart. It is very important that our ultimate desire is to apply and obey what we learn in Scripture. In our minds we can know what the Bible says but it is a whole other thing to do what it says. Mark Twain is supposed to have said, "It's not the parts of the Bible I don't understand that bother me. It's the parts I do understand!" Whether he said it or not, he is expressing a common reaction to the Bible: "I know what it says and I don't like it!" Christians, on the other hand, should have a hunger to have the Bible guide and change them (James 1:22-25). The goal of Bible Study is Application!!

B. The Foundation of Bible Study

Although there are many Bible Study methods, there seems to be a basic template or pattern that all of them use to one degree or another. This pattern is also good because it leads us, step by step, to that important goal of Application!

1. Observation: What does it say? (Many of our methods will be different methods of Observation)

2. Interpretation: What does it mean (generally)? (The Basics of Interpretation will help us here).

3. Application: What does it mean to me? (This will be the personal application part).

We will go into more depth on each of these steps but let's get this basic structure set in our mind. Why don't you try these steps with a very brief example? Say, Matthew 7:6b "do not throw your pearls to pigs" or something else short like that. Take notes. Share you insights with someone else.

C. Choosing a Course of Bible Study

1. I would like to encourage you to commit to a course of study as you through this workshop series. It may be something you are already doing. It may be something you want to do. We will try our new Bible study techniques out on it and hopefully discover something to share with others. Most of all, we hope to hear from God.

2. Your section should be short and doable (able to be read in 15 minutes or less). Don't bite off more than you can chew. Commit to studying it a minimum of 3 hours a week. Find a regular place that is conducive to study and prayer and free from distractions. Keep notes.

3. Suggestions:

Study the sermon of your own church in depth (focus on the related passages of Scripture):

Short New Testament sections: Philippians; James; Colossians; the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5, 6 & 7); the Parables in Luke; a character study (Philip, Peter, Stephen, Barnabas, Paul in the book of Acts,).

Short Old Testament sections: selected Psalms (e.g. The Psalms of David); selected Proverbs; short portions of Daniel or Nehemiah; Jonah; a character study (Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Noah, Moses, David, Daniel, Elijah, etc.).

I am sure there are many other good short passages to start your study on. It might just be a few chapters somewhere. Have something specific.

5. Don't expect to mine all the gold of a passage in your first time through. Relax and explore the parts that interest you. One of the great rewards of Bible study is coming back to a section and finding new inspiration you didn't see before.

6. Ready, get set, GOOOOOO!!

Begin by reading section many, many times; get familiar with the section.

Find background information on your book: author, date, historical and cultural context and so on (often available in Study Bibles).

Begin to make very basic, general observations about the passage (don't go verse by verse yet). Take lots of notes.

D. Next Workshop (#2):

1. Bring things you learned or that encouraged you.

2. Next time we will look at: Bible Study tools.

E. Questions / Exercises

1. Why do you think the prerequisites of Bible study are a Hungry, Disciplined and Obedient Heart?

2. Please read the Solid Food article. Obviously this can be an analogy of how we should be studying the Word of God. Keep that in mind as you answer these questions:

A. At first the author thought he had seen everything about the fish in 10 minutes. Why didn't he? How would this apply to our own Bible study?

B. Why did drawing the fish help the author see more? What kinds of things could accomplish the same goal for our Bible study?

C. In what ways did Professor Agassiz help this student?

D. In what ways did his study of fish permanently effect the author?

E. Why was the odor of the specimen bottles fragrant to the author by the end of his experience?

F. What else did you learn from this article especially as it might apply to Bible study?

Remember the phrase, "Look at your fish!"

3. What are the three basic steps of Bible study? Have you tried them out on a single verse such as the suggested one above?

4. Which course of study have you chosen and why?

Duncan Parlett's personal note: When I began college, I thought that all religions were false myths that people had developed to explain the unexplainable. But the truth is that I had never searched or explored any of these religions nor thought through my objection to them. I had simply acquired this idea from somewhere and accepted it with out examination. The truth is that many people live unexamined lives. But that was a view that suited me at the time. Actually, I wasn’t very interested in spiritual topics. As a typical student, I wanted to get good grades, do well at sports, and most of all get a girlfriend. At first these things (no-a girl is not a thing) came easily to me. But success was hard to maintain. As my grades slipped and my cross-country times failed to improve and the girlfriend dumped me (for no one!) I began to wonder where my significance lay. During my first year I had gotten to know some Christians. They emphasized that for them Christianity was not a religion with rules and regulations but a vital personal relationship with God. They shared how their significance came from God’s unconditional love and acceptance of them and not from outward success. It was at that time that I saw in myself a new openness to spiritual things and a desire to learn more. I learned many new and interesting things but what impressed me the most was that Jesus Christ had died for me and made it possible for me to have a relationship with the God who made the universe.

Duncan Parlett, Duncan=Brown Warrior (Celtic) Parlett=derivative(?) of Parler=to talk or communicate (French), enjoys using creative communication to fight a battle, a battle for the kingdom of God. He has been a part of the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ since 1987 and has served as both a campus worker (evangelism and discipleship) in Seattle, Washington and as a video producer in Southern California. He is married and has a wonderful daughter.

Series: Examples of Bible study methods (P. Rhebergen)
Chart 12 - The Verse By Verse Method of Bible Study

Series: A tutorial on biblical hermeneutics (D. Parlett)
Bible Study Tools (part 2)

Related subject:

What is this reference: Bible Hermeneutics?

Tools: Bible Hermeneutics

Topical Index: Bible>Hermeneutics

By author:

Author Index: Parlett, D

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