There are so many great Bible study methods we can use to help us study the bible effectively. However, I have to say that the Inductive Bible Study Method is my favorite way to study the scriptures for an in-depth Bible study.
What Is the Difference Between Deductive and Inductive Bible Study?
Before I tell you why I love this method so much let me take just a sec to explain a bit more about what it is.
So, when I want to define a specific word or process I find it helpful to look at the antonyms (or opposites). The opposite of inductive reasoning is deductive reasoning.
Deductive reasoning, or deduction, starts out with a general statement, then observes data to reach a specific conclusion.
Basically, it’s considered as “top-down logic”.
If we think back to our 6th-grade science class, we may remember learning about a deductive process.
As you can see, the Scientific Method begins at the top with a hypothesis, then works it’s way down to reach the conclusion.
Inductive reasoning is the opposite. It is often referred to as “bottom-up logic”.
What is the Inductive Bible Study Method?
Inductive Bible study is a method of studying the scriptures that uses God’s word as the primary source. It is our starting point. Then, we observe the “data”, or truth, found in the scriptures and discern how we are to apply it to our lives.
This means that we wait to consult commentaries and others’ thoughts until we have done a thorough study of the passage for ourselves.
Finally, the ultimate goal of our Bible study is to know God more.
The Three Steps of Inductive Bible Study
The process of inductive Bible study uses three basic steps.
1. Observation (What Does it Say?)
The first step is observation. It’s simply looking at the text to see what it says. This step is crucial! In order to properly apply God’s Word to our lives, we must interpret it correctly. So, in order to interpret scripture correctly, we must observe it thoroughly.
2. Interpretation (What Does it Mean?)
There is one original meaning that the author had in mind when they were writing scriptures. This is the interpretation we are searching for.
It’s also very important to look at the text objectively at this point. If we read a certain passage of scripture with an attitude that we already know what it means, we may miss a deeper concept the Lord wants to show us. So try and read the scriptures with fresh eyes.
3. Application (What Does it Mean to Me?)
Once we gain a clear understanding of the meaning of the scripture, we should then prayerfully consider how the Lord would have us apply that Truth to our lives.
Then, the fruit of our application should always be transformation.
This is a basic overview of the simple steps for in-depth Bible study.
Why Use the Inductive Process?
There are so many great Bible study methods. So, why use this one?
The Inductive Method of Bible Study Teaches You to Study the Bible For Yourself
There are some amazing Bible studies written by very wise and knowledgeable people. However, many of them are simply a reiteration of truth that has been revealed to another person. The author is teaching their readers what the Lord has shown them.
Don’t get me wrong – we need these people! God has given many men and women the gift of teaching. People who have devoted much time and dedication to the study of His Word for the purpose of faithfully and passionately building up the body of Christ.
But, what I’ve learned is that I am able to hear from the Lord too. I don’t always need someone else to reveal the truth in God’s Word to me. John 16:13
We have the ability to discover truth and correctly discern His voice because we have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside us. HE is able to lead us into truth.
The Inductive Bible Study method allows us to discover truth ourselves.
What the Lord needs most from us is a hunger to know Him and a willingness to apply ourselves to the disciplined study of the scriptures.
The Inductive Bible Study Method Demands In-depth Bible Study
The rule of inductive bible study is that you use God’s word as your first and primary source. You do your own study of the scriptures prior to looking at any commentaries or outside resources.
So this method demands an in-depth Bible study to discover the correct meaning.
Some of my most favorite moments are those when I’m sitting early in the morning with my coffee and Bible open and the Holy Spirit reveals His Truth. Just Him and me.
Getting Started With Inductive Bible Study
Here are some tips for how to dig a little deeper into each step of this process. Remember, don’t consult commentaries pre-maturely. Allow the Holy Spirit to lead you first – then look at thoughts from others.
How to Observe the Scriptures
There are two main aspects of the observation step. You want to first, mark your Bible. Then, you want to go back through and make lists of what you learn from your markings.
Inductive Bible Study Markings
Mark people, keywords, references to time, geographical locations, comparisons/contrasts, and terms of conclusion.
- People: Use a distinctive marking for each person (author, recipients, God, Jesus) in the text you are studying. It’s also good to create some universal markings throughout your Bible. (note: I always mark references to “God” with a purple triangle and “Jesus” with a purple cross.)
- Keywords: Keywords are words that are repeated or words that would change the meaning of the text if you were to take them out. Mark each keyword in a distinctive way.
- References to time, Geographical locations: These references help you to discover the historical settings and are important for keeping the scriptures in their original context.
- Comparisons and contrasts, Terms of Conclusion: You can mark these the same way throughout your Bible. Looking at these words or phrases helps us to determine the main points the author is making.
Not everyone wants to go and mark up their Bible. I get it! I suggest you use a Bible that you use just for an Inductive Study.
After you mark your Bible, you want to go back and make lists for each person and each keyword you marked. Then, write down everything you learn about each that answers the who? what? when? where? why? and how? questions.
How to Interpret the Scriptures
Here are some tips to keep in mind as you move into the next step of interpreting the scriptures.
- Keep Scripture In Context
This is probably the most important step for correct interpretation. Always read at least ten verses before and after whatever portion you are studying to ensure you are keeping the scripture in context.
- Determine Chapter Themes
After observing a section of scripture, see if you can determine chapter themes that the author is portraying. Then, you could even go a step further and break each chapter down to paragraphs to determine the theme of each segment.
- Cross Reference Other Verses
Consider the full counsel of God’s Word. When you are having a hard time interpreting a certain passage, cross reference other verses that relate to that scripture.
- Biblical Word Studies
Take the keywords that you identified in the observation step, and do some biblical word studies. Look at their definition in the original language. Bible Hub and Blue Letter Bible are both great resources for this.
How to Apply the Scriptures
Now, it’s time for application! God’s Word is alive and active. After you gain the correct interpretation of what the text is saying, ask the Lord how He would have you apply it to your life.
Application questions to ask yourself:
- Are there any promises to cling to?
- Any commands or warnings to follow?
- Anything to praise Him for?
- Does the text reveal anything about the character or nature of God?
- Is there any sin you need to confess?
Summary of the Inductive Bible Study Method
- Inductive Bible Study uses God’s Word as the primary source for Bible study
- The 3-step process is: Observation, Interpretation, and Application
- This method teaches you to study the Bible for yourself
- Inductive Bible study demands and in-depth study of the scriptures
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