Are There Effective Ways to Study the Bible?

Are you reading the Bible currently? When you read the next chapter. Ideally, write down a list of the applications you discover. That way, you’ll be able to see every important truth, applicable command, and example to heed. Contributing Writer
Updated Oct 05, 2021
Are There Effective Ways to Study the Bible?

Sometimes the simplest questions are the most profound. This is especially true when we’re considering what God has to say to us in His Word. Sadly, many Christians feel Bible study has to be complicated. I felt the same way for many years. Yet nothing is further from the truth!

Over the years, I’ve discovered three simple questions can quickly transform ordinary Bible reading into a profound, life-changing experience. I’ve nicknamed the questions TA-CO, EH?

What Truths does this passage teach — and do I Affirm them?

What Commands does the Lord give — and do I Obey them?

What Examples does Scripture present — and do I Heed them?

This TA-CO, EH? approach to Scripture works great no matter where you live, how you prefer to talk, or what you like to eat!

Truths to Affirm

1. Insight. Remarkably, you and I can read page after page of the Bible without ever stopping to say, “Do I really believe this? And this? And that?” Yet, if we don’t wholeheartedly affirm the Bible’s truths, we can easily lose our way in this crazy, confusing, mixed-up world of half-truths, misconceptions, and outright lies.

It’s important to read God’s Word, make no mistake. But it’s even more important for us to actively say “yes!” to Scripture’s rich and trustworthy declarations about God, creation, the Fall, the ancient world, God’s chosen people, and God’s love for the whole world.

About Jesus’ life, ministry, teaching, miracles, betrayal, death, burial, and resurrection. About the Church’s miraculous birth, expansion, teachings, and blessed hope.

2. Experience. During a profound time of crisis some years ago, I suddenly stopped reading the Bible. After reading it daily for 25 years, I couldn’t even pray. After half a dozen shattering back-to-back-to-back trials, I had wrongly concluded that God’s own hand was crushing me. Days went by. Weeks.

Finally, in desperation, I opened my Bible again. I knew I couldn’t immediately read page after page, as had been my custom. So, I read one verse, then asked myself, “Do I believe this?”

Thankfully, my answer was yes. Not a huge yes! But a yes, nevertheless. That gave me the courage to read another verse. And another. In time, God restored my faith in a remarkable way. I’ll never be the same.

Today and almost every single day, I delight in opening God’s Word and affirming what He says. And when crises come — and they always will — I’m more confident than ever that the Lord hasn’t changed.

3. Samples. In Genesis 1:27, God’s Word tells us, “So God created human beings in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (NLT). In response to this verse, we can readily affirm, “I believe every person is created in the image of God.”

You and I also can affirm, “I believe I am created in the image of God.” The key is to ask, “Do I really believe this?” If I do, I begin to gain a clearer picture of God and of myself.

In 1 John 1:9, we read, “If we confess our sins to him [God], he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (NLT).

In response, you and I can affirm: “I believe God truly forgives me when I confess my sins.” The key is to affirm this in prayer to the Lord Himself…and to honestly tell Him if we have any struggles or doubts.

4. Caveat. Not all truths are created equal. Scripture accurately records Satan’s outright lies (Genesis 3:6), straightforward historical facts (Genesis 2:14), insights about how life works (Genesis 1:30), and divinely revealed truths (Genesis 4:7). The Bible itself places the most value on the latter.

Commands to Obey

1. Insight. Incredibly, you and I can listen to Scripture, nod our heads, stand up, walk out the door, and never once stop to wonder, “What would Jesus have me do in this situation?”

Yet if we don’t wholeheartedly obey the Lord’s commands, we’ll quickly go astray, risk our lives in mad pursuit of the tempting and trivial, get terribly hurt in the process, and then have the audacity to point the finger at others — even God.

No wonder Scripture urges us “to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed” (Titus 2:12-13, NLT).

2. Samples. In Exodus 20:12 — and again in Leviticus 19:3, Deuteronomy 5:16, Matthew 15:4, Mark 7:10, Luke 18:20, and Ephesians 6:2 — the Lord commands us to “honor your father and mother.” The question isn’t what you and I think of our parents.

The question is, can we honestly say, “I honor my parents in obedience to the Lord’s command”? Sometimes the answer is no. If that’s the case, the point isn’t to heap guilt upon ourselves. God simply asks us to be honest with Him and invites us to claim His promises for wisdom and strength.

In 2 Peter 3:14, we’re told, “So, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen [the New Heaven and New Earth], make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his [God’s] sight” (NLT). Our response shouldn’t be to read past this verse and pretend we’re already perfect.

Instead, it’s to decide to conform our life with Scripture so you and I can honestly say, “I am now making every effort to be found spotless, blameless, and at peace with God.” To do that, we first need to come clean with God, then start obeying this particular command.

3. Caveat. Not all commands are created equal. Some commands are perpetual (Exodus 20:12), other commands have clearly expired (Exodus 12:3), and still, others are for someone else — not for you and me (Exodus 3:5).

Examples to Heed

1. Insight. It’s not enough to know the great Sunday school stories about Noah and Sarah, Joshua and Deborah, Ruth and Absalom, Elijah and Esther, Daniel and Mary, Nicodemus and Cornelius, John Mark and Timothy. True, the biblical narratives are intriguing. But what lessons can we learn from each character’s faith and failings, victories, and vices?

Experience truly is the best teacher — especially the experiences of others who have gone before us. So, every time we read from God’s Word, we should seek to import lessons from the lives of both biblical scoundrels (1 Corinthians 10:1-13) and heroes of the faith (Hebrews 11:4-40).

2. Samples. In Leviticus 8:4, we read, “Moses followed the Lord’s instructions, and the whole community assembled at the Tabernacle entrance” (NLT). You and I can keep reading. Or we can stop, note Moses’ positive example, and then affirm, “I too choose to do what the Lord commands.”

In 1 Peter 2:21, the Apostle Peter spells out the example we’re to heed when he writes: “For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps” (NLT). He’s calling for an immediate response. Will you and I say, “I follow Jesus Christ’s example and am willing to suffer for doing what’s good”?

3. Caveat. Not all examples are created equal. Some examples are positive (e.g., Leviticus 8:4), some are negative (Leviticus 24:11), and some no longer apply today (Leviticus 10:19).

Applications of Philippians 4:4-13

Truths to Affirm. I believe the Lord is coming soon (v.5). I believe I can do any of these things through the Lord, who gives me strength (v.13).

1. Commands to Obey. I am full of joy in the Lord always (v.4). I pray about everything instead of worrying about anything (v.6). I think about what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and worthy of praise (v.8).

2. Examples to Heed. I put into practice whatever good I have learned or received or heard from or seen in the Christian men and women I admire (v.9). Like the Apostle Paul, I am content no matter what my circumstances (v.12).

Why Does This Matter?

Are you reading the Bible currently? If so, ask the three TA-CO, EH? questions when you read the very next chapter. Ideally, write down a list of the applications you discover. That way, you’ll be able to see every important truth, applicable command, and example to heed.

If you don’t have a “very next chapter” already lined up, I recommend reading the first half of James 1 while asking the three TA-CO, EH? questions. You may be surprised how much jumps out at you in the first 12 or 15 verses!

For further reading:

What Is Inductive Bible Study?

What Is the Value of Group Bible Study?

Why Are Different Methods of Bible Study Important?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/georgemuresan

headshot of David Sanford new 2020The late David Sanford’s book and Bible projects were published by Zondervan, Tyndale, Thomas Nelson, Doubleday, Barbour, and Amazon. His latest book was Life Map Devotional for Men published concurrently with his wife Renee’s book, Life Map Devotional for Women.

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