The Ultimate Bible Study Methods Guide – 23 Ways to go Deeper when you study the Bible

What is the best way to study the Bible? There isn’t a single one. But from my experience, it is good to have a structured approach to do dive into the Word of God. That’s where Bible study methods come in handy. As a wife, full time graduate student, and full time worker outside the home, sometimes it can be tough to engage in Bible study. Having an established structure takes away the guesswork so I can settle down quickly and get into the Word. I do not have to waste time trying to figure out what to do and how to do it.

Meaning of Bible study

Bible study is the dedication of time to intense and intentional focus on uncovering the meaning of scripture by investigating and analyzing its original context which includes its historical background, cultural setting, literary genre, authorship, audience etc with a view of understanding God and applying that knowledge to everyday life in practical ways. 

Quite a mouthful. I know. And this definition is still quite limited.

Bible study does not mean using a devotional so that you are focused on someone else’s interpretation of or experience with the Word of God. Rather, it is the use of your personal set-apart time, whether by yourself or with another person or group, to open the actual Bible and pick it apart verse by verse, word by word, chapter by chapter, book by book.

Real Bible study is more than just reading through the bible. That’s a whole other type of activity. When you are studying the bible you must slow down to a creep, taking in all possible details of the text you are studying and asking questions that require answers which make it necessary to go deeper than what’s on the surface. This will send you searching in Bible dictionaries and commentaries and other sources.

The goal of bible study is to really meet Jesus and study His story. Because His story is the reason we have salvation full and free. When you study the bible for yourself, it will call you to put your life under the microscope of God’s word and examine it so that you can live in the freedom that Jesus bought for you. 

Contrary to popular belief, Bible study is not always easy. In fact, it can be downright overwhelming. And that’s why beginning Bible study students can benefit from structured, step-by-step methods of studying the Bible. I do not believe that God wants us to be intimidated by the process that should help us to get to know him better.

how can i study my bible deeper?

Read the Bible over and over. Actually. When you are a beginner, it is not a good idea to study an isolated verse from a chapter or book. You might miss the big picture, the background, the context. This is the perfect way to misunderstand the Bible.

So my top tip for beginners is to focus on reading the Bible first before you actually study it. In this way you get a basic idea of how ideas connect in general before getting down to the details. 

Get some support before you go it alone. One reason most churches have Bible study groups is to teach the Bible. As you attend these sessions you learn skills and methods for dissecting the Word. The group will equip you with basic techniques to help you become more confident and independent in using methods of Bible study.

More than that, you will have a community of other Christians to whom you can be accountable on your journey. Many are more mature in their faith and offer solutions and guidance when you get confused or lost with Bible study. Join a Bible study group at a Bible believing church.

Get a Bible study journal and pens. Make it a habit to write when you study the Bible. It is a good way of increasing both your engagement and memory. Writing the Word and recording what you are learning is one way of etching the Scriptures into your mind.

It will also be a lovely keepsake for tracking your spiritual growth and development. Bible journals have also been known to provide encouragement in spiritually low seasons. Your own notes will lift you up with reminders of solid truths that you had written about.

Pray for the power of the Holy Spirit. The only thing that qualifies us as sinful human beings to handle God’s word is the Holy Spirit. Left to ourselves and our worldly wisdom, we can truly understand God’s Word. Approach it with humility of heart and prayer. Jesus promised us His Spirit whom he said would testify of Him and guide us into all truth.

No Bible study method or extra-biblical resource can help to really understand and believe the Bible but for the power of the Holy Spirit. So pray for the Spirit of Truth to join you when you open the Bible.

Be consistent. The easiest way to delay the benefits of your Bible study habit is to be inconsistent. You see, it’s like a muscle. You have to exercise it, regularly. Every single day. That’s how often you should strive to engage with the Word of God. There are many creative ways to read Scripture everyday.

Using a Bible study reading plan centered on a topic can help you with this. You can also listen to the Bible. Or, using your favorite Bible study method will get you excited and keep you on track. Which takes me to the meat of the matter. Here are 20+ inductive Bible study methods to try out.

Use Bible study tools. The Bible was not written to the people living in a 21st century context. The writings have gone through translations. We are far removed from the life and culture of Bible writers. To go deeper, you need to use materials which will allow you to travel through time. Bible dictionaries, Bible commentaries, maps, and concordances are just a few of the tools you will need.

inductive bible study methods

Inductive bible study is a method which uses the text being studied as the primary source to tell you what the text means. You know how it is said that the Bible explains itself? Inductive Bible study allows you to do just that.

Although it will be necessary from time to time to use other sources to supplement your study, you will and should come full circle, right back to the text. Why? Because no matter what, the Bible is the center of your study.

Inductive Bible study has three steps which seek to answer three questions:

Observation – what does the passage say?

Interpretation – what does the passage mean?

Application – how is the meaning of the passage applicable to my life? 

Here are a few methods.


There seems to be no authorship of this method yet it is no doubt the most popular inductive Bible study method. SOAP has four basic steps:

S – Scripture – Read the scripture portion you intend to study. Write down the specific passage that stands out to you. You can write out the part that stands out to you.

O – Observation – Zoom in on the passage. Ask questions and answer them. What do you notice? Who wrote this? Why? Are there any repetitions?

A – Application – Make it personal. How does the passage apply to your life right now? What changes do you need to make? What action does God want you to take?

P – Prayer – Present your requests to God based on what has been revealed to you in your study. Confess where you have not been walking aright and ask God to help you apply His Words to your life in meaningful ways.


SOAK was developed by Courtney from Women Living Well. She created it as a tool that women can use to “soak in”  God’s word. SOAK has four steps.

S – Scripture – Read the passage you selected and focus on one or two verses. Write them out in a journal.

O – Observation – Write out one or two things you observed or noticed in those verses. Take note of commands or promises from God.

A – Application – Personalize the scripture. Ask “What’s this saying to me? What action do I need to take?

K – Kneel in prayer – Go to God in reverence. While you don’t have to kneel, the important part is reverence regardless of where you are. Write out some of your prayers as well if you can.


The 5P’s method of Bible study was developed by Priscilla Shirer for her personal use. Here are the five steps.

Position yourself to hear from God. Find a quiet place away from the hustle and bustle of life.

Pore over the passage and paraphrase the major points. The aim is to spend quality time in it. Immerse yourself into the passage and really meditate on it. Then, paraphrase the main principles. You can paraphrase each verse if you are working through a chapter.

Pull out the spiritual principles. Think about what God is trying to teach you through these verses? A command to follow, promise to hold to your heart, and attribute of God he is trying to reveal? 

Pose the question. This is where it gets personal. Are you following the command? Keeping the promise? Do I believe what God has revealed about himself? 

Plan obedience and pin down a date. Develop a concrete strategy on how you will put those words into practice. Write it down if you need to.


This strategy is a little more than an inductive method. It can be a good way of studying a chapter from the Bible for a beginner who is overwhelmed. I am not sure who developed this method but it is a good one for beginners who might struggle with taking on a whole chapter for the first time.

P – Plain Truth – Summarize the theme of the chapter in about 25 words.

O – Outline – Write down 4 – 5 ideas that you got from the chapter and write reasons for choosing each of these ideas.

W – Word Study – Make a list of words you would like to look at more closely through discovering their definitions in the Greek and Hebrew contexts.

E – Examples to Follow – In what way does the chapter speak to your life? How can you apply the ideas presented to you?

R – References – Seek out other Bible verses which match verses in this chapter. Cross-reference verses based on how well:

  • there is agreement with the chapter you studied
  • how well it illustrates the ideas in the chapter you studied,
  • how well it adds to your interpretation and insights of the chapter, and
  • how well it presents a differing illustration and why that might be so.


I am not sure who this method began with, but is pretty close to the SOAP method. Here are the steps:

P – Pray – Start with a prayer asking God for wisdom and insight as you study as well as the hunger and thirst for His Word.

R – Read – Select your reading whether from a Bible reading plan or a book study. Read some background information on the book you are studying from. Then, read your study portion. Read it slowly.

A – Assess – As you read, take in every word and every sentence. What would these words mean to the original audience? What is God wanting you to learn? How does this affect your life?

I – Investigate – Research the background culture, settings, and traditions. Look up the original Greek and Hebrew meanings of keywords in the text. 

S – Submit – Surrender to God’s word. All it, through the Holy Spirit to change your heart and way of life. 

E – Express – Make a plan to live out what you have learned so that others may learn about God. Share what you have learned with someone.


Developed by Amy over at More Like Grace. Reminds you of Fruits of the Spirit? That’s because she was working on that bible study when she created this method which focuses on developing godly character. Here are the steps.

F – Fill – Pray for the Holy Spirit to fill you and provide you with guidance as you study.

R – Read – Read your chosen portion of scripture.

U – Understand – Slow and seek to understand what the passage is saying. What are the main points? What questions do you have? Write them down.

I – Investigate – Make it personal. See how this passage aligns with your life. Is it offering encouragement or a recommendation for change?

T – Try – What is one practical way for you to try putting these truths into action in your life.


This method was developed by Kelly from Blossom in Faith. She created it to be used as a devotional approach with short passages or single verses. I think it is perfect for busy people as well.

I – Identification – Identify what’s happening in the passage.

D – Direction – What direction is the passage pointing you to in terms of truths to apply to your life.

E – Encouragement – What’s the encouragement given for you to do.

A – Application – How can you apply the truths to your life in practical ways.


This method was developed by Pastor Robby Gallaty founder of Replicate Ministries. He has a powerful testimony of redemption from drug addiction that is so very encouraging. In his ministry of discipling men like himself, he developed this method to help them study and remember the Bible. It takes journaling method towards Bible study

H – Highlight – First, get a book or journal, along with a highlighter and pen. Write out Highlight on the first page. Write the book and chapter you are reading from. Then, read the portion of scripture under study. Highlight the verses which speak to you by writing them out word for word. Don’t forget to go back and write the verses you have written out. You can also give the verses a title.

E – Explain – Write out Explain. Under this section, seek to answer questions which will help to reveal the meaning of the verses. Ask questions like Who wrote these words and to whom were they written? What is God trying to communicate through these verses? Write a summary of the main ideas in this passage.

A – Apply – Write out Apply. This is where it gets personal. Think about how the ideas in the verses are applicable to modern life in general. Then think about how they relate to you personally. What is God asking you to do? What would these ideas look like in actual life when you apply them? Write out a response to these questions.

R – Respond – Write out Respond. Below that, write out your personal response to what you just read. This may look differently from session to session. You can write out a prayer to God or write out an action plan for practical implementation or write a reflection on how learning this has impacted you and the way you plan to live your life. 


This method was developed by Joe Thorn and Jimmy Fowler from Doctrine and Devotion. Here are the steps.

R – Read – Start by reading a passage slowly. It does not need to be an entire chapter. You could choose to focus on a few verses. Read it multiple times. You could write out the passage if you want to.

A – Ask – Pose some questions like “What does this tell us about God” “What does this tell us about the world we live in and the nature of man?” “What is God commanding us to do?”

N – Note – Take notes. Write down main ideas and repeated words or concepts.

 S – Summarize – Summarize the main idea of the passage into one single sentence. This might take some work but you are sure to walk away knowing that portion scripture really well.

O – Obey  – Get personal with the passage. What is God call you to do? How have you fallen short of that calling? In what practical ways can this lesson be made active in your life?

 M- Meditate  – Take the Word with you in your heart as you go throughout your day. Revisit the passage by reading it again and again, memorize it, or reading over your Bible study notes.

BASIC bible study methods for beginners

As a beginner, you need to use basic Bible study methods. It’s a good way to get your feet wet. Here are a few.


APPLE was developed by Arabah Joy to help Bible students pay attention to the details in Scripture. It has five steps.

A – Attributes of God – Read the passage once. Review the text looking specifically for the attributes of God. Writing them down is a good idea.

P – Promises of God – On your second review, look for the promises of God and make note of those too.

P – Principles of Life – On your third read or review, pull out the life principles in the verses. It’s all about a transformed life.

L – Lessons Learned – On your fourth engagement, zoom in on the lesson you need to take with you. What is God pointing out to you and how will you put his teachings into practice?

E – Example to Follow – On your final review, look for any example that you need to emulate. This one way to apply scripture to your life.


I found this method on The Navy Bee. The four steps are pretty close to the SOAP method. 

R – Read – Read the passage and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in answering questions like: What’s happening in this scripture portion? What things are repeated? How is God present in this passage? What does it reveal about man?

E – Examine – Reflect on the passage. Answer questions like: Who was the intended audience and how would they receive this passage? What can I learn about God’s character? What false beliefs do I have about myself and how God sees me?

A – Apply – Evaluate how you can apply the text to your life. What do you need to repent of? What new beliefs do you need to adopt? What practical steps can you take to apply these beliefs to your life?

P – Pray – Use what you found in the application step to pray. As God to help you make the lessons a reality in your life.


This method was developed by Alicia Michelle from Vibrant Christian Living to give a simple, step-by-step, easy to understand and implement structure to study any scripture. The name comes from its 5 steps. 

Read – Simply read through the scripture portion you wish to study.

Rewrite – Then copy the entire portion. Write it all out.

Restate – Now, rewrite the portion in your own words.

Relate – Make the verse personal by finding something in your life that it relates to. Ask yourself questions and answer them.

Respond – Make a decision about how you will respond to what you have learned by taking action.


You can learn more about this method over at Symphony of Praise where Erika blogs. She developed this method to deepen her Bible study journey. Here are the four steps.

W – Write – Write out the passage you are studying and read it over twice.

O – Observe – In this step dig into the passage using the famous five W’s questions: who is the author? Who is the intended audience? What type of genre is the passage from? When was the book written? Where was the book written? Why was the book written?

R- Relevant – Think about how this verse applies to your life today. What personal changes will you need to make?

D- Declare – Use the scripture to pray and declare God’s promises and encouragement over your life. Declare success in all the changes you will be making.


This was developed by Kaylene Yoder  who wanted a way of digging into the Word for herself instead of using devotionals. Her goal was to deepen her intimacy with God by really studying the Bible for herself. Here are the steps she has been using.

R – Read a short passage in a specific topic

E – Engage with the Scripture by writing it out

S – Savor the passage by meditating on certain portions of it

T – Take charge of your Word from the Lord. Write down what God is impressing on Your heart


Developed by Abby Rike from Rock This to help others stay focused while digging into the Word with what little time they might have. This method was designed for busy people and is a nice combination of both deep prayer and Bible study.

S – Supplication – Start with a real, deep, heart-felt prayer. Prepare yourself to hear from God by clearing the spiritual air. Tell him everything that’s on your mind.

A – Absorb – Meditate on the verse or verses; write it out; say it out loud.

L – Learn – Read around the verses you are studying. Take in the verse above and below it so you can get a context. Questions may arise in your mind. Go with your curiosity. Write down the questions and do further research to answer them.

T – Thanksgiving – Offer another prayer to God but this time, only include things you are grateful for.

Y – You – This step is optional but powerful. How will you apply the verse to your life?


Developed by Sarah Frazer, this method is intended to nurture and grow your relationship with God.

G – Go in prayer. Start your Bible study session with a prayer, always.

R – Read it. Choose a passage and read it very slowly from two or three different translations of the Bible. 

O – Observe the details. Ask the who, what, when, where questions. Who wrote it and why? What exactly is being written about? When was this written? 

W – What did you learn about God? The entire Bible tells  God’s story. What truth about God is revealed in the passage you read. 

effective bible study methods that go deeper


There is another 5R’s approach that was developed by Christine Eaton Blair, author of the book The Art of Teaching the Bible (not an affiliate link). Here are the five steps.

Remembering – Think about all the things you already know about the text. Whether or not they are correct, write them down.

Revisit the Text – Read the text. Be curious about the text. Ask questions like “What would this mean to its original audience?” Ask questions about what’s “behind” (historical context) the text and what’s within the text. (key words, phrase, actions etc)

Reflect Critically – This is the long step. Here you look into how Jesus is presented in the text and what that has to do with your personal life. There are four steps to reflecting critically:

1.Remind yourself of the basic principles for biblical interpretation. This include considering the historical and cultural context, the larger context of the Bible, and Jesus being the center of all things in the Bible.

2. Go back to what you learned during the Revisiting of the text and think about its relevance for our modern world.

3. Evaluate what the concept has to do with our lives right now. This include personal life, things happening in the media or in the church. You can write down a list of these things and write out your thoughts about them.

4. Review what you came up wit for steps 2 and 3. Decide how you will apply what you have learned in practical ways.

Reinterpreting – Retell the passage or story in your own words. Don’t be afraid to use your emotion and imagination. Be creative. Use a song, poem, blog post or whatever you are most comfortable with.

Respond – Determine what the text is calling you to do and take action. Pray about what you have learned and how you can apply it to your life.


I discovered this method purely by accident while I was researching another method. It was developed by Carey over at Words of Faith, Hope and Love. To use this method, you will need to have an understanding of the history and context of biblical writings.

Also, it is recommended for use over many days with one single scripture portion. Here is a description of each step. It is best used to engage whole chapters or books of the Bible.

P – Paraphrase the passage verse by verse. Write out each verse in your own words.

S – Study the text by (a) making close observations, (b) reading from different translations, and (c) noticing themes.

A – Analyse each word in the text. Note words which are repeated or contrasting or that may appear to be key to understanding the text. Select some of these words to be further studied in Greek or Hebrew.

L – Learn from the word by using cross-reference. Look up related passages and write out how these related verses connect with or deepen your understanding of the verses you started out your study with.

M – Meditate on the word. After going through all the previous steps, you should have some notes. Read through them and journal your thoughts under three heading questions: What is a summary of what I have learned? What do I think about it? What will I do with this new knowledge?


Asheritah from One Thing Alone developed this method. It is for busy people and could take just about 10 minutes to engage the word of God.

F – Focus – Find a quiet place. Pray and ask God to help you to focus. Your prayers could be in the form of hymns or praise and worship songs or repeating a Psalm.

E – Engage – Select a portion of scripture and read it. Then pay attention to what it is really saying. Go deeper with the passage by doing word studies, drawing the meaning, identity patterns, reading it from other translations, doing background research, diagramming the passage etc.

A – Assess – Find out the meaning of the passage by researching what it would have meant to the original audience. Use commentaries and cross-referencing to help you with this.

S – Spark transformation – ask the Holy Spirit to show you how the passage is relevant to your life today in specific, practical and measurable ways. 

T – Turn to God – after learning from God turn your heart to him in praise, confession and thanksgiving.


The Howard Hendricks Bible study method was developed by Howard Hendricks. He is said to be passionate about teaching others how to teach the Bible. He often began his lessons by helping his students to appreciate the value and power in Bible study.

He describes this method in his book Living By the Book: The Art and Science of Reading the Bible (not an affiliate link). His method has four steps.

Observation – Slow down and really look at the text. See as much details about what the text actually says. Observation is an art that requires a keen eye and a focused mind. You can observe the text using 10 strategies:

Thoughtfully. Be an investigator. Dig into the text.

Repeatedly. Re-read the text multiple times even if you are studying an entire book.

Patiently. Don’t rush. Focus on the quality of the time you spend studying. 

Selectively. Find out who wrote the text, what situation they were addressing, when it was written, why it was written etc.

Prayerfully. Ask God to reveal to you the truth within  the text.

Imaginatively. Pretend you were the writer, how would you have expressed the same idea?

Meditatively. Focus on the words and the message. Really think about what they mean.

Purposefully. What was the author’s intent? How did he use structure in his writing style to communicate that? 

Acquisitively. Memorize the text.

Telescopically. Think about how this particular passage fits in with the message of the entire Bible.

Interpreting – In this step, it is time to discover the meaning of the text. To do this, find out about the context. To do this, research the cultural setting and describe how this would have impacted the author, his relationship with God as well as his intent in writing to his audience. Find out the genre category of the book and determine how this affects the how the message is conveyed.

Application – Now that you understand the text, spend some time meditating on its meaning and how it relates to your life. Then decide how you will practice it. Use the follow questions to make your decisions about how you will apply it:

Is there an example for me to follow?

Is there a sin to avoid?

Is there a promise to claim?

Is there a prayer to repeat?

Is there a command to obey?

Is there a condition to meet?

Is there a verse to memorize?

Is there an error to mark?

Is there a challenge to face?

Communication – Since this method was developed for Bible teachers in mind, this step is all about understanding your audience as you prepare these messages to share. Find someone to share with!


Developed by Rick Warren, the Devotional Bible study method is described in detail in his book  Bible Study Methods: Twelve Ways You Can Unlock God’s Word (not an affiliate link). It is meant to make Bible study intensely personal and pushes the Bible student to take the written word into their practical life.

It can be used with a single verse or a scripture portion or a whole chapter. The shortcoming with this method is that it does not involve looking at the background of a text. It is best for the extreme beginner in Bible studies.

Pray – Ask God to guide you into discovering the truth in the text you are studying. Tell him you need special insight. Pray for the strength to follow his will based on the Word

Meditate – Take to the verses and turn it over and over in your mind. To meditate you visualize the story by imagining that you are that time and place. Involve your emotions too. How would you feel if you were  a character in the story (if you are reading a narrative). You can meditate by emphasizing different words in a passage each time you read it.

As you focus on each word think about how that word contributes to the overall meaning of the text. You can also paraphrase a verse or personalize a passage as ways to meditate. You can meditate by using the acronym SPACEPETS. Ask yourself if the passage is pointing you in any of these directions.

S – Sin to confess?

P – Promise to claim?

A – Attitude to Change?

C – Command to obey?

E – Example to follow?

P – Prayer to pray?

E – Error to avoid?

T – Truth to believe?

S – Something to praise God for?

Write Out an Application – When you write what you have learned and how to apply it, you become sure that you have learned and you communicate to yourself a commitment to act. In writing an application, consider the following. Your application should be:

Personal – Use personal pronouns like I and me

Practical – Make it something you can actually do 

Possible – Make it something you know is within your time and resources to accomplish 

Provable – It should be measurable so that you keep track of your progress.

Memorize – Work on committing to memory a key verse from the passage that has to do with the passage you are applying.



This was first developed in David Berglund who introduced it to the Church of Sweden in the 1940’s. It became popular when Ada Lum used the method to help her students to dive into and appreciate Scripture.

The Swedish Bible study method does not quite fit the mold of inductive bible study methods but it is quite useful for absolute beginners. Depending on which website you visit, there may be a different number of steps, but one thing is consistent: each step has a symbolic reminder. There are three basic steps Swedish Bible study method.

Light Bulb – This refers to what stands out to you from the passage. Make a note of what “shines” out of the passage. Literally, what in the verse gave a “light bulb” or “aha moment”. That might something you have observed for the very time or you have been reminded of a lesson you particularly needed right now

Question Mark – Write down a question about something you do not understand and would like to explore more. Even if you feel like you understand what you are reading, it is generally a good study habit to ask question. So, even if you already know the answer, pose the question and provide the answer. You are more likely to remember what you studied.

Arrow – This is where it gets really personal. Write down how the lesson applies to your life. What will you do with what you have learned? How will it change the way you live your life?

Other models of the Swedish Bible Study might include the following:

Heart – Here is where you can identify the main idea or theme of the lesson. Essentially, get to the ‘heart’ of the passage.

Cross – Identify how the passage relates to Christ. How is his character and work on our behalf represented in the verse?

Cycle – How does this scripture fit with other passages and ideas of the Bible? This is a good place to do cross referencing to expand your study.

Speech bubble – Think of one person you want to share this passage with so that they can be edified and encouraged as well.


I came across this method while searching for something else. It was such a great way to study the Word and I was amazed that it was specifically designed for the youth. The aim is to ensure that they do not misinterpret the Bible during their studies. A whole book of the Bible can be studied using this method. Here are the steps.

1.Context – Answer questions about the original context of the passage.

Historical context – who wrote it, when and why? What was happening to the author and the audience at the time?

Literary context – what genre does this book fall into?

Thematic context – what is the subject matter of the text? How do all the verses fit together into this theme? Can you extract the main idea?

2. Observation

What “jumps out” at you from the text? What important details can you identify?

Look for repetitions. How do they relate to each other and the general argument of the text.

Are there any particularly interesting ideas? Does anything surprise you?

3. Meaning

Write a summary of “big idea” in the passage. 

What have you learned about Jesus in this passage?

How does it relate to the big picture of salvation?

Can the meaning of the passage be connected to the entire book?

4. Application

Does this passage challenge or confirm your understanding of scripture in any way? How so?

What challenges does this passage present for you to change how you live your life?


This is an overwhelming list. I know. But YOU don’t need to be overwhelmed. Start with the one that seems most manageable to you and go from there. This post is with all these effective Bible study methods will be going nowhere. Come back to this spot and pick another when you have outgrown the Bible study method you picked to start with.

Study on my sister!

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