When studding the Bible there are four basic questions you could ask yourself about a section you read.
The questions are:
1. Is there a lesson to be learned?
2. Is there a promise to be claimed?,
3. Is there a sin to avoid or repent of?
4. Is there a truth to understand?
Before I explain more about the question I feel I need to explain what I mean by a section. A section in the Bible is a complete thought, argument or pericope. Man has divided the Bible into chapters and verses. These divisions are not always in the most ideal location. Sometimes a verse is a complete sentence (John 3:16) and sometimes multiple verses make up a sentence (John 4:1-3). John 3:16 is a complete sentence but it is part of a larger section that runs from John 3:1 through John 3:21. Today many publishers marked sections with italic subtitles. In my main Bible John 3:1-21 is subtitled “The New Birth” and John 3:22-36 is subtitled “John the Baptist Exalts Christ.” In older Bibles publishers marked sections by a paragraph mark.
First question, is there a lesson to be learned? This question often comes to play in narrative text. In 2 Samuel 1:1-16 a young man lies to David about how Saul died. The young man takes credit for killing Saul. However, in 1 Samuel we are told that Saul committed suicide. Apparently the young man felt that David would reward him because he killed David’s enemy. Unfortunately the young man did not know that David had passed up two opportunities to kill Saul. David knew that Saul was the Lord’s anointed. David had the young man executed based on the young man’s testimony. A lesson to learn from this text is that trying to earn other people's respect by lying will backfire.
Second question, is there a promise to be claimed? Sometimes God makes promises to His people. We can claim some of those promises. In James 1:5, NKJV it is written, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” Reading the context of that whole section (verse 1:1-8) you will see the promise that we can claim. The promise is if we are bond servants of the Lord Jesus Christ during times of testing our faith we can ask God for wisdom and He will grant it if we ask in faith and without doubting.
This text is a good example on why it is important to read the whole section. If verse 5 was by itself then the promise would appear to be anyone who wants to be wiser just ask God and He will make you wiser. It is the context that establishes the verseеs meaning. Look up James 1:1 in your Bible. In verse 1 James defines himself as bond servant of Jesus and then addresses the letter to the brethren. That is people who like himself are bond servants of Jesus. In verse 2 the context is further set in times of trials. Verse 6 the promise is narrowed to asking in faith and without doubt.
I know that it looks difficult to figure out the promise in James 1:1-8, but it really is not. It is just a matter of practice. The more you read the easier understanding what you read will become. Don’t worry if after a few minutes you canеt find the lesson, promise, sin, or truth of a section. There may be another section you need to read. In the 2 Samuel example you would not know the young man lied unless you read the death of Saul in 1 Samuel.
Third question, is there a sin to avoid or repent of? The Bible contains many sins that we should avoid. These are the easiest applications to look for. These type of applications usually applies to you same way that they apply to the people in the Bible. In Genesis chapter 3 we read where Adam sins against God through disobedience. The sin to be avoided here is disobedience. God says don’t do something then we are not to do it. Repentance is an integral part to recognizing the sins. As you read the Bible you will discover sins that you need to avoid. You will also discover that you have already committed them. As you find sin that you have committed you need to repent of them.
Repentance is more than just asking God to forgive you. It is turning from that sin and doing it no more. Pretend your neighbor is angry and backs over your mailbox on purpose. Then suppose he realizes his sin and asks you to forgive him. This is how we should do God, recognize our sins and ask for forgiveness. Now on the next day, your neighbor gets up on the wrong side of bed and backs over your mailbox again on purpose. He then seeks your forgiveness. For the third day in a row your neighbor runs over your mailbox and again seeks your forgiveness. He truly recognizes his sin and truly wants your forgiveness. He has not repented until he stops running over your mailbox on purpose.
The final question, is there a truth to understand? Some parts of the Bible are meant to just be understand and accepted. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1, NKJV).” This verse contains many truths that God expects us to just accept and believe. Here are some of them. God existed before the beginning of everything that we know. There is only one God. The one God created everything. Materialism is futile because it is not greater than the Creator. We are not greater that God because He created us. God has to reveal Himself to us for we cannot discover Him.
It is amazing at how much easier it is to trust the rest of the Word of God if you will just accept Genesis 1:1 as fact. Much of the Gospel of John is truth that we need to believe.
You really should develop a habit of reading in the Bible every day. The discussion of the four questions was only meant to help you. I know it is easy to become discouraged if you don’t understand importance of what you read. The greatest help is just read a little every day for the rest of you life. God considers His word so important that Psalm 119 (the longest chapter in the Bible) is all about His word. Jesus said “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God’ (Luke 4:4, NKJV).”