Need and desire may be captivating you…
…with a thirst to dig more deeply into one Bible passage in order to mine more of the treasures in Christ. We have begun with the simpler skills to build positive returns from one book to one chapter and now to one Bible passage.
This skill is more difficult, yet also within the reach of those with desire who will put in the work (2 Timothy 2:15). If you don’t find value now, still please practice this skill on two rich passages so you have this in your toolbox. Then don’t feel a have-to to use this anymore. For now, learn these skills and use 3 I’s for Insight selectively on any other paragraph that you feel is extra hyper-loaded with treasure. After you have learned the basics of this skill, use it only as it releases life.
And don’t be afraid to experiment.
Method is designed to help you, free you to really see, not to enslave you. God has designed His Word to be a source of joy. We enjoy fellowship with Him, the God of the universe, and glimpse more of His glorious person and grace-driven plan through His Love-Letter. Delight in becoming a lifelong life-learner.
In accounting, there is a common practice called the “two-eye” principle,…
…meaning that two pairs of eyes are better than one. We get so familiar with a problem. A second perspective gives us insight, eliminates errors, and moves forward more quickly.
Since God’s Word is so crucial, I approach a more detailed study of one Bible passage with “3 I’s for Insight.” Yet in a similar way, these three interconnected processes of learning guide us through a healthy study of one Bible passage and prepare us to teach in a very interactive way.
As you study, keep one ear on what God is saying to the original hearers (inspect and interpret), and the other on the word that is meant to penetrate our lives today (implement). Scripture molds and shapes our thoughts and destiny.
It’s also important to keep proportion and perspective, particularly today as we are bombarded with talk show hosts who make a living by making out-of-proportion comments.
If you went to Paris to study the Mona Lisa, how would you begin?
By covering the canvas with a cloth to study one feature at a time? Of course not! You would place the masterpiece in a good light and find a comfortable position from which to view it without distraction. Then you could take in the exquisite masterpiece in a single glance and fasten the whole with the camera of your consciousness. Afterwards, you would be ready to question proportion and perspective, shading and coloring, meaning and purpose.
“As you study, distinguish differences that make a difference from differences that make no difference.”
That is why I’m encouraging us to take time to read the entire Bible book that we are focusing on at least once per week in one setting. We would not read only fifteen lines of any other book in literature and then set it aside. To see the whole sweep of the incomparable movement of God’s mind, the Scriptures must also be read rapidly and repeatedly to see the big sweep.
“3 I’s for Insight” has three integrated movements to dissect one Bible passage,…
…each with a different role and a key question to guide us. A larger, full-page picture of this is toward the end.
- INSPECT: The Role of a DETECTIVE – What do I see in this passage?
- INTERPRET: The Role of a DECISION-MAKER – What did the passage mean then?
- IMPLEMENT: The Role of a DOER – What will I do with God’s truth now?
As preparation for “3 I’s for Insight,” choose a short, potent passage. Ten to 15 verses is a good rough measuring rod since this skill is more time intensive. For now, let’s take Ephesians 1:3-14 as our focus passage. We have a familiarity with this great passage already since we have already looked at it several times.
Since we are learning or honing a skill, I suggest beginning by copying and pasting these verses to a Word-document that you are familiar with. I go to BibleGateway.Com and select my preferred translation. Format your sheet so you leave space for questions and comments, increasing the leading, font and/or margins as you like. Even though many today prefer to just use their device, for now humor me and practice this “old school”!
1. INSPECT: The Role of a DETECTIVE – What do I see in this passage?
Take your sheet with the Bible passage and get ready to bombard it with questions. No answers needed yet. Your Six Helpers are who, where, what, when, why and how. Read slowly to strengthen this skill, a sentence or phrase or even a word at a time. Bombard with questions. For now, perhaps write out the entire question. I now just jot down enough of the question to remember it since these questions are the fuel to interpret.
If I’m in a group trying to help them stretch this skill, I pick one rich verse. I instruct them to take one minute and bombard that one verse with all the questions they can think of. Jot them down because we will then share in the group. I then go around in the circle asking each to share just one question now. We keep going around until all “pass,” then I share any extras I might have. I then ask them, “how many questions did we come up with as a group on this one verse?” Most are astounded…and stretched in this essential skill for insight.
Questions remove our blinders and prepare our minds to receive fresh insight. Questions are powerful tools for insight. You may want to go back to the sub webpage, Employs Questions to Mutually “Draw Out” under the Seven Essentials for a Natural Learning Culture page. Every good detective first carefully looks over the crime scene, bombarding with questions for insight. Take the role of a good Detective.
My greatest temptation is to rush too soon to interpret. If we go through the passage several times bombarding with questions, this prepares our minds to interpret more accurately.
2. INTERPRET: The Role of a DECISION-MAKER – What did the passage mean then?
Most books on how to study the Bible focus on this aspect alone as “Bible study.” All three are crucial, like all three molecules are necessary for water, H2O. There are at least five, intertwined, foundational facets in interpret, although use them as applicable. Mulling the passage over again and again in the presence of the Community-God provides the non-negotiable key that Scripture provides to unlock its treasures (meditate). In order to interpret Scripture accurately, a helpful guide is A Baker’s Dozen Common Sense Tips (some call this hermeneutics).
- Terms – Key terms are often repeated words or ideas, or pivotal terms on which the understanding of the passage hinges. Other Bible translations can be helpful here or look up definitions of any critical terms in a Bible Dictionary or an English Dictionary (I like the definitions in the Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, the last time they cleared referred to Bible definitions). Don’t get mired down but dig as far as the Spirit brings life to your study.
- Correlate – The Bible best interprets itself. How do Bible verses in other passages of this book or in other books in the Bible help you understand this passage (correlate)? Find cross-references from memory (a good reason to continue to “master” books of the Bible) or from a good study Bible or Bible app for now. Explore only as long as the Spirit puts life on it.
- Flow – Trace out how the passage flows. I like to use another copy of this passage in a Word-type document. Then I shift the formatting, so the flow is more obvious. By indenting or changing fonts, the author’s flow of thoughts stands out for me so I can think his thoughts more easily. What key connecting words tip-off structure and relationship (like: and, but, if, because, for, that, therefore)? Why did the author use this specific word? Are there comparisons or contrasts? How does one term or concept relate to what comes before and after? How does this paragraph relate to those before and after? This is a skill to develop, like learning the feel for the game of tennis or the proportion and colors in art. Stick with it and discover the flow of the passage.
- Summarize – Summarize the gist of each passage in a few words (5-8 is great). If your passage has several thoughts, perhaps summarize each thought first. Then your passage summary will summarize these several thoughts. As I’ve worked with people, I find this one of the more difficult skills to feel comfortable with, yet extremely valuable. Keep working on this. And you have already experienced this in the “O” of D-O-I-N-G.
- Meditate – We invest time mulling over what the passage says and how it can impact our life as we meditate, like Joshua 1:8 and Psalms 1:2-3. Meditation is something we can all do, like chewing our food thoroughly. Since prayer and Spirit-guided meditation are keys to fruitful Bible study, it’s wise to make time for it. You may want to dive in deeper here by reading the article, Insight & Rest through Meditation.
We can do lots more to study one Bible passage (or sentence) in more detail,…
…although most will simply dive more deeply into what is in 3 I’s for Insight. I would suggest to first learn this five-fold focus well. Meditate on the flow and terms, then correlate and summarize.
Please don’t think of these as unrelated, but as a flexible, interconnected process, friends who keep supporting each other. This simple foundation provides an effective and life-changing way to mine the rich, golden nuggets from the Word of God now. At this time, a good study Bible is probably all you need for outside tools. Then we can later build on this solid foundation as time and desire encourage us to deepen and widen these skills.
We naturally learn from the known to the unknown, from the simple to the more complex, from the easy to the more difficult (layer learning). Learn to be a “mosaic thinker,” able to put information together in fresh patterns, perhaps arriving at unusual or surprising conclusions. A simple, but helpful, way to explore a little deeper into this as we look in more depth and breadth to our now familiar D-O-I-N-G.
3. IMPLEMENT: The Role of a DOER – What will I do with God’s truth now?
What has worked best for you to put Scripture into practice in your life?
We have already practiced how truth must encounter life or we deceive ourselves. The “D” in D-O-I-N-G is already a familiar response to Bible study. Have you noticed how skills introduced earlier are now developed in more breadth and depth?
Let me touch on one clarifying thought on implement before continuing. Not all Scripture is directly applicable to our lives. Now, I don’t mean it’s not divinely inspired. All Scripture is divinely inspired. Some truth has been deliberately changed (OT sacrifices fulfilled in Jesus) or is occasional. Find timeless truth, what is true for all time. Especially seek to find an illustration in Jesus’ life, our Model. For more suggestions in this, pull up the free PDF, Bridging the Gap.
“The entire Bible belongs directly to God’s people, including the Old Testament, except for what is clearly occasional or deliberately changed. Even then, take a listening posture. Since God’s Word is eternal, try to learn some way of pleasing God which He does not explicitly tell us” (#10 in A Baker’s Dozen Common Sense Tips).
I hope you noticed how these five integrated skills for Bible study moved back and forth through the lens of BIG-small-BIG learning. Perhaps the Scriptural Funnel diagram below may help some to visualize this. At times, we may be stirred to engage at the small level of a passage or paragraph because of a sermon that grips us, for instance. So, begin at the passage, then move up through the funnel to the book and testament for context.
The normal process as we initiate, though, will be to begin with a Bible book, recognize which covenant its under (OT or NT), then move to a chapter and on to passages as long as the Spirit releases life.
This BIG-small-BIG rhythm provides focus on this adventure of life partnering with the Father, Son and Spirit, whether for one Bible book one Bible chapter or one Bible passage. As disciples, we become learners who are also doers. I’ve been testing this for five decades and I’m still growing in my understanding of the Word of God and more in love than ever with the God of the Word.
Where Do I Go from Here?
I’ve designed this series of sub-webpages called Mining God’s Word with your self-learning in mind, one layer of skills after another. This flexibility helps you learn in the way you learn best.
- Read and reflect on this free PDF of much of this page if you want to think more about this.
- Pull up any links scatted throughout these web pages and reread as needed. A Baker’s Dozen Common Sense Tips, Insight & Rest through Meditation, Bridging the Gaps, 3 I’s for Insight. Another is a one sheet free PDF with the Bible Arch and a NT Timeline (click here).
- I’m recommending even more strongly to join or launch a natural learning We learn and are changed best together through our doing, not primarily through our studying (although this is necessary preparation).
- If you have not already, be sure to also strengthen your foundation from “Seven Essentials from a Natural Learning Culture.” Such a learning culture is a powerful support for your lifelong life-learning.
- Although the skills introduced here are all many will need for a lifetime of adventure with Jesus, some will want to go beyond to study a book or passage more deeply to mine its treasures. I would suggest picking up a good book on Bible study or even going to a class. Yet the best way to grow in these skills is still to practice these skills to hone them!
- Enjoy your lifelong adventure in Scripture. You have sixty-nine books to enjoy…then begin again and grasp new nuances next time since you will then be different person.
What if need and desire DON’T captivate you with a thirst to dig more deeply into one Bible passage?
Don’t push it.
I would suggest doing 3 I’ for Insight on two passages, just to get familiar with this fifth skill so you have it in your toolbox. Then use the first four that bring more life to you now. I look at this fifth skill as OPTIONAL for some. Others dig the details and will summarize most of the key passages into chapter summaries, then book summaries. If that brings you life in this season, go for it. If not, no regrets. The aim is to engage in God’s Word at the level and with the time that releases life for you in this season.